Documents considered by the Committee on 9 February 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

15   EU restrictive measures against the Republic of Guinea


Draft Council Decision modifying certain restrictive measures in respect of Guinea

Legal baseArticle 29 TEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 3 February 2011 and Minister's letter of 7 February 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (32020) —: HC 428-iii (2010-11), chapter 18 (13 October 2010) and (31404) —: HC 5-xiv (2009-10) chapter 4 (17 March 2010); also see (31133) —:HC 5-ii (2009-10), chapter 10, (25 November 2009); (30721) 11429/09 HC 19-xxiv (2008-09), chapter 8 (15 July 2009) and (26227) 16041/04, (29544) 7499/08 and (30446) 6543/09: HC 19-x (2008-09) , chapters 7 and 8 (11 March 2009)
To be discussed in Council14 February 2011
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


15.1  Under Article 96 of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement between the EU and 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, either party may invite the other for consultations if it considers that the other has failed to respect the "essential" political elements in Article 9: human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, or to provide good governance. Strengthening this political dimension was one of the main changes introduced in the 2005 revision of the Agreement.

15.2  At the end of 2003, the Commission proposed such consultations with the government of the Republic of Guinea (GOG), after trying unsuccessfully for the previous two years to resolve various democratic shortcomings through normal Article 8 political dialogue.

15.3  The previous Committee took a particular interest in this process because the undertakings given by the GOG were all in areas in which success, or failure, might well have much wider lessons, or repercussions, and not just for the Cotonou Process but also ESDP: a number of other ACP countries were similarly challenged, against a background in which the inter-relationship between development, security and good governance was now widely acknowledged. As it noted, the Cotonou Agreement is clear: respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law are essential elements of the partnership, with the Commission characterising the revision of the political components in 2005 as "strengthening the political dimension by placing greater emphasis on effective dialogue and results"; against the yardstick set out in those last four words, they found little persuasive evidence that the Article 96 process had, to use the then Minister for Europe's (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead) words, led to the Cotonou provisions being taken seriously — after over five years of Article 96 engagement, Guinea seemed to be no nearer than it was then to a functioning democratic and law-based society.[69]

15.4  Subsequent developments are set out in the Report referred to above and those referred to therein.[70] As these Reports note, a bloodless coup took place on 23 December 2008, following the death of the then President after a long illness, when a military junta calling itself the National Council for Democracy and Development (NCDD) seized power and its leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, declared himself President. In response, further Article 96 consultations were initiated; subsequently, the Commission proposed that they be closed, and a staged process initiated whereby, in return for measured progress towards, and the holding of, free and transparent elections, normal relations would be restored.

15.5  The then Minister for Europe supported this proposal, arguing that it was important that the EU played a constructive role in assisting Guinea's transition to constitutional order and democracy. But because the "broadly encouraging undertakings" offered during the Article 96 consultations had "not been followed up by action", she thought it wise that the Commission had proposed that the EU continued to monitor the situation closely over a period of 24 months, with a regular review at least once every six months, and had reserved the right to amend the "appropriate measures" in the light of the interim authorities' implementation of the commitments they had entered into.

15.6  Then, on 28 September 2009, unarmed opposition supporters, protesting at Captain Dadis Camara's intention to run for President next year (despite having forsworn this when he seized power) were killed by soldiers in the capital, Conakry. This was condemned by the EU, the US, the AU and ECOWAS; the latter two took the lead to resolve the political crisis and prevent further violence.

15.7  Against this background, the 26-27 October General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) adopted Common Position 2009/788/CFSP imposing an arms embargo and travel restrictions targeting members of the military junta and individuals associated with them who were responsible for the violent repression of 28 September or the political stalemate in the country. The EU thus intended both to bolster any AU/ECOWAS sanctions on Guinea and send a coordinated and strong message that it condemned the violent crackdown. The Common Position applied for 12 months, but would be reviewed and amended as appropriate, depending on what steps were taken by the military junta to restore the rule of law.

The previous Committee's assessment

15.8   In clearing the document, the previous Committee said that it could not avoid wondering nonetheless how effective the Common Position was likely to be. Guinea is the world's largest bauxite exporter and has significant deposits of gold, diamond, uranium and iron ore — resources that allowed Lansana Conte, the former dictator, to survive periods of international isolation; and its oil prospects had recently drawn attention after discoveries in nearby countries such as Ghana, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, leading (according to media reports) to oil and minerals deals being under negotiation between Guinea's military government and the China International Fund, who would provide the lion's share of finance for about $7bn worth of projects, ranging from power-generation to the creation of an airline.

15.9  Noting that both EU courses of action — this Common Position and the action taken under the Cotonou Agreement — were to be reviewed in the coming months, the previous Committee asked that, when any Explanatory Memorandum was put forward on subsequent action, the Minister concerned should ensure that it included his views on this wider perspective of China's activity in the country and the region, and its impact on the effectiveness of EU action.

15.10  In a subsequent Explanatory Memorandum of 11 March 2010, the then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Ivan Lewis) explained that in view of tangible progress towards the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea, the Council had agreed that the EU travel ban should be lifted on four individuals.

15.11  The Minister recalled that on 28 September 2009, "156 peaceful protestors were killed and there were reports of mass rapes and other human rights atrocities", noting that these events and the resultant UN Secretary General's Commission of Inquiry report had dictated the UK and the international community's response. The report had clearly identified Dadis Camara and other leading figures in the Guinean regime as responsible for events on 28 September. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court was currently examining the situation in Guinea; the Deputy Prosecutor had visited Guinea in February 2010 and described the events around 28 September 2009 as crimes against humanity.

