The 70-odd African and European leaders meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, to discuss the way forward between the two continents on many wide-ranging issues including trade, human rights, democracy and climate change, seems to be progressing, but still with expected no-progress in some quarters.
Darfur and Zimbabwe are such contentious areas, and might remain unresolved; while the pressure that the European partners are putting on African leaders to renew the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) that are set to expire December 31, is also being successfully resisted by many African leaders even though some few have already accepted to renew the agreements.
Be that as it may, one most positive element that has come from the meeting is the frank, open way issues are being discussed. No domineering, upper-lip aloofness from the former colonial masters, and no encumbered exchanges from the former colonies, but what has been dubbed “a summit of equals.”
Portugal’s Prime Minister Jose Socrates had this to say: “What is important is that we met each other face-to-face, on an equal setting, in a new spirit.”
There is no doubt that if all world issues start being discussed in the same spirit, the world will become a better place faster. One delegate said that nothing is cast in stone, in reference to lifting the expiry date of the EPAs; meaning that the issue can be revisited amicably without the need for the deadline to be seen as a threat to the economic independence of African states.
If the need to build a better world together triumphs over individual nations’ needs, like the proposed big spending to ring the Sahara Desert with a green carpet, then such problems that give Europe nightmares, like spending millions of euros to keep their borders secure from illegal immigrants, will become history. Every nation needs the other, in one small measure or another.
So recognizing the need to meet on an equal footing, and desirous of coming up with positive policies to see the world progress, is a huge boost to the spirit of the talks, and is greatly applauded.