We are all aware of the relatively high level of well-being here in Europe, when we take a more panoramic view over the entire world. We are privileged and therefore we feel the need to give back to the other less developed peoples on Earth. Also, Europe feels a sense of guilt for historical unfairness in relation to former colonialist practices. As a consequence, the economically, socially and politically advanced EU has been trying a to pursue a ‘pay back’ development policy to less developed countries.
But let’s not delay any longer. What kind of interest does the EU pursue with its aid and trade policies? What about the interests of the countries affected by such EU policies? This article will try to give an answer to these questions by taking a closer look at the EU-ACP relation. For those of us who are not familiar with it, the acronym ACP stands for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, a group of states that decided to find a collaborative solution to poverty reduction, sustainable development and integration into the world’s economy.
In order to respond to the question of this article , first I will talk about development from EU’s perspective. Then I will take a particular case to see how the EU applies its agenda to one of the countries. Another important aspect I am keeping close is the common sense fact that the EU represents the interests of European citizens since its activities are funded by EU taxpayers.
The EU-ACP relationship is currently regulated by the second revision of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement. The positive uniqueness of this relationship comes from the historical bonds between EU states and their former colonies but generally there is a feeling of discontent due to the replacement of the Lomè Convention, which from the EU side was conclusively ineffective and plagued by absorption issues, reduction of ACP’s share of global trade and lack of a production/export diversification for the ACP side .
But what is more generally EU’s approach to development? The main documents in this regard are the 2006 European Consensus on Development and the more recent 2011 Agenda for Change. Both reveal an inspiration from UN’s Millennium Development Goals, with the first paper expressing right from the start a moral obligation to fight global poverty. The second paper underlines a EU particular trait, the connection between development and security as justification for the political dimension of the EU-ACP dialogue. In this sense, the need for democracy, human rights and the rule of law is a condition for sustainable development. Therefore, the EU sees in development both an end (eliminating poverty) and a means (security and trade enabler).
The two sides of any development policy are aid and trade. As far as aid is concerned, the main instrument of the EU is the EDF. The 10th EDF introduced a distribution mechanism which released part of the aid to recipient countries on the basis of governance commitments. While some view this as limitative to the recipient countries, I consider it a reasonable way to ensure a better use of the aid by requiring from recipients an effective system of governance/administration. Two things must be remembered. First, when aid fails, aid loses support. Recipient countries who make good use of aid should not see their help reduced because other countries are more corrupt. The EU is aware of this so it rationalized and synchronized the distribution of aid to the most needy sectors with the member states. Conditionality offers a basic criteria necessary for judging the potential effectiveness of aid. Second, an overgrowing increase in the EDF cannot be easily justified to taxpayers in times of fiscal turmoil. The 11th EDF brings an increase of 10 billion euros. No wonder why the EP wants more control over future aid, which I consider to be in line with the democratic oversight of EU affairs. Moreover, even critics of EU aid policy recognize that the recipient countries see their voices increase in the international fora and negotiations, meaning that conditionality is not an obstacle to development cooperation.
Despite much controversy, in 2012 the ACP was EU’s 5th trading partner, while for the ACP countries the EU remains number one regardless of China’s rise. Much of the debate over trade has to do with the elimination of trading preferences but the CPA must be in line with WTO regulations, organization which anyway offered a waiver to the EU-ACP trade partnership in the form of EPA which is a defensive instrument supportive of regional integration in the face of a competitive world economy. I believe that not following WTO rules would endanger both the EU as an international actor and the international system itself by robbing international institutions of power and legitimacy. A further interesting side of EU trade must be policy coherence,specifically the separation between trade as development tool and development concerns under the trade policy. In the first case, the EU is more supportive of international development but such concerns unfortunately are put in danger by big interests when considering the more general , neoliberal EU trade policy.
Before proceeding to the next part of the answer I would state that my opinion is mainly anti-criticism of EU’s development policy, as can be easily seen above. It is one of the reasons for choosing Cuba as analysis object. Cuba’s case proves my view that the EU is easily criticized no matter which position it assumes. So far, EU political conditionality is promoted as an obstacle for ACP countries by critics. Meanwhile, the EU is criticized both for not intervening politically in Castro’s affairs and accused of investing in an authoritarian country. The reality on the ground is however that the EU does apply political conditionality to Cuba, which is the reason why no cooperation agreement has been signed and that the EU treated its Havana partners pragmatically depending on the political situation there. I believe this to be in line with EU’s general foreign policy which is not ideologically driven but practical and acceptative of socio-political diversity. Also it is in the interest of Cuba’s domestic political situation.
