November 18, 2004

Mbeki in Europe to tighten economic ties with EU

President Thabo Mbeki's has visited Europe for four days in order to lobby for the EU to approach development in Africa in the same way as it does for its weaker member states. Mbeki held talks with senior EU leaders and captains of industry assuring them that despite problems in some parts of the continent, Africa was heading in the right direction. Mbeki used the opportunity to garner support for the continent, at the same time reminding the Europeans of their moral obligations to assist Africa. Peace in the Great Lakes Region was holding, he told them, but resources were needed to secure peaceful elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi. Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian prime minister, committed his government to assisting the DRC to find lasting peace after decades of conflict emanating from the Belgian colonial rule.

From Brussels, Mbeki made a brief stop at the European parliament in Strasbourg in France. He told the parliamentarians that Europeans had to level the playing fields and apply a uniform development policy for Africa - similar to that of the EU. The President of the EU Council, Balkenede, promised to advance the debate with his peers in the EU. Furthermore, according to Javier Solana, the European Union Chief of foreign and security policy, South Africa's trade and co-operation agreement with the EU was in a healthy state. Solana said that the EU and South Africa would meet again to discuss the implementation of the agreement which has already been ratified by all EU member countries. (SABC News/South Africa)

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