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EU Supports African Anti-Poverty Plan - 2001-10-10

The European Union has expressed support for an African plan aimed at eradicating poverty, stimulating economic growth and developing trade, democracy and management skills in Africa. The agreement to boost cooperation between the EU and African nations came after a meeting in Brussels between five African presidents and top EU officials.

The discussions centered on what is called the New African Initiative. It is a plan drawn up by the presidents of Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa, that seeks to promote good governance, resolve conflicts, increase investment in education, fight disease and combat corruption, among other goals.

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, speaking as head of the Organization of African Unity, told the meeting he co-chaired with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, whose country holds the presidency of the EU, that Africa needs Europe's cooperation in implementing the plan.

Mr. Chiluba says African countries have the will and the determination to cooperate politically and economically to increase development on the continent, but lack the resources necessary to carry out the initiative.

Mr. Verhofstadt says the New African Initiative is worthy of European support, because it is based on ideas from Africa itself. He says Wednesday's talks did not focus on financial matters, but he is promising increased aid and cooperation in the future, because "Europe has a historic responsibility toward Africa."

South African President Thabo Mbeki is calling for a bigger voice for developing nations in international decision-making bodies like the Group of Eight, which brings together the leading western industrialized democracies and Russia. Mr. Verhofstadt says he agrees the Group of Eight should not be limited to rich nations.

Mr. Chiluba says African countries should accept the EU's linkage of cooperation with Africa to good governance, democracy and human rights if that is what it takes to get more aid, increased investment and better terms of trade.

Although no firm commitments were made by the Europeans at the day long meeting, Mr. Verhofstadt says the EU will establish permanent links to the New African Initiative. He says the EU will also initiate a pilot project to train African civil servants and that EU and African experts will jointly conduct feasibility studies of infrastructure projects.