Regarding trade and aid, the EU was in 2011 Cuba’s main donor, second investor and first commercial partner. Very recently, the Council of the EU initiated a next phase in its development cooperation with Cuba, envisioning stronger ties, modernization and constructive dialogue. Furthermore, the 6 million euro aid released by the EU after Hurricane Sandy shows a constant interaction with the Carribean, Cuba included and also an issue-approach to EU aid matters. It could be argued that the sum is not large but it supports Cuban recovery after the disaster, under bad economic circumstances worsened by the US embargo.
To conclude my answer, I will restate what I have found out while responding to the question. First, there is a general negative sentiment towards the replacement of the Lomè Convention but also that the special treatment guaranteed then was overall ineffective. Second, the EU trying to align itself with the international arena, in this case with WTO standards but continues to give limited special treatment to ACP countries through EPAs and to LDC through EBA. Third, there is a strong criticism against EU conditionality but also a criticism of too little conditionality in Cuba’s case. Continuing with Cuba, we can see a pragmatic EU development approach meant not to suffocate the economy of the country by offering aid, investing and trading with Havana partners. Also, the EU promotes political change from within in the country, thus putting high value on sovereignty and free domestic affairs. In this sense, EU sees its trade relations unaltered, its soft-power exercised and recipient countries see their independence unchallenged and modernization, including the political one supported and not imposed.
Agenda for Change (2011), Communication From the Commission to the European
Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions;
Carbone M. (2013), International Development and the European Union’s external policies: changing contexts, problematic nexuses, contested partnerships, Cambridge, Review of International Affairs, 26:3, 483-496;
Code of Conduct on Complementarity and the Division of Labour in Development Policy: http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/development/general_development_framework/r13003_en.htm;
Council of the European Union (2014),Council adopts negotiating directives for bilateral Political Dialogue and Co-operation Agreement with Cuba;
European Commission website: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/how/finance/edf_en.htm;
Gratius S. (2005), Helping Castro? EU and US policies towards Cuba, Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE);
Gratius S. (2011), EU Democracy Promotion in Latin America: More a Tradition than a Policy, European Foreign Affairs Review 16: 689-703;
Pape E. (2013), An Old Partnership in a New Setting: ACP-EU Relations from a European Perspective, European Commission;
The European Consensus on Development (2006), European Parliament, Council, Commission.
Brexit: Three Logistics Concerns for Businesses
After the vote on 23rd June 2016, for many businesses, it seemed there was ample time to prepare for Brexit. However, the UK is now one year away from leaving the EU and naturally, many business owners are becoming increasingly concerned about its impact.
A recent study showed that 94% of UK SMEs feel that the government is failing to listen to their Brexit concerns. There are also fears that HMRC’s new customs system will not be ready by the Brexit deadline.
For businesses, it is clear that there remains a lot of uncertainty about Brexit, including what trades deals may be formed and how they will affect British businesses. This is particularly true for logistics, where these three concerns are growing.
For many companies, their number one concern is cost. In order to offset, businesses facing an increase in operating and logistics costs may have to pass this onto their customers, resulting in higher product prices – this is especially worrying for logistics companies like Tuffnells. This could result in a lower sales volume, making a dent in their bottom line.
This additional spend could come from several areas, including:
- Taxes and tariffs: after leaving the single market, exporting or importing goods may be subject to new charges and restrictions, which could result in higher logistics costs
- Fuel: The exchange rate of the pound dropped after the Brexit vote and it could fluctuate further after the deadline, resulting in increased fuel and transport prices
Coming out of the EU’s single market – where British businesses currently trade tax-free – presents more issues than cost alone. This includes implementing new business systems.
While HMRC are putting their own customs systems in place, businesses also face the same challenge. Staff will require training on new tariffs and customs, logistics procedures will have to be revised, and businesses will have to find systems and methods to deal with these new processes. All of this will eat into business hours and cost companies further money.
The introduction of new border controls will have several affects on British businesses, including cost, delays and further administrative processes. But leaving the EU will limit companies in another way: freedom of movement.
Pre-Brexit, EU workers had the freedom to move and work in any member state, but this will no longer apply to the UK. This means hiring workers from within the EU could be more difficult, time-consuming and expensive. With many British companies hiring migrant drivers to cover the UK shortage, this could severely impact transport.
The announcement of Brexit brought about uncertainty among UK businesses. Unfortunately, only speculation is possible until all trade deals have been announced and Brexit takes effect in 2019. However, if businesses prepare in these areas, it could help to minimise impact.
