Using the SADC economies as a proxy of the Southern African ACP States, this paper expounds the EU-ACP co-operation in a broad context. Besides a brief review of the history of the relations between the SADC region and the EU the paper introduces the LC as the institutional base of EU-SADC co-operation. To underline the impact of EU-SADC co-operation, merits of the LC are contrasted with factors that hinder the operational efficiency of the arrangement. Evidence for the merits of the LC is found in its development policy pertinence, geopolitical significance, economic performance impulse and the political inspiration. At the same time, several intrinsic deficits of the LC overcast the EU-SADC co-operation. Especially, the preference system shows redundancies and, overall, hampers economic efficiency and development. Further limits are embodied in the peculiarities of the arrangement which widely complicate its management. These weaknesses are exacerbated by an adverse internal environment including structural obstacles in investment and production, wrong macro-economic policies, infrastructural constraints, backwardness in technology and in the development of human resources, and, finally, by adverse social conditions including the immaturity and instabilities of the political order.
Despite its importance for global strategic and developmental politics, the LC could not prevent the global marginalisation and the continuos deterioration of the economic prospects of most ACP States. The overall benefits have remained rather limited in scope. On the whole, reforms will be unavoidable to enhance EU-SADC co-operation efficiency and competitiveness in the Region. Such reforms will stimulate liberalisation both in the SADC countries and of the LC. In order for the internal efforts of the SADC economics to benefit from external impulses, conventional (EU) assistance should be extended by intensified and more dynamic economic co-operation. Altogether, the long-term goal of the reforms should be to mobilize internal potentials by supporting efforts to establish a Customs Union in Southern Africa (with an option for deeper co-operation in future). This Customs Union should later serve as a base for a Free Trade Area between Southern Africa and the EU. To smooth this process, there should be a transitional phase based on relative reciprocity preceding the establishment of a free trade arrangement. The envisioned relative reciprocity programme between the EU and the RSA could, in this context, serve as a role model for future EU-ACP-co-operation.
The willingness of both the SADC countries and the LC to reform, as well as the prospects for a positive development of the global environment will determine whether the EU and its SADC partners will be able to mould an appropriate framework for mutually beneficial trade and overall economic links between them in order to survive the turbulences of global economic dynamism
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© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | April 2002