Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Lord Triesman of Tottenham, Minister for Africa, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated 12 July 2006 which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on 20 July 2006. The document was cleared, on the Sub-Committee's recommendation, at the Chairman's sift on 25 July.

  The document raises a number of issues, both specific to the document and more generally in relation to the use of strategic partnerships by the EU. The latter issues will be addressed in a separate letter.

  Overall, we welcome this initiative from the European Commission, which responds to a request issued by the 7 November 2005 Joint South Africa-EU Cooperation Council for the development of a strategic partnership. We feel that the proposal is fairly comprehensive and should serve to strengthen relations between South Africa and the EU.

  Despite this generally positive appraisal, the Communication completely eludes the importance to the EU of South Africa's reserves of so-called "strategic minerals", including precious and rare metals. In particular, chromium, cobalt, manganese, vanadium and platinum-group metals are used in key industrial processes (notably in the defence and aeronautical sectors). South Africa holds the majority of the world's reserves of platinum, gold and manganese ore, as well as significant reserves of chromium. We therefore believe that South Africa's strategic position in relation to security of supply and market equilibrium must receive the attention it deserves in the draft Joint Action Plan to be prepared for the EU-South Africa Cooperation Council of 14 November 2006.

  We also felt that two issues should have received more attention in the Communication: the challenges posed by the situation in Zimbabwe, and the threats to health and development posed by the HIV-AIDS pandemic. With regards to Zimbabwe, we feel, as was highlighted in our report on the EU's Strategy for Africa, that weak governance in Zimbabwe and other African countries has to be addressed as a priority, and that it should figure as an important aspect of future regional political cooperation in the Joint Action Plan. Similarly, we feel that the question of HIV/AIDS should be a priority issue in the Joint Action Plan, and in particular in the Country Strategy Paper currently being prepared.

  We request that you take into account the above issues when the Communication is considered during the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 15 September. We would furthermore encourage you to seek to obtain agreement in Council inviting the Commission to integrate these considerations fully into the draft Joint Action Plan.

25 July 2006

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