Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-261)

Mr Elmar Brok

21 MARCH 2006

  Q240  Lord Lea of Crondall: One of the teasing problems is the credibility of the dialogue partner, the African Union. So far as the implementation of the EU strategy is concerned, there is no doubt that the leading dialogue partner is the African Union, and of course we would all like to reflect on the ability or the ambitions of the African Union but recognise its limitations at the moment. When you meet African parliamentarians, either from individual countries or in some pan-African sense, how do you find that they react to the credibility of the African Union talking to the European Union, as opposed to talking to parliamentarians in Abuja or somewhere?

  Mr Brok: I think that the African Union does not have a high credibility there, but neither do the member states in Africa under this system. So I think that is one of our main problems: that we are dealing with partners who are mostly not partners who want the good of their own people. How can we conduct a development policy and development aid around governments so that it goes to the people, and not into Swiss bank accounts? Here we also have—and it is my criticism to friends who work hard in the ACP process—that it is not politically correct to criticise dictators in Africa. We say we are the bad people; we were the colonial powers; and we have no right to say what they are doing wrongly now.

  Q241  Lord Lea of Crondall: Yes, but it has been represented to us that imperialism, as a label, is less easy to pin on the European Union than it is to pin it on Britain, on France or on Belgium.

  Mr Brok: That is true, but anyway that is always used. I must say that this type of political correctness—not to tell the truth to such people—is one of our main problems in terms of effectiveness.

  Q242  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Do you think you can help the Member States and the European Union by having a dialogue with African parliamentarians in which you bring home to them that this is not governments that are putting this pressure on them; it is parliaments who are putting pressure on their governments to do so? That could be a very effective support for what the European Union, it seems to us in our inquiry, is trying to edge its way towards. We have had several people who have said to us that we must back up the African Peer Review Mechanism on human rights by rewarding people who submit to it, and particularly people who submit to it and implement recommendations made by the Peer Review; and, at the same time, by not rewarding people, like Zimbabwe, who refuse to have anything to do with the process. I wonder if you could comment on whether you think there is a role for the Europe Parliament and parliamentarians to help Member States and the Union to pursue a policy that is a bit less feeble than the one you describe.

  Mr Brok: I think that it is a good thing to talk to parliamentarians, but it is always a question of the system of the country. You have mentioned Zimbabwe, where at the moment it does not make a lot of sense but where perhaps it is possible to talk to opposition people. At the moment we are discussing two points in the Parliament. First, we want to have a fifth instrument from the Commission, the human rights instrument, which can be used for such purposes. The second one we have discussed from the Parliament side is to give money to the political groups, with clear control that it is used only for human rights and democracy work. So that political groups can go to their political families and people who are thinking in the same direction in such countries. Sometimes you cannot do it as a whole institution—all of the European Union—but the Socialists can do something there and the Conservatives or the Liberals can do something elsewhere. It would give them the possibility to have this direct contact, in order to support discussions in the party political environment, in civil society, and so on, and help to increase the responsibility in such countries. That is something we would do via the Westminster Foundation or something like that. I believe that it is a good idea to use the political groups, because then you have the flexibility that everyone can go to the group in a country which has credibility.

  Q243  Lord Lea of Crondall: Can I relate this to conditionality—what some people now call "sticks" and "carrots" as a more homely metaphor? If there is a complaint about imperialism or something like that, and presumably the idea that our taxpayers are paying money that they do not want put into Swiss bank accounts—because Switzerland is not the main priority for our aid money—does the European Parliament have any resolution or dialogue process itself to confront the balance between sticks and carrots? To have the understanding that there have to be sticks and carrots?

  Mr Brok: The instruments are very limited in Africa. Who can we punish? If you use the sticks, is it a stick against a dictator or a stick against the people? It is very difficult to find the right balance so that it really works and that you do not beat the wrong people. The other point is that what we are doing at the moment, and what we want to strengthen via our Human Rights Sub-Committee, is looking more at the operational use of the human right clauses of European treaties and agreements with such countries. In many of these treaties we now have human rights clauses, but do they have a use in practical terms? We need to find mechanisms on how that can be done, in order to enforce such clauses in such treaties.

  Q244  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Are you satisfied with the way that the Commission has used the human rights clauses in Cotonou?

  Mr Brok: No.

  Q245  Lord Lea of Crondall: Do you think that the African Union, as a dialogue partner, should be the main idea in our minds in terms of building up some benchmarking? It has been put to us by a whole range of people that at least, if it is lip service, everyone from the President of Nigeria through to the Presidents of Egypt or South Africa, everybody, pays more than lip service to some quite challenging principles—at least they feel that there is some moral framework in which they are operating. When somebody invades the next-door country, they have something they can point to that all the 55 countries have signed. Is that a complete illusion in our minds, that there is anything going on there? That there is no progress? Or do you think that there is any progress on this path of dialogue with the African Union?

