Posted by: APO | 26 October 2007

Joint EP- PAP Statement on the Joint EU-Africa Strategy to be adopted by the EU and African Heads of State and Government, assembled in Lisbon on 8 and 9 December 2007 for the 2nd EU-Africa Summit


 

Joint EP- PAP Statement on the Joint EU-Africa Strategy to be adopted by the EU and African Heads of State and Government, assembled in Lisbon on 8 and 9 December 2007 for the 2nd EU-Africa Summit

 

 

0. The Presidents of the Pan-African Parliament, Dr. Gertrude I. Mongella, and of the European Parliament, Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, have been invited to address the 2nd EU-Africa Summit, which will take place on 8 and 9 December in Lisbon, Portugal. We see this invitation as a recognition of the essential role our parliaments have to play in the elaboration, execution and monitoring of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy and the first multi-annual action plan, which will be adopted at the EU-Africa Heads of State and Government Summit.

 

1. The Pan-African Parliament and the European Parliament are strongly convinced that a genuine partnership between the European Union and the African Union will enhance our mutual understanding. The sharing of our experiences in combating poverty, creating prosperity and uniting in a peaceful way our respective continents will bring Europeans and Africans closer to each other, and will contribute to the sustainable development of both continents. Our parliaments therefore support the establishment of a Joint EU-Africa Strategy as a means to achieving these goals which are shared by the peoples we represent.

 

2. This year the European Union is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Begun as an economic union between six States, the EU is in the process of creating an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen. It now involves more than half of the countries of Europe. This year also, Africa commemorates the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence, an event which marked the beginning of a decolonisation process leading to the continent’s full political independence from foreign domination. Our parliaments therefore fully support the African leaders’ and peoples’ request that it is fundamental to treat Africa as one and that the Strategy must support the drive to political and economic integration of the continent. In this respect, our parliaments welcome the resolve to “upgrade the EU-Africa political dialogue to enable a strong and sustainable continent-to-continent partnership, with the AU and the EU at the centre”. In the implementation of the strategy, the unity dimension of our continent-to-continent approach must of course go hand in hand with continued attention to the diversity in this unity.

 

3. Our EU-AU partnership must be based on a joint vision, a number of shared values and principles, and on mutual respect and accountability. The joint vision must focus on our peoples. Our main concern and objective are the needs and the well-being of the peoples we represent, not only because we are their democratically elected representatives, but also because we are convinced that no real progress can be achieved without having at its heart the people for whom this progress is meant. The vision, as has been correctly expressed by the AU Executive Council, must be one of development, peace, security and prosperity. It must be a vision “advancing democracy, good governance and human rights as universal values” and respecting “the solidarity and indivisibility of the two continents”. We confirm the shared fundamental values enshrined in the Cairo Declaration of 2000: “strengthening representative and participatory democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, good governance, pluralism, international peace and security, political stability and confidence among nations”. The Joint Strategy must therefore be built on the principles of a people-centred EU-AU partnership, ownership and equality.

 

4. We welcome the intention to turn the partnership into “a broad-based and wide-ranging people-centred partnership” and to make the Joint Strategy “a permanent platform for information, participation and mobilisation of a broad spectrum of civil society actors” through an “ongoing dialogue with civil society, the private sector and local stakeholders”. A people-centred partnership, however, does not only imply a dialogue between the institutions of our Unions and civil society and other stakeholders, but also a structured relationship between the peoples of our continents themselves, in order to ensure that Africans and Europeans become the genuine owners of this process. We therefore expect the Strategy and the Action Plan to contain adequate financing for horizontal civil society initiatives aimed at encouraging African and European stakeholders to come together in order to debate and propose solutions to the challenges we face. This people to people approach is fundamental to achieving a results-oriented development partnership between the European Union and the African Union.

 

5. We fully agree that it is the mandate of the Commissions of the African and the European Unions to negotiate the Joint Strategy, adopted by the Member States of both Unions at this Summit meeting. However, in a system of ‘checks and balances’ our task and role as parliaments would be to bring up for discussion whatever weaknesses and lack of priorities we see in the Strategy.

 

6. We consider our most pressing common objectives to be the eradication of poverty and sustainable social, economic and environmental development, particularly
through investing in our peoples’ health and education. The challenges we identified are indeed global ones affecting both our continents and the world at large, requiring solidarity and common action: reducing vulnerability to climate change and other global environmental problems; human security – with particular attention to women, children and other vulnerable groups; the fight against pandemics; migration, including the issue of brain drain; the fight against terrorism; technological imbalances; and reform of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. We need to address them in a coherent way and in the light of our common will to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. This should constitute our guiding principle in the conception, implementation and monitoring of the Joint Strategy.

 

7. The outline for a Joint EU-Africa Strategy approved in May by the Ministerial troika left out a critical parliamentary dimension, and did not contain any reference to, or any role for parliaments in the institutional architecture of a people-centred EU-AU partnership. However, we are encouraged by the European Commission and Council’s reflection that “the institutional architecture [of the Joint Strategy] should also strengthen the formal structure of dialogue between the institutions and bodies of the EU and AU, and notably between the institutions that represent the people of the two continents, the European Parliament and the Pan-African Parliament”, but this has to be translated into operational decisions and actions. As bodies made up of elected representatives, our parliaments are the only representative institutions in our continent-wide Unions. Furthermore, parliaments have a distinctive role and one which makes them pivotal to good governance: they are responsible for representing the interests of all sectors of society, articulating these interests into relevant policies, allocating the necessary budgets for their implementation and seeing to it that these policies are implemented efficiently. In all democratic societies, parliaments have a primary part to play in providing links between the State and civil society and other non-state actors and in encouraging the participation in the management of public affairs by civil society and social partners. The parliamentary dimension of a people-centred EU-AU partnership should be evident, because parliamentary representatives reflect the views of the citizens they represent. Parliaments are therefore an essential element in any governance mix; without functioning parliaments, there can be no democracy.

