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Africa, EU on summit collision course over economic deals

Africa, EU on summit collision course over economic deals

Moamer Kadhafi - Photo EC

(TRIPOLI) - Africa squared up to fight for a better economic deal with the European Union on Monday as Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi opened a key summit warning the continent was ready to do business elsewhere.

"We have failed in our economic partnership with Europe," Kadhafi told leaders of 80 nations gathered in the high-rise seaside Libyan capital for the two-day talks.

Opening the first summit in three years between the two continents, Kadhafi reopened old wounds between former colonial powers and nations marking half a century of independence at a time when the onus is on efforts to seal a "new, equal" partnership.

In palm-fringed Tripoli, where a massive police presence cordoned off the heart of the city, a draft of a joint declaration seen by AFP states the two sides are "determined to seize together new opportunities for broader and mutually beneficial initiatives."

But in a 45-minute speech described by one EU diplomat as "aggressive", the white-robed Libyan leader said: "We want win-win relations based on mutual interest, not on exploitation.

"Europe talks to us of governance, human rights," he added. "Africa needs economics, not politics."

EU president Hermann Van Rompuy retorted that "in Europe's experience, the perspectives for economic growth are closely linked to elements of good governance."

"Africa is not an exception," he said. "Business-friendly policies attract private investment, where corruption is not tolerated, where the rule of law is respected, and transparency valued."

Kadhafi's speech followed a diplomatic rumpus on the eve of the summit as Sudan announced a boycott of the talks in retaliation for the exclusion of President Omar al-Bashir, who faces an international arrest warrant.

Blaming the EU for the shut-out, Bashir said Europe's stand was "an attack on the African Union and Sudan while also undermining the idea of real dialogue and cooperation between Africa and Europe."

Sudan asked the AU to postpone a meeting of its Peace and Security Council due to take place on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Tripoli summit but the AU refused, on the grounds Sudan was not the main item.

Africa's leading aid donor, the 27-nation EU faces fractious rows on trade and immigration but also saw foreign ministers from 53 African states reject a joint statement on climate change intended as "a strong signal" as climate talks open in Cancun.

"It reflected European rather than African priorities," one African diplomat told AFP.

Kadhafi's harsh words came as Africa's leadership went to battle behind closed doors with the EU on trade following almost a decade of failed efforts to strike Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) deemed unfair by the Africans.

Africans complain Europe's conditions for the EPAs will throw up new hurdles for poor countries by lifting tariff barriers -- causing a major loss of government revenue and threatening fledgling African industries forced to compete with an influx of European goods.

While the bloc remains Africa's top trading partner, emerging giants such as Brazil and India are joining China in chasing the spoils of the resources-rich continent.

China has pumped billions of dollars in investments in oil, mining and manufacturing while winning hearts and minds with soft loans and aid in infrastructure and energy.

European Commission president Jose-Manuel Barroso said the EU remains the globe's top provider of "aid for trade," delivering more than 10 billion euros in 2008.

"We have come to Tripoli with the fascinating long-term perspective of a Euro-African economic area in mind," said Barroso, "an area

3rd Africa-EU Summit, 29 – 30 November 2010 in Libya

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