15.12  He also reported that on 3 December 2009 Dadis Camara had been shot in the head by his Aide de Camp, Toumba Diakite, during an argument about responsibility for the massacre on 28 September; had been taken to Morocco for treatment; and was later moved to Burkina Faso where he was likely to remain.

15.13  He then went on to outline the political process, whereby the AU and ECOWAS, working with appointed mediator, President Compaore of Burkina Fasso, had taken the lead in attempts to resolve the political crisis and prevent further violence and appointed Sekouba Konate as interim President. An Agreement had been signed in Ouagadougou on 15 January 2010 agreeing to the establishment of a unity transitional government. Jean-Marie Dore had been sworn in as interim Prime Minister on 26 January and his cabinet — a coalition of 10 NCDD members and opposition members— sworn in on 15 February. Presidential elections would be held on 27 June 2010. The UK, along with EU partners, was now keen to recognise progress under the transition and favoured lifting the EU travel ban on four individuals who had been helpful in brokering the Ouagadougou Agreement and putting the transitional process in place: Interim President Sekouba Konate; Mamadou Toto Camara (Minister of Security); Lieutenant Colonel Keletigui Faro (Minister of Agriculture) and Kabine Komara (previously Prime Minister).

The previous Committee's assessment

15.14   The previous Committee said that, though the way in which the main obstacle to progress had been removed was hardly the sort of transition process that the Council would have had in mind, the rest of what the Minister described appeared to warrant the relaxation of the measures in the way proposed.

15.15  In clearing the proposal, it reminded the then Minister of their earlier request for his assessment of the impact of Chinese activity in Guinea and more widely on EU efforts to encourage and bolster democratic development (c.f. paragraph 0.09 above) and asked that, the next time any change was proposed to either this Common Position or to the action taken under the Cotonou Agreement, this was provided along with the evidence justifying the proposal.

15.16  Then, in his Explanatory Memorandum of 8 October 2010, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) noted further progress: a first round of Presidential elections took place in June; no single candidate won outright; the second round due to take place in September had been postponed; this was now scheduled for 24 October. Keeping the restrictive measures in place until the electoral process was complete would send "a strong signal that the EU expects the election process to be completed satisfactorily and a democratic government put in place." They would be "continually under review in the coming months once the election process has been completed"; and "if the election process has not been completed or a democratic government is not in place the EU will consider imposing further restrictive measures."

Our assessment

15.17   In clearing this amendment, we noted that the jury continued to be out with regard to the effectiveness of these and the related Cotonou Agreement measures.

15.18  We also reiterated our predecessors' earlier request and reminder: that when any further action was proposed, either in this context or that of the Cotonou Agreement, any Explanatory Memorandum should include the Minister's views on the wider perspective of China's activity in the country and the region, and its impact on the effectiveness of EU action.[71]

The draft Council Decision

15.19  The amended Council Decision would remove the travel ban and assets freeze on 62 listed individuals and also amend the listing criteria to take into account the report published by the UN International Commission of Inquiry regarding the events of 28 September 2009 in which five persons were named as being complicit in those events. These five individuals would remain targeted with a travel ban and assets freeze, and the arms embargo remain in place.

The Government's view

15.20  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 3 February 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) says that that, though the second round campaign was marred by minor ethnic clashes, the voting was peaceful and Alpha Conde was sworn in as the first democratically elected president of Guinea on 21 December 2010. Guinea, he says, emerged with an elected leader and avoided descending into an ethnically fuelled civil war because Guinea citizens chose to avoid repeating the experience of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire in recent times.

15.21  The Minister goes on to say that the proposal shows that the EU is responding to positive changes on the ground and that he fully supports these developments. He also notes that the measures are in place to 27 October 2011, but will be kept under review; and that discussions will take place prior to this date with regard to whether the measures are rolled over or amended further.

The Minister's letter of 7 February 2011

15.22  The Minister responds to the Committee's earlier requests to his predecessors and, in their absence, gives his views on the wider perspective of China's activity in the Republic of Guinea and the region, and its impact on effectiveness of EU action as follows:

"Although we welcome China's contributions to poverty alleviation and peacekeeping in Guinea and the wider region, some of the impact of this can be lost through a lack of transparency around investment, local markets and good governance. This was particularly evident in 2009 when the China Investment Fund (CIF) signed a $7bn (£4.5bn) mining and oil deal with the junta government, just two weeks after 150 protesters were killed by the military regime. Chinese interest and investment is attractive to many African governments but, as in the CIF deal in Guinea, it can undermine the principles of our and EU engagement in Africa, and diminish the leverage we have to prevent conflict and promote human rights and good governance.

"Ultimately though, a stable and properly governed Africa is in China's interests as well as ours and we are increasing efforts for the EU and China to work together globally on Africa by deeper engagement with African stakeholders and working with other partners in their dialogue with China. EU action in Guinea has been effective, particularly through the work of the International Contact Group on Guinea. The Chinese Ambassador to Guinea joined these meetings and played a positive role in the latter stages of the transition to a democratically elected President in December 2010."


15.23   We thank the Minister for this assessment,[72] which we are content to leave to others to pursue, should they so wish.

15.24  In the meantime, we clear the document.

69   (26227) 16041/04 and (29544) 7499/08: see headnote. Back

70   (31133) -: HC 5-ii (2009-10), chapter 10 (25 November 2009) and (30721) 11429/09: HC 19-xxiv (2008-09), chapter 8 (15 July 2009); see headnote. Back

71   See headnote: (32020) -: HC 428-iii (2010-11), chapter 18 (13 October 2010). Back

72   The Minister provides some similar comments in connection with the latest restrictive measures against the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, which we consider in chapter 14 of this Report. Back

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Prepared 23 February 2011