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(en) Anarkismo.net: Europe, Africa and the neo-liberal strategy of co-optation by Manuel Baptista

Date Mon, 10 Dec 2007 12:49:51 +0200

The overall strategy, at governmental level, for the EU-Africa summit on the 7th
and 8th December in Lisbon, presents itself in a very clear form. It consists of
co-opting the NGO’s, be they international ones or from European and African
countries, in order to pursue a series of strategic partnerships. ---- What is
being pursued, after all, is a development model for aid to Africa, a policy
which forgets the EU states' promises concerning aid to Africa voiced at
countless summits, the barriers abolishing promises for African agricultural
goods in European markets, the promises to cancel debt, and the achieving of the
so-called "millennium goals". ---- It is a strategy that seeks to ensure that
some countries (mainly ex-colonial powers) can continue to benefit, in what is
practically a monopoly, in some market sectors. Even the weak Portuguese
capitalism has important economic interests and groups that invest in strategic
partnerships, for instance in Angola, in the public engineering sector, the oil
sector and most recently, in the banking and finance sector.

Such a strategy allows NGO structures to be the visible image of African
countries' increased dependency on EU capitalism. After the dismantling of the
health, education and public sectors in general by the criminal policies of the
IMF and World Bank as part of the infamous "structural adjustment plans" in the
'90s, this is now taking place with the full agreement of the European powers.

It is also aimed at getting the institutions of civil society to submit to the
logic of the State, and the goals that their governments "generously" assigning

One must stress the importance in the EU-Africa Summit preparations of the
trade-union meeting held in Lisbon behind closed doors on 26th and 27th October.
The meeting was jointly hosted by the ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation)
and the EU Presidency (the Portuguese government) together with the CIS
(International Trade Unions Confederation) and African Unions.

The ETUC unions (the Portuguese UGT and CGTP confederations are full members*)
habitually make "recommendations" to such Summits. But, on the other hand and
given the political dependency of such unions, these unions will be even more
dependent on the governmental and inter-regional institutions' goals.

In practice, the same can be said about the "officially sponsored" NGO meeting
in late November, again in Lisbon.

These proposals and recommendations, made by either the NGOs or the unions, will
only be taken into consideration at the December Summit to the extent that the
governments want. But, by contrast, they themselves will be requested to or
co-opted into carrying out the programmes that the governments approve and find

Neither at the informal forums or meetings or the official Summit will there be
any real compromise in order to achieve things, either at an economic level or
at a social or humanitarian level.

Some will show "concern" about constant Human Rights violations in some African
countries or even in "Fortress Europe", where immigrants are expelled,
persecuted, humiliated and exploited by every means. It is well known that most
migrants to Europe are mostly from African countries. Nevertheless, efficient
means to put pressure on the States to fulfil their obligations will not be

It will be just another stage for the institutional actors to perform on: they
will make out that they are doing something and there will be no shortage of
those who come solely in order to promote their personal image and policies.

These summits are ceremonies, with little concrete effect at the level of what
is actually talked about, as the relevant questions are negotiated months ahead,
before the protocols are signed. They are important only on the level of
"political marketing", to perpetuate the illusion that something is being
achieved to "eradicate hunger in Afric". These oft-repeated lies do convince the
people, after all, in spite of the evidence that nothing meaningful is done!

But beyond denouncing this "circus", it is time to strengthen the ties of
cooperation between social militants from both continents.

Recently, in April-May, the I-07 Conference was held in Paris, with the
participation of alternative trade unions and collectives from various
continents, not to mention a conspicuous representation of African bodies. From
16-18 September, there was a meeting in Malaga of trade unions and collectives
from both shores of the Mediterranean, with representatives from Algeria and
Morocco in Africa and Spain, France, Italy and Portugal from Europe.

In open and fraternal cooperation with all those collectives and social struggle
groups that are willing, to continue what has already been achieved, it would be
of great interest to have a conference or meeting to coordinate our strategies
against the neo-liberal and neo-colonialist attacks in our countries and to
promote the respect of the rights of immigrants and their families. A meeting
that will havea certain continuity and which can achieve, be it for Portuguese
organisations or those in the other countries participating, the following goals:

* assessment and monitoring of the policies of the EU and its member
States, denouncing all obvious Human Rights violations either on European soil,
or in Africa;
* periodical meetings with social militants from our countries. This would
require a frequent exhange of information and a permanent coordination network
between our organisations;
* the creation of support structures for African immigrants wherever there
are none, and strengthening those that exist already.

The organisations (trade unions, associations, collectives, etc.) who are active
in the social field, those supporting immigrant struggles or other precarious
situations, would do better to unite their efforts, while remaining outside the
influence of neo-liberal political hegemony. If they allow themselves to be
"bought", they will soon be neutralised, bureaucratized and will lose all
purpose for their existence.

Manuel Baptista

* As are the TUC in Britain and the ICTU in Ireland
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