  Mr Brok: I think there is progress, and I believe that the Commission is totally aware of that; but are the instruments sharp enough for that? Is there really sustainable monitoring on this question, or does it come up only if something happens like in Zimbabwe and it becomes unclear for everybody? It is day-by-day work. Does it have the same monitoring and operational answers as other parts of such treaties have? I think that here things must be strengthened.

  Q246  Chairman: You gave very definite answers to Lord Hannay that you were not satisfied with the way the Commission had used the human rights clauses in the Cotonou agreements. Bearing in mind that the strategy places great emphasis on governance, human rights, democracy, and so on, and given the difficulties about conditionality, could you give us some examples of where you think the Commission have not used the agreements correctly? What lessons ought we to be drawing from it, for making the strategy effective in this area?

  Mr Brok: I cannot give you an example on that now, without preparation. What I can say, however, is that it always comes up as an issue if it is a real case and made public in the media. Then we catch up with it in the Parliament and the Commission; we ask the Commission to do something about it. However, the day-by-day work is not done. That is perhaps where we have talked about the delegations. At present the Constitutional Treaty is not in place and we do not have these "embassies" of the European Union. Does it make sense to strengthen the delegations of the Commission? I had a discussion with Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner about it last week and she shares my views. Legally, it is still a Commission matter but it could also be used by Parliament and Council as a type of embassy for monitoring, and so on: having really qualified people there on the ground who could report and say, "Here is a problem, and we have to do something".

  Q247  Chairman: You believe that the existing delegations are under-resourced?

  Mr Brok: Too weak, under-resourced, not well-qualified; they have no diplomatic training. I believe that these delegation members should go for one or two years to national diplomatic schools; not to build up a new European one, but circulating to the national diplomatic schools and teaching them there. I think that would be a very important point; and also in relation to the national embassy and the European delegation, because very often people who have learnt together then trust each other. I think that could be a good combination.

  Q248  Chairman: Is there a problem with the financing of that, or could it be done?

  Mr Brok: It could be done. I have told Ms Ferrero-Waldner that, if she were to come up with a proposal, we would make sure that the Parliament would help, step by step, to get the money for it. They are small, practical points.

  Q249  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: We were told by one of our interlocutors that, for example, the Commission office in Addis is quite inadequate to handle the complexity of the dialogue that is now growing up between the European Union and the African Union, because it is basically developmental in its origins. Of course, there are enormous development problems in Ethiopia which, quite rightly, are taking a lot of time and effort; but that you cannot have the same people also trying to work out how the European Union should help the African Union mount a peace operation in Darfur, or whatever it is. They require different skills, and they are not staffed to do this. This is very much the point you are making, I think.

  Mr Brok: Also, we are making it even more problematic, now that every time something happens Solana or the Council sets up some special envoy. We were together last summer in Afghanistan. We had an invitation by the special envoy of the Council. He is a good man.

  Q250  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Vendrel.

  Mr Brok: Yes. We had a dinner invitation from him, but the representative of the Commission delegation was not invited to that. We had to force him to invite him. If you have such a relationship, it becomes ridiculous. Both are understaffed and fight each other.

  Q251  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Is there any way of remedying that, do you think, apart from the Constitutional Treaty?

  Mr Brok: No, I think that if the Constitutional Treaty does not come, then I would say to the Commission, "Just do it. Make it stronger". If it works and has an output, then the rest will come. Convince by qualification.

  Q252  Chairman: What sort of contacts are you having as the Europe Parliament, if any, with the Pan-African Parliament or individual parliamentarians from individual countries? Is there a lot of contact?

  Mr Brok: Not from my side. I have contact if they come here. I am not in Africa much myself. That is done more by the Development Committee, and we have a certain division over there. We are only involved in questions like Darfur, when it comes to such crises, but not the day-by-day policy in Africa—with the exception of North Africa, which belongs to the Neighbourhood Policies, where we have very close contacts. But not black Africa; it is limited.

  Q253  Lord Lea of Crondall: One of the things that we came across at an earlier stage of our inquiry was the idea that "there is no such place as Africa". It is only a thought in people's head. It is a continent. There is no connection between the two sides of the Sahara Desert. But then somebody pointed out that there are enormous, impossible dilemmas when you see on the television 200 people a night being drowned, trying to get to the Canary Islands or getting over razor wire to get into the Spanish enclaves in Morocco. Leaving aside AIDS, drought, et cetera, where would you put these continental questions? I do not mean within the European Parliament structure; I mean in terms of the agenda generally. Is it because you cannot do much about it in the Parliament and people give up the ghost? How would you describe the position of Africa?

