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Coming of Age: The European Community and The Economic Summit

Susan Hainsworth

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North-South Issues

The European Community's unique relationship with LDC's is enshrined in the Lome Convention, a 'mixed' treaty (which connotes shared responsibility among the Community and its member states) signed between the EC and 66 African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) countries which are all former colonies of the West European powers. A product of the earlier Yauonde Convention, the Lome Convention was first negotiated in 1975 and is renegotiated every five years. The negotiations for Lome IV were essentially concluded in late 1989 and will be implemented in 1990. The Lome Agreement thus represents the main pillar of the Community's development activities and gives the Commission authority and legitimacy in this domain. The Community therefore has shared competence in the domain of LDC relations, but all aspects concerning trade relations with the Third World remain the exclusive competence of the Community itself.

The European Commission emphasises that the success of the Lome arrangement is due to the cooperative and concerted approach which has evolved within the Community towards development aid. Pascal Lamy, the EC sherpa recently stated:

Although the West European countries have themselves always been concerned with maintaining privileged ties with their former colonies, through Lome the Commission itself has gained considerable power and influence in summit discussions about North-South issues. Indeed, its competence in development matters was acknowledged during its participation at the 1977 London Summit, the first which the Community attended as such. Commission involvement in North-South summit debates has always been high, though recently -- particularly since Venice (1987) -- the level of initiative and impact has intensified.

In the early 1980s, the Community always demonstrated its determination to pursue global negotiations with Third World countries through the UN. This stance was again apparent at Paris, where talk of a 'second Cancun' was abundant. However, despite endorsement of global negotiations by the EC, France, and Canada, such a conference was given no official summit endorsement in the final press conferences at Paris. More recently, the focus of the industrialised countries with regard to LDCs has been transferred to the issue of debt and debt relief. The Commission has assumed a leading role in proposing initiatives for the alleviation of the circumstances Third World debtors, most notable at the Venice Summit in 1987 and at Toronto in 1988. This strong Community presence on the topic of development aid and LDC debt will continue.114

With regard to development issues, one Canadian official points out that the Commission can afford to assume a more humanitarian and altruistic stance regarding the problems of the poorest LDCs, and the middle-income countries (MICs), simply because the Commission does not have to deal directly with the influential private commercial banking sectors which put extreme pressures on the seven national governments at the summit.115 Thus, the Commission can impose dramatic sweeping proposals to ameliorate Third World circumstances, while the political leaders of summit nations must be more cautious and must absorb the brunt of consequent domestic criticism.

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