EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – African and European leaders exchanged barbed criticisms during the first day of an EU-Africa summit in Tripoli, Libya, on Monday (29 November), with contentious trade deals and migration issues among the hot topics.
Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, host of the two-day summit, slammed Europe’s economic partnership with Africa as a “failure”, and demanded the 27-member union provide more money in the fight against illegal immigration.
During an opening address to the leaders of 80 different nations, Mr Gaddafi demanded that “Christian, white” Europe lend more financial support for his efforts to combat irregular emigration to Europe. Otherwise it risked becoming “black”, he said.
A European agreement last month to allocate €50 million for projects aimed at improving Libyan treatment of refugees, mostly coming from African conflict zones and aiming for Europe, was brandished by human rights groups at the time as “worryingly vague”.
The Libyan leader also criticised the EU for linking aid to good governance and progress on human rights issues, leading European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to hit back in his following speech.
“In Europe’s experience, the perspectives for economic growth are closely linked to elements of good governance,” said Mr Van Rompuy. “Africa is not an exception.”
The extent of Africa’s frustration with the EU was highlighted in a leaked document prior to the summit however, in which African leaders say they are ready to abandon ten years of trade talks because European demands for market liberalisation are not being matched by return gestures.
One of the many US diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks has meanwhile highlighted the seemingly bizarre whims of Libya’s aging ruler who seized power in a coup in 1969.
“Gaddafi … reportedly cannot travel with his senior Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska. He also appears to have an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing,” the US’s man in Tripoli, ambassador Gene Cretz, told Washington in 2009.
Climate change proved another contentious issue at the summit, with the African Union refusing to sign a joint statement on climate change intended as “a strong signal” to the UN multi-lateral talks currently underway in Cancun, Mexico. African diplomats said it only expressed European views on the matter.
A draft summit declaration seen by Reuters suggest EU and African nations will press Sudan to accept the results of next year’s referendum on whether the south of the country should secede, part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south civil war.
But analysts say the January vote, where a majority are expected to support dividing the country, could result in fresh violence.
Sudan’s decision to pull out on the eve of the EU-Africa summit also served to create tension at the bi-regional meeting, the first between the two sides in roughly three years.
The decision to boycott this week’s event followed an EU threat to walk out if Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attended the meeting.
Mr Bashir is under international indictment from the Hague-based International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan’s western province of Darfur.