When Africa Met Europe In Ghadaffi’s Libya

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Perhaps the most controversial issue which affected the recent 3rd Africa-EU Summit held in Libya last week, was the revelation made by the Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, that Libya had asked the Sudanese President, Omar el-Bashir to skip the summit, despite originally sending him an invitation since July. “We have asked President al-Bashir not to attend the EU-African summit because of the tremendous efforts exerted by Libya to host the summit and not to ruin it because of the Europeans threat not to attend if President al-Bashir showed”, he told the Associated Press (AP), in an interview. The Libya stance drew an angry response from Khartoum, with THE SUDAN TRIBUNE newspaper reporting “a strongly worded statement” from the Sudanese authorities, in the wake of the forced cancellation of attendance by President Omar Hassan el-Bashir, of the Euro-Africa summit.

A Spanish official had also told AP that the 27 members of the EU had taken a decision to walk out if the Sudanese president appeared at the joint summit. Libya’s stance had considerably irritated Khartoum, leading to an explicit criticism of the EU and a subtle dig at the Libyan hosts, who for long had backed Sudan after the 2009 indictment of President el-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in July 2010, for alleged genocide in the Darfur crisis. In a statement, the Sudanese presidency last Sunday, said “Three days before the summit taking place a senior Libyan official contacted the Minister of the Presidency [Bakri Hassan Salih] to convey European reservations about the participation of Mr. President at the summit”. The Libyan press news agency later reported that Libyan authorities were reluctant to grant clearance for the Sudanese president’s plane, allegedly for “technical reasons”, thus prompting the cancellation of the visit by Khartoum.

 

Furthermore, the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, who had arrived for the ministerial level meeting of the Summit, received instructions, halfway into his meeting to head back home; a decision that he said had been taken “under pressure from Europe”. He then announced that President el-Bashir’s decision to cancel his attendance was taken “to avoid embarrassment to Libya”. Sudan then chided the EU, accusing it of hypocrisy for urging el-Bashir to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), between North and South Sudan, while at the same time trying to ‘undermine’ his legitimacy. “Sudan considers the EU position on the president’s participation in this summit as representative of the colonial mentality with which Europe still views Africa. Europe’s stance was ‘an attack on the African Union and Sudan while also undermining the idea of real dialogue and cooperation between Africa and Europe’, the Sudanese statement said.

 

At the Summit which ended on Tuesday, South African President Jacob Zuma expressed disappointment that the economic partnership Africa entered with Europe a decade ago has not produced the intended results for both regions. “We are concerned that after ten years of this partnership we have very little to show in terms of tangible implementation of the undertaking we made both in Cairo and Lisbon”. Zuma then cautioned the summit against committing on another Action Plan when commitments made in the past had not been implemented. Having established the partnership in Cairo a decade ago, the South African president said time had come to “jointly review the structural paradigm of the partnership as well as its follow-up mechanism and funding”.

On the eve of the Summit, the French Minister responsible for Cooperation, Henri de Raincourt, expected the Libya meeting to “add further substance to the content of the partnership between Europe and Africa established at the preceding summit, in Lisbon, 2007”. The French minister added that the macroeconomic framework in Africa was good, because “Africa has some real assets on the growth front. First of all its demography: for the next 20 years, the working-age population will be far larger than the dependent population. Secondly, urbanization; Africa will soon have almost as many people living in towns as in rural areas. All this add another dimension to the continent’s growth possibilities and provides a historical opportunity in the partnership between Europe and Africa”. On the other hand, the Austrian Foreign Minister, Michael Spindelegger, called for greater energy cooperation between Europe and African states. He told the summit that long term energy solutions were the core of a successful fight against poverty and for a ‘green economy’. In the Euro-African relationship, the Austrian minister cautioned that “we must not persist in mentalities which belong in the past”.

 

The Austrian Foreign Minister then recalled that in the aftermath of the 2007 Lisbon meeting, a conference of energy ministers held in Vienna during which goals were set for easier energy access for a further 100 million Africans. “An aim was also set by then to have 10,000 megawatts from hydroelectricity, 5,000 from wind power, and at least 500 from solar energy in various regions of the African continent”. The minister cautioned that “none of the Millennium Development Goals can be reached without access to energy services”, stressing that “to improve growth prospects in Africa, there must be an end to the problem of electricity and other energy shortages to industry and other users”.

 

It is equally significant that on the eve of the climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, the African countries refused to pass a draft declaration on climate change at the Africa-EU summit, because it only showed the EU position rather than the African countries’ stance. The Africa-EU Climate Change Partnership is one of the eight partnerships designed during the 2007 Lisbon summit. The draft declaration had said the EU will unilaterally “reduce its overall emissions to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020”, and it will also make a conditional offer to “move from a 20 percent to a 30 percent reduction of green gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990”. The draft further added that ‘although Africa is comparatively a lower emitter of greenhouse gases, it is making and will continue to make efforts within the limits of its capability and capacity to contribute to the reduction of these gasses”. The African nations nevertheless said that the draft did not bring on board the African viewpoint on the controversial issue of climate change.

 

The theme for the Libyan EU-Africa summit was “Investment, Economic Growth and Job Creation”, and was expected to focus on the economic growth and the peace and security of the African continent, as well as assessing the progress in the partnership between the two sides, while also agreeing on priorities for future cooperation. In his closing remarks following the summit’s press conference, EU President Barrosso, said the summit had been a success. “Africa and Europe are natural partners. We are bound together by a shared history. But more important than the past is the shared future that we can build, based on common values and mutual interests. He underlined the fact that the theme of the conference focused on growth and jobs, saying they were important for both sides. “Both our continents are dealing with the fall-out of a serious economic crisis”, Barroso added. “Africa is a thriving continent with a huge untapped potential….The figures are very telling: Africa’s GDP rose by 4.9 percent a year from 2000 to 2008, more than twice the pace of growth in the 1980s and ‘90s. And despite a slow-down in 2009 because of the financial crisis, it is again reaching the same levels”.

 

It is also a measure of the rehabilitation of the Libyan leader, Muammar Ghadaffi, that he was given the opportunity to host the two continents. No longer a Pariah ignored by the Western world, Ghadaffi’s Libya has become an investment destination of choice for Western businessmen as well as politicians who lead delegations in search of a cut of the lucrative Libyan economic pie. And to look the part, Ghadaffi did not mind incurring the wrath of his Sudanese friends by shutting out President Omar el-Bashir from the EU-Africa Summit in Libya. Times have really changed and the anarchic Colonel, who had a hand in different coups and conflicts around the African continent for many decades in the past, has finally mellowed. Ghadaffi has made a volte-face from the radical rhetoric of old and has made peace with the imperialists he used to rail against. It is business time in Libya, and the Europeans imperialists will do anything for a share of the “magnificent African cake”, to quote the German Iron Chancellor Bismack, in the halcyon days of the Scramble for Africa, during the 19th Century. That Scramble has not ceased; and in Libya last week, the Europeans came to sweet-talk the African continent, in order to retain the old colonial relations of plunder in the settings of contemporary globalized capitalism. Ghadaffi got his place in the sun, signal that his rehabilitation is also complete!

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