 

8. As institutions representing the peoples’ will, our parliaments must see to it that their needs are satisfied, their concerns heard by decision makers, and that their wishes are reflected in the policies proposed by the institutions that govern them. Our parliaments have an essential part to play in shaping the debate on the joint priorities for the future of our continents; they reflect the various currents of opinion in our societies, and are therefore the place where the debate must be conducted, and where differing views can be reconciled and compromises sought. So far, the debate on the Joint Strategy and its implementation has been conducted largely outside our parliaments; there has been little systematic information on the progress of the negotiations and no formal consultation on agreements reached. Together with the regional and national parliaments of our continents, the Pan-African Parliament and the European Parliament need, and are firmly determined to be fully involved not only in the process leading up to the Joint Strategy, but also in its implementation and monitoring. The Joint Strategy and the Action Plan must therefore include adequate provisions for the structured and systematic involvement of our parliaments in the debate on its implementation and future continuation.

 

9. However, the role of parliaments goes beyond representation. Our institutions also need to be decision-makers, in particular – but not only – on budgetary matters. In a national context, the budgetary function of parliament is to allocate the financial resources required by government to carry out the agreed policy priorities, and to monitor government spending. However, all too often in a classical donor-recipient relationship, the lines of accountability – both on the donor’s and on the recipient’s side – run directly from Executive to Executive, thereby bypassing any sort of parliamentary monitoring and effectively marginalizing parliaments. Until very recently, our parliaments were excluded from the policy-setting and the monitoring process in relation to poverty reduction and development strategies. We welcome the recent decision by the Council of Ministers of the European Union to transmit the draft ACP Country Strategy Papers (CSPs) to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly ‘for information’, but we point out that this is only a first step, and that our parliaments’ institutional powers to monitor budget and policy implementation processes must extend to all actions funded through the European Union’s cooperation. The Joint Strategy must therefore contain clear provisions for the exercise of the fundamental parliamentary right of scrutiny. This is of vital importance, for it ensures that the Executives carry out the agreed policies in an effective, democratic and fiscally responsible manner. It is a task of great responsibility, and we will carry it out in close cooperation with our peoples, their civil society and their local authorities.

 

10. As parliaments, we have also an important oversight responsibility, always bearing in mind how concrete measures affect the quality of life of the peoples we represent. By providing oversight, we ensure that the Executive performs in a responsible and accountable manner and that aid is managed and spent effectively in support of poverty reduction and sustainable development. In a time of increased use of budget support, we insist that this aid modality must be accompanied by the strengthening of the capacity of parliaments, public audit institutions, local authorities and civil society to scrutinize the process, so as to avoid basic social services becoming under-resourced, and we appreciate the reflections of this concern in the Joint Strategy and the Multi-annual Action Plan.

 

11. Through their parliaments, donors and partner countries are accountable to their citizens for their development strategies and performance in eradicating poverty. Under the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, both aid donors and aid beneficiaries undertook to increase their accountability to their citizens and parliaments for their development policies, strategies and performance. Donors and beneficiaries must live up to these commitments and ensure that parliaments are brought into the policy process more fully.

 

12. Only with strong and well-informed parliaments can we achieve sustainable democracy for our peoples. Our parliamentary institutions give democratic legitimacy to the political action and we are responsible for holding our governments accountable for their decisions, or alternatively for their lack of activity. We therefore again stress the need to ensure that parliaments play their legitimate institutional role in the policy process. We agree that our EU-AU partnership is, and should be a partnership of equals. While it is indeed the case that European and African partners are equal in terms of rights and responsibilities, it is also a fact that they are not equal in terms of their level of integration, and the availability and level of development of their financial, technical, technological and human resource capacities. This reality is already recognized at the level of the Commissions, and the European Commission and the Commission of the African Union have agreed on an institutional capacity building programme for the Commission of the African Union. Given the importance of the parliamentary dimension of the institutional architecture, there is an imperative need to develop simultaneously the parliamentary dimension designed to strengthen parliaments. Therefore, the first Action Plan must contain provisions and specific financial resources to support the Pan-African Parliament, as well as regional and national African Parliaments. We also appeal to the EU and AU Commissions and Member States to financially support the training of Members of Parliament and the necessary staff in the parliamentary structures.

 

13. We also stress the importance of supporting key African initiatives providing African solutions to the problems of the continent, such as the ‘New Partnership for Africa’s Development’ (NEPAD) and the African Peer Review Mechanism, including through the provision of adequate financing.

    

14. Our overarching and long-standing objectives are to involve Africans and Europeans in our EU-AU partnership, by raising awareness, providing information, exercising our role as parliaments and enabling them to actively participate in this process, and by so doing, improve their quality of life.

 

15. Our two parliaments are therefore determined to closely monitor the implementation of the Joint Strategy and the Multi-annual Action Plan. To do so, we have decided to establish a Joint EP-PAP parliamentary delegation as a forum to debate in a democratic way the issues affecting the relations between our peoples.

 

16. We are confident that the Summit will share our analysis on the importance and the role of the parliamentary dimension in this new and historic partnership between Africa and Europe, and we look forward to seeing them reflected in the conclusions of its proceedings. We wish our Heads of State and Government every success in their deliberations.


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