The Future of the UK Used Car Market
It is an intriguing time in the UK auto market in 2018 with a range of political, economic and social factors influencing the industry. New car sales continue to fall for the 11th consecutive month with diesel taking the brunt of the slide. It is thought that this decline is due to the uncertainty over the Government’s clean air plans (including the 2040 ban on petrol and diesel), but also the economic climate and uncertainty over Brexit.
Sale of AFVs
Although new car sales continue to fall overall, there is evidence that the 2040 ban is influencing consumers with the sales of alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs) rising steadily over the last 11 months, including a 7.2% rise in February compared to last year. Although this is unable to offset the free-falling diesel sector, it does show that motorists are beginning to prepare for the green car revolution. Motorists are also aware that there are many incentives for making the switch, plus there is now a wide range of excellent electric cars on the market.
Used Car Market
So, what does all this mean for used car dealerships? Sales have managed to maintain stability amidst the turbulence in the industry with a drop of just 1.1% in 2017 compared to 2016. This was largely thanks to the sale of used electric cars, which saw an increase of a staggering 77.1% in 2017. Hybrids were also up 22.2%. This goes to show that motorists are preparing for the future and still have the need to change automobiles, with the used car market being a much safer place to do this as it is a much smaller investment.
It is easy to see reputable used car dealerships like Shelbourne Motors performing well in 2018 and beyond as more and more second-hand electric cars become available. An increasing number of cities are imposing their own bans ahead of the 2040 ban, plus it is expected that there will be more clarity on the ban and the electric vehicle infrastructure will continue to grow. Additionally, the landscape of a post-Brexit UK will be clearer soon and this could encourage motorists to shop in the used car market.
The future of the used car market in the UK looks healthy despite the fact that there has been a great deal of uncertainty in the UK over the past year. Provided that dealerships are able to provide motorists with a range of second-hand electric automobiles, it is easy to see motorists opting to buy used as opposed to new as this can allow for big savings which is important in the current economic climate. The green car revolution is fully underway and this is what has managed to keep the used car market afloat during a challenging period.
All Steam Ahead as Europe Goes Green
Red, amber, green: and Europe is off on its big green venture. Yep, it’s true, Europe is finally on the right track in regards to future-proofing against climate change. To see just how it is doing this and what it is doing in regards to this, make sure to read on.
The abolition of fossil fuels by 2050
Some of Europe’s biggest countries are seeking to go fossil fuel free by 2050, and it’s brilliant. Denmark, a country widely regarded as being a leader in the struggle for a green future, is one such country seeking to do this. Yes, it might be ambitious. And yes, Danish officials openly admit that it is an ambitious venture. But, this old Nordic country is going full steam ahead with its ‘Energy Strategy 2050’ enterprise anyway in the hopes that within 32 years the whole country will be completely dependant on things that do not hurt our world. In fact, Denmark is even seeking to go one step further and go completely cashless. Well done, Denmark!
Cities are building green infrastructures
It appears that many European cities have seen the light in regards to what they need to do to save our planet and are now building green infrastructures to hold themselves up in the future. Yep, many cities around this famous old continent are changing the habit of a lifetime and going against a grain that has been in place for thousands upon thousands of years by swapping out their old, harmful infrastructures and ushering in new, safer ones to replace them. Bratislava, Slovakia is one such example: it has had a complete overhaul of its transport system and only runs low-emission buses, tree planting has become a serious occupation, roofs around the city have been made green and rainwater retention facilities have popped up everywhere. Yep, the Slovakian capital really has built a green infrastructure, despite a tight budget, and many other European cities are following suit.
Many big cities are clambering for green funding
Speaking of tight budgets, there seemingly is one across the whole of Europe when it comes to going green because many cities within the continent are having to clamber for funding in regards to it. But, thankfully, having to do all of this isn’t stopping these cities from doing so and going as green as they can. Yep, cities across the European continent are using a combination of EEA grants, municipal funding, crowdfunding and green bonds in order to go green: Copenhagen has done so and used its funding to upgrade is floodwater management and lighting systems to make them more eco-friendly, Paris has done so and used its funding to plant in excess of 20,000 trees and Essen, Germany has done so and used its funding to be named European Green Capital for 2017.
So, as you can see, the historic old continent of Europe is more than willing to embrace the future and, more specifically, the future needs of our planet. Let’s just hope that the rest of the world and its leaders *cough* Trump *cough* follow suit before it’s all too late.
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