The Nation (Barbados) | 9/22/08
Selassie’s warning about Europe prophetic
WOLDE TINSAE PRESCOD
THE HEATED DEBATES in the Caribbean surrounding this region’s involvement in an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe and the upcoming sixth summit of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in Ghana where similar issues will be debated, brings to memory the words of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie who saw a long time ago the danger the European union — then the European Common Market — would pose for Africa.
As one who had experienced betrayal by Europeans first hand in the League of Nations, the emperor had urged the heads of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union, to set up a special committee to monitor developments in Western Europe and make recommendations.
He said of the committee in a speech in 1962:
"We would suggest that this same committee simultaneously study the implications and effects which the European Common Market will have on the economies of the African states and on our efforts to work out a co-ordinated programme of African economic development, and recommend measures designed to minimise the adverse effects of this impact.
"The European Common Market constitutes both a great challenge and a grave danger to Africa.
"We have witnessed the remarkable achievements which the abolition of customs barriers and the co-ordination of economic development have brought to pass in Western Europe, and we are encouraged to press for the taking of similar steps on our own continent.
"At the same time, we cannot ignore the dangers inherent in the further strengthening of an already gigantic economic unit which looms to the north and casts an ever longer shadow in our direction."
Our leaders mean well, but they must proceed with caution in dealing with Europe.
If they have until October 31, what was the rush to sign off on the EPA before the ACP meeting in early October?
As Sir Shridath Ramphal noted: "Can we not wait for that opportunity of review with our brothers; to hear their views at the highest level, share ours with them, develop a joint strategy for dealing with Europe - as we promised ourselves."