Portuguese Secretary of State meeting with EP

Joao Gomes Cravinho, Portuguese Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, current President-in-Office of the EU Development Council attended the European Parliament’s Development Committee meeting on 18 July.

Informing MEPs on the priorities of the Portuguese EU Presidency (July-December) under the slogan “A Stronger Europe for a Better World”, the minister stressed that as the world’s largest aid donor that the EU working methods for delivering cooperation need to be effective and that political convergence and coherence must continue to improve in order for the EU to play an effective role in the world.

Portuguese presidency priorities
The Portuguese EU Presidency will continue working under the work plan agreed by the trio of EU past, current and future EU Presidencies (Germany, Portugal, Slovenia), but the Portuguese will have their own specific priorities and focus as well.

He informed MEPs that the Presidency will produce new guidelines and strategies with a view to ensuring achievement of the MDGs, the EU Development Consensus, the Paris Aid Effectiveness commitments and international ODA targets.

They will also work to improve the implementation of the EU Code of Conduct/Division of Labour and coherence of EU policies for development as well ason the synergies in policies especially in relation to the coherence of development with migration and security policies.

The Presidency will look at the coherence of policies and division of labour in relation to the ability to intervene in fragile countries. They will seek to identify measures and instruments to implement greater efficiency in this area. They want to improve implementation of existing instruments in fragile states. A Joint EU Council of Defence and Development Ministers in November will debate and thrash out future orientations in this regard.

Other issues include the European Consensus on humanitarian aid and EPAs. In the latter the focus will be to negotiate a development instrument and improve the effectiveness of aid for trade to improve market access and promote regional integration for the ACP

EU-Africa Strategy
The Presidency wants to establish a structured dialogue with Africa moving away from the donor-recipient relationship of the past. A joint strategy is under discussion now and will be the basis of future relations. An action plan will also be agreed with concrete actions to move forward. These will be adopted at the EU-Africa Lisbon Summit on 8-9 December.

In the debate that followed, MEPs said that the Council should identify EPA alternatives if the deadline cannot be reached.

Glenys Kinnock questioned if consultations on the EU-Africa strategy with civil society and Parliaments were satisfactory. She asked how the Presidency plans to treat Africa as one within the strategy and if a new EU AU financial envelope would be established for implementation of the strategy. She also asked if the summit’s focus would also reflect African priorities. She warned that if Mugabe attended the summit that some EU Member States Heads of Government may not attend and this could ruin the progress.

In reply the Minister said EPAs are the best option and development tool to strengthen regional integration and dynamic markets which attract investment to the ACP.

On the Lisbon Summit he said that the topics would be selected together and that the EU thinks human rights will be fundamental. He said the media focus on Mugabe is unfortunate because the creation of a new EU-Africa relationship is the more important issue. They want all EU Heads of Government to be there. He said that there are not 53 perfect democracies in Africa. Fundamental principles will be discussed at the summit too, he said.

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