Opinion October 30, 2015 | 10:54 am

How much does Europe matter

In thelast few weeks the European Commission (EC) has made available two discussiondocuments that will change Europe’s future relationship with the Caribbean andLatin America.

Thefirst, published on October 6, is on what might follow the present EU-ACPCotonou Partnership Agreement when it expires in 2020. A second, ‘Trade forAll’, published on October 14, sets out the EC’s thinking on future tradestrategy.

Asanticipated, ‘Towards a new partnership between the European Unionand the ACP countries after 2020’, raises questions about the future EU relationship with the 79 nation groupingof African, Caribbean and Pacific states, and seeks responses to forty fundamental questions.

At thedocument’s core is a section that explores ideas that Europe believes wouldmake a future partnership more effective. For the EC, the solution revolvesaround a stronger political relationship and dialogue with the separate regionsof the ACP. It suggests that is what is now required across the ACP is coherentgeographical scope and in a Caribbean context appears to suggest that thefuture lies in a relationship with the Communityof Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC),the body that includesall nations in the Americas other than the US, Canada and dependent territories. It also argues for development co-operation to be tailored towards nations atsimilar levels of development, given that many nations – such as those in the Caribbean- have been graduated into the category of more developed. It places emphasison strengthening work with the private sector, NGOs, parliaments and localauthorities, and on changing existing institutional arrangements so thatdecision making becomes more flexible.

The secondcommunication,‘Trade for All’, details the EU’s programme of intended future trade negotiationsand its trade objectives. While the document is fundamentally designed for aEuropean audience and is driven by a desire to use trade and investment toboost European economic growth, it clearly reflects Europe’s thinking on itsfuture trade and foreign policy.

The document sets out Europe’s intentions in its tradenegotiations with the US for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP),makes clear the importance of China, and for example indicates that existing EUtrade arrangements with countries like Mexico will be updated. It also places significantemphasis on trade and investment in Africa.

In addition, it makes clear that after two decades inwhich the Doha Development Round had languished at the World Trade Organisation,it wishes ‘to see the page turned’ by finding an agreement based ‘on asignificant recalibration’ of the round’s original parameters.

There is also a short section on Latin America and theCaribbean. In an indication of how a region specific approach might work, itmakes clear that it sees the trade agreements such as the EU-Cariforum EconomicPartnership Agreement (EPA), and the association agreements it has or will signwith Latin nations, as creating a basis for ‘a shared agenda’ on sustainabledevelopment and regional integration. The document also signals an importantpolicy change. It makes clear that Europe’s primary future focus in thehemisphere will be on completing negotiations in ways ‘comparable to andcompatible with’ Europe’s Free TradeAgreement with Canada and the future TTIP agreement with the United States.

Whenread together it is clear that the two communications indicate that the geo-strategiccontext within which Europe sees its long-term trade and development relationshipwith the Caribbean is now the whole of the Americas.

Itscontinuing emphasis on the region as a part of the Latin American region, its quiteseparate messages on Africa and the WTO, and the implied supremacy of itsintended trade relationship with North America , make clear that theCaribbean’s traditional thinking about a development relationship with Europe isbeing left behind.

Thisshould come as no surprise. It is the logical outcome of a process of strategicchange that began in 1998 when it became clear from Europe’s negotiatingmandate for the Cotonou Convention that it was moving to disaggregate itsformer ACP-wide post-colonial relationships by establishing region specificarrangements through Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) linked to transitionaldevelopment assistance.

SubsequentlyCaribbean nations other than Haiti have been graduated out of developmentassistance, new areas such as the environment, the private sector, and securityhave been identified for support, and Europe’s overseas territories in theregion have received a new settlement in 2013. Europe has also demonstrated thatits long term overarching political objectives will in future be pursued throughdialogue at biennial EU-CELAC summits.

In shortthe latest proposals will have the eventual effect of making the EU remote fromEurope’s shared history with the Caribbean.

Despitethis, one would be hard pressed to discover anything about the two documents fromthe web sites of the European Delegations in the region or from Europe’s memberstates; let alone that the two communications formally call for a response fromall interested parties whether governments, institutions, NGOs orindividuals.

Europe isagain moving on. This is unsurprising, and put bluntly suggests that it is timefor the Caribbean to be doing the same; to ask how much in future Europe will matterand what the regional response should be?

While aform of rebalancing of Caribbean relationships is presently happening on a defacto, events-led basis, Europe’s changing approach illustrates why a regionalnarrative about the future is required. In particular it suggests that the AnglophoneCaribbean needs to determine how it wishes to relate to a more economicallyintegrated Cuba, where it, the Dominican Republic and Central America fit into Caricom’sfuture thinking, and how as a group Caricom intends developing and balancingthe political complexities of its relationships in Latin America.

The senseis that with preference gone, development assistance diminishing, relationswith the US and Canada changing, and Venezuela, China, Brazil, Russia and otherparts of the world engaging, Europe’s role may be becoming less relevant.

If forthe Caribbean the future relationship with EU is to be less about trade anddevelopment and more about a political dialogue, security, shared values andsoft power, as well as for some reparations and the Diaspora, the implicationis that new thinking and a fundamental re-assessment of the balance in externalrelations is required.

DavidJessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at


Previouscolumns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org

October 30th, 2015

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