3world and Nice
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 02:55:27 +0000

The third world perspective

2 steps back, 1 step forward at Nice, assesing the Nice EU Summit WTO decision from a third world solidarity viewpoint.

One day after the battle of Seattle 2.000 NGO representatives met in Tampere in Finland to prepare their contribution to the EU Summit in Helsinki the following week. According to the report on the home-page of the Citizen 2000 Summit there was a special seminar on third world issues who discussed the outcome of the WTO meeting and the strategy forward. The homepage reported that it was questionable if the outcome of the Seattle event was positive for the third world. The strategy forward was to demand coherence of EU policies.

When reading Martin Kohr/Third World Network's evaluation of WTO politics after Seattle it seems like TWN have the same kind of assessment of the Seattle battle as Citizen 2000. In fact TWN shows that the position the South has even more detoriated in the year 2000. Yet we do not know if TWN Thinks in the same way as Citizen 2000 about the result of the protests that to a high degree was in the interest of the third world and also received its result much due to Southern governments reluctance to the US-EU proposals.

I would state that the alternative was even worse for the third world and in that way was the outcome good for the third world in Seattle. I would also state that it was and is of crucial importance that the protests at WTO meetings also are carried to the EU member states parliaments and the EU Summits were more decisive political decisions of the future of WTO are made than at WTO meetings. The link between WTO protests and EU protests is crucial and in this regard the From Seattle to Brussels statement and the resulting work has been a step forward.

The general strategy of the NGDOs at the Citizen 2000 Summit is a lot more problematic. Demanding that any body of politics lives up to its own rules is of course a trivial advice everyone uses dealing with politics. But never without assessing if it is useless. Demanding coherence from EU regarding its relation to the South is like demanding the EU to contradict both its main general aim and to conciously avoid assessing the results of EU politics towards the third world. The goal of the EU is to promote a free market system so that its member states benefit from it. The result of decades of EU policies to make effective or coherent policies towards the South is a piece of oppression to widen the gap between the EU and former colonial countries.

The revision of the Lomé treaty is in this context of high relevance. From controlling the development of ACP countries by a general aid and international division of labour strategy in the interest of EU we now have a much more aggressive tool in the new "Fidji", finally Cotonou treaty from February 2000 were we say goodbye to general rules and aid linked to trade agreements. These strategies are replaced by a divide and conquer strategy forcing the ACP countries among other things to do bilateral agreements as individual countries or in reginal gropups with the EU in such a way that they have to adopt to the kind of economic liberalisation and globalisation that EU promotes. With other words EU has many more tools than its majority voting on WTO issues to put through exactly the same kind of results like privatisation and strengthening of corporate rule that we oppose when we protest against changes in article 133. This anti third world strategy is sold to the most willing NGOs by so called civil society participation in the legitimation of the oppressive policies.

It is not honest towards the public to consciously avoid addressing other EU policies with the same effects as those we are opposing when assessing the results of the present EU policies on economic globalisation. In rich countries it is possible to create many different NGOs that campaign on limited specific issues as if they address the most important questions of our time but it is impossible in the third world. What specific kind of articles that have the effect that your local water provision is privatised is not the key problem, the problem is the possible detoriation of the price, quality and control of the water. Our task is to make alliances with the people effected, not to make alliances among experts who happens to know something regarding the specific wording of a specific policy.

When it comes to the specific Nice decisions it is also questionable if they are in some way a step forward for the third world. On key areas like patents and basic services EU has taken steps forward to push for the kind of WTO new round opposed by the South. Areas like health and education excluded from the EU majority WTO mandate are areas that EU have other tools to make their impact anyway heard in the third world. Public health has been reduced by 50% in Subsaharan Africa, other Bretton Woods institutions push for privatisation successfully of education anyway etc. With the so called paralellism limiting the veto right only to such areas that are not yet under EU supranational control also makes it possible that in the future also these areas will be strongly pushed in the WTO by the EU. With 35 of 50 proposed areas now included in the Qualified Majority Voting system there are possibilities for widening the EU WTO mandate given to EU bureaucrats in the future. When it comes to investemnts there is a victory, or rather once more a repetition of the same result as in the MAI and Seattle battle on this issue. If it is a step forward to not go a step backwards than we have a case here of something progressive.

But I wonder who actually is the main force behind the hinderances against the problems for EU to fulfil its globalisation politics on privatisation of public services and investments. There is a limit to how much EU, Japan and the US can push its agenda globally. One can kill 6 Indians to promote privatisation in the interest of Northern corporations, one can kill 1 million Iraqi people to promote a an agenda to control the oil in the Arab countries in the hands of the Northern corporations, etc etc. But one cannot do it everywhere at the same time. This year started by Indians occupying the Ecuadorian Parliament in protest against the dollaricasion, continued with unrest and threats of occupation in Bolivia and Intifada in Palestine.

I question whether the North have the practical power in a shorter timespan to fulfil in a profitable and military way the whole range of issues that was proposed for the EU-WTO article. And I ask if the changes that were made are not strong enough to continue accelerating the economic oppression against the third world. Together with other means maybe EU can, if noones stops them from within or from the outside, continue its expansion in the same accelarting spead as before gaining more power and thus capacity in the future to also push through its full EU Commission agenda on trade in services and investments.

What has to be included assessing Nice and the power of EU to push its liberalisation agenda in the future is also the EU militarisation issue. There are many ways to split up economies in the interest of EU corporations. One of the most effective ways to privatise large parts of the economy have been the divide and conquer politics on the Balkans. The anti UN strategy to welcome the separation in spite of that the minority rigths were not guaranteed in Croatia was a beginning of a strategy. It has now resulted in a situation were much of the Albanian and former Yugoslavian economy are totally or to a large degree in the hands of privatisers and neoliberal management in the interest of Western corporations. The simultaneous Bretton Woods Institutions (IMF, WB and WTO) economical and EU member state or US military interference in many parts of the world like Rwanda, the Persian Gulf, Latin America etc have caused similar profitable results for the EU members states by making products cheaper for EU consumers and opening up for privatisation.

What is new after Nice that now is this anti UN and military EU out of area intervention strategy official policy. It is not only that EU states now wants to operate outside EU in conflicts. It is also so that EU links its military capacity to the US and NATO and at the same time delink it from the UN and OSCE. The same kind of anti UN politics that destroyed Yugoslavia and allows Israel to negotiate with Palestinians under US conditions outside the UN system with the result of the building of a permanent apartheid system and endless oppression is now a principle also for the future of EU interventions. This Nice decision might be at least as important for promoting privatisation and corporate interests globally as the decision on WTO majority voting.

With other words I wonder if the results of the Nice Summit for the third world on privatisation and corporate rule issues is even two steps backward and ione step forward. It more looks like two great steps backwards in Nice on trade and out of area security together with the US and if necessary without the un, one more great EU step backwards during the year , one stand still on investment issues and a small tiny step forward concerning linking EU and WTO protests.

Tord Björk

Friends of the Earth Sweden, EU working group

Some sources:

Die "Konvention von Cotnou" - Das neue "Partnershaftabkommen" zwischen den AKP-Staaten und der EU. Bwertungen und Empfelungen, WEED and Terre des hommes, Bonn 2000
World Develoipment Movement, GATS campaign
Tord Björk
Fredrik Bööks väg 5
291 45 Kristianstad
tel +46 (0)44-12 32 94
e-mail tord.bjork@mjv.se