Opinion January 22, 2016 | 10:23 am

Europe’s changing priorities

In Europe a far-reaching and multi-facetedpolicy review is underway that is likely to result in a significant change inEuropean priorities.

This process began last June when the EU’sHigh Representative (effectively Europe’s Foreign Minister) and Vice President,Federica Mogherini, was mandated by European Governments to develop a new strategyon foreign and security policy.

Since then it has become clear that Mrs Mogherini has decided thatwhat is required is a comprehensive approach that embraces every aspect ofEurope’s external outreach. This will involve going far beyond traditionalthinking about foreign, development or security policy. It will also incorporatethe new principle of development universality, the so called SustainableDevelopment Goals (SDG) agreed last September at the United Nations.

This hasfar-reaching implications for the Caribbean’s future relationship with Europe andothers, as the region will have to adapt its approach so that any future supportit may seek relates to one or more of the SDG’s seventeenglobally applicable development objectives. It also suggests that the days of a privilegeddevelopment relationship will go forever and the region will be competingglobally for any concessional funding and support.

Europe’spolicy review will also likely take into account thedelivery of the recently approved Paris Agreement on Climate Change; the action agenda agreedin mid-2015 in Addis Ababa that established how the internationalcommunity will provide future funding; and place emphasis on European concernsabout instability in the Sahel, uncertainties in the Ukraine, tension withRussia, the conflict in Syria and Iraq, a refugee crisis that has becomepolitically toxic in most EU states, and the threat of terrorist actions acrossEurope.

Also ofrelevance will be the parallel development of a new EU approach to trade that placesemphasis on new agreements on services and rules for investment; on the rapidpursuit of regional free trade agreements, such as those with the US and Mercosur;and on an alternative multilateral approach at the WTO given OECD nationsregard the Doha Development Round as being at an end.

Tocomplicate matters further, the review is taking place at a time of budgetaryconstraints in all EU states, a political view in Europe that future officialdevelopment assistance should target the least developed countries- in theCaribbean this means only Haiti – and that a special focus on Africa isrequired.

MrsMogherini’s review coincides with the existential debate now underway on thefuture of the ACP (the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries) and itsrelationship with the EU.

Whatis emerging in Europe is a lack of clarity as to how any post 2020 successor agreementto the EU-ACP Cotonou Convention will relate to the review she is undertaking. Forexample some in Europe feel that the principle of universality established inthe SDGs implies that any special relationship of the kind that exists with theACP may be at an end; while others suggest that the SDG’s demonstrate why theACP as a group must adapt its partnership.

The matteris made more difficult as recent reports such as that by the European Centrefor Development Policy Management (ECDPM) suggest that without a fundamentalchange of purpose, the ACP will attenuate.

Althoughan ACP group of eminent persons may recommend to an ACP summit in May in Papua,New Guinea, that the relationship be renewed on the basis of a ‘new’ ACP, bettergovernance, and a more significant role for the private sector and civilsociety, it is unclear whether politically much of Europe still sees long termutility in a single treaty relationship.

Hopefullythere will be some clarity when the EC publishes in the early part of this yeara communication (policy paper) on how its sees its future ACP relationship and howit proposes undertaking negotiations for a successor agreement in 2018.

MrsMogherini is expected to present her recommendations in June 2016 following aseries of public debates.

If theCaribbean is to have any hope of finding a place in this fundamentally changedpolicy environment it needs to politically mobilise support in Europe’s 28nations, almost all of which have no historic relationship with a region mostregard as marginal. In doing so it should demonstrate where it fits in thechanged global order, what its justifiable needs are given it largely consists ofmiddle-ranking largely services-oriented economies, and what it is going togive politically in return to Europe.

Thepresent absence of strategic political direction and emphasis in this respectis concerning.

In the last eighteen months the worldhas become a significantly less certain place. The global balance of power haschanged. The once assumed interest shown in the region by the major powers isfading as their political, economic and strategic attention has been relocated elsewhereby storm and conflict.

The problem with doing nothing, or verylittle, and failing to have a clear and straightforward regional publicnarrative that has popular support, is that the region’s voice will go unheard,the world will forget, and move on.

It isfor this reason that regular high level personal political contact matters, as forinstance unscheduled private conversations between the British Prime Ministerand some Caribbean leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting inMalta recently demonstrated. It suggests that in the absence of regularpan-European ministerial visits, a senior regional figure such as a former CaribbeanPrime Minister be entrusted with a clear agenda and developing ties topolitical and official counterparts across Europe.

Moregenerally, there is a pressing need for the region and individual nations torapidly redefine future requirements in the terms of the SDG’s objectives, identifyhow the Caribbean is to achieve deliverables from the recent climate changeagreement, and to work out how to have credible figures from the private sectorand civil society engaged and out-front in discussing future needs.

Inshort, any lingering sense of entitlement needs to be abandoned and a newnarrative developed that recognises that European thinking and that of other donorstates is evolving and leaving the Caribbean behind.

David Jessop is a consultant to theCaribbean Council and can be contacted at

david.jessop@caribbean-council.org

Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org

January 22nd n, 2016

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