  Mr Brok: I think that we have become more and more aware, especially when we saw these migrants in Morocco last autumn. Two weeks ago I had a discussion with the Moroccan Prime Minister. He agreed very much that, if we want to solve all these problems of migration for such countries and for us, there must be communication between countries like Morocco and us, not just talking about what we do in the sense of home affairs, and so on, and how to stop the people at the frontiers, but how can we co-operate so that they do not even go to that place and that they stay at home?

  Q254  Lord Lea of Crondall: It is not the countries to the north of the Sahara Desert; it is the less than $500 a year people, on the south side.

  Mr Brok: With these North Africa countries we have a certain co-operation so that we can solve these problems and do more together for the sub-Sahara region; because, if they start to move, then it is mostly too late. I think that in this way we can also convince our population. Nobody likes to give money and development aid is not very popular amongst our voters. However, if we say, "If we do more for Africa, then we do more for our security"—it is not just charity; it is our security. I think it is therefore a better argument, in order to convince people that we have to do that more.

  Q255  Chairman: We have had some very logical arguments advanced to us as to why the Africa Peace Facility should be financed out of the EDF. Does the Parliament have a view about that, or do you accept the logic of it?

  Mr Brok: I am sorry, could you repeat that?

  Q256  Chairman: The Africa Peace Facility and it largely being financed out of the EDF—we have had some logical arguments put to us as to why that should be the case. There are other people who express some concern about that. Is it a concern that is shared in the Parliament, or do you share the view that it is the logical way, and the only way at the present time, to fund the Peace Facility?

  Mr Brok: I will just read this to you. "Funding for the Africa Peace Facility must be closely linked with controls on its proper use and on the effectiveness of operations supported. There are major questions about the operation in Darfur, which has not delivered sufficient security, while the operation of DR Congo also faces huge challenges. We are all aware that doing nothing is not an option; yet funding mechanisms need to include an incentive to deliver results. This may also entail a clear indication that the absence of results will have consequences for future funding."

  Q257  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I think that is the other end of the problem, which is how the money is spent when you give it to the Africans.

  Mr Brok: We have seen with the Darfur question that it has not really given positive results so far.

  Q258  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Yes, but I think that we must be a bit careful about being too critical of the African Union. It is the first big operation they have ever mounted. Although I absolutely agree with you, and the results in Darfur are completely inadequate and shameful really for all of us, but I do think that we have to be very careful not to be too critical of the African Union. It is being asked to do something astonishingly complex and difficult, which is to send troops hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometres away, to a pretty inhospitable place, to do a job for which they do not have a very clear mandate. I think that our feeling, because we are all rather supportive of the idea that the European Union should strengthen the Africa Peace Facility, is that you do have to be rather careful—and this is certainly the view that Solana expressed to us last week—not to be too critical about the Africans in this. It is the first ever time that they have tried to do something like this. When we tried to do it first in Bosnia, we were not terribly successful either.

  Mr Brok: We certainly have to see how we go, but we have to help them to understand how to organise mandates which can have proper results. We know how difficult it is in such countries, because everyone is afraid that, one day, this might be an interference in his own sphere. Therefore, if I remember rightly, it was difficult to set up this mandate before they could start; it lasted so long. If we were able to organise self-help and improve that ability, they could organise some stability themselves. It is better than Europeans parachuting in and trying to do that job.

  Q259  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Could I ask you a question as a German MEP? Do you feel confident that the German Government will be able to deliver the commitments that it has entered into at Gleneagles and at the UN Summit for a very big increase in German bilateral aid to Africa?

  Mr Brok: I think the German Government has said—and it is in the governmental contract between the two big parties—that they want to deliver the Millennium Goals some time, but that will not be before the end of the period 2009-10, because of the patchwork problems with the Maastricht criteria. However, the aim as such is in the governmental programme.

  Q260  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: So the idea that the European Union will have to monitor all the Member States' performance under these commitments is a pretty valid one, in fact?

  Mr Brok: Yes. Benchmarking is always a good thing because, if you do not deliver, you then have problems to explain at home.

  Q261  Chairman: Is there anything else that you would like to say to us, Mr Brok, that we might not have raised with you in questions?

  Mr Brok: No. Perhaps I should give you what has been written for me on these questions.

Chairman: That would be very helpful. Thank you very much indeed.

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