Wednesday, May 8, 2019
AEFJN has recently interviewed Mrs. Kyenge MEP as the Vice-Chair of the ACP-EU meetings. She answers our questions on how the ACP-EU meetings have contributed to create a more just relationship between these countries of North and South. Likewise, Mrs. Kyenge was asked for her opinion on issues related with AEFJN dossiers like EPAs, Corporate Social Responsibility and Land Grabbing, and concretely her vision on the FERONIA Case. The video is in French but you can read the whole interview in English in this Link. [AEFJN + Video in French]

Interview to Ms. Cécile Kyenge, MEP

1. Mrs. Kyenge you are the Vice-Chair of the ACP-EU meetings and so the 'right person on the right place' to tell us how in the last four years you think the ACP-EU meetings contributed to create a more just relationship between these countries of North and South.

Mrs. Kyenge: Hello. I am indeed vice-president of the ACP-EU delegation and therefore of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, an inter-parliamentary body composed of 78 euro deputies and 78 deputies of the ACP countries: Africa, Caribbean and Pacific. Relations between the EU and the ACP are largely at the level of governments. We represent the parliamentary dimension between the EU and ACP countries. Organized on three committees including the Political Committee, the Economic Committee and the Committee on Social Affairs our assembly gave birth to a youth forum and women's forum. We participate in the dialogue part of the Cotonou agreements. During the last four years, we have debated a lot on topics such as democracy, the rule of law, terrorism, the separation of powers, conflicts and their negative impact on the territories, the health of the peoples of the world, the economic and trade agreements, the financing of political parties. These are just some of the arguments that we used in all the resolutions we adopted. I can say that our discussions have indeed allowed both to see that globalization is radically changing the world. This globalization has led the ACP countries to adopt an attitude of rejection of the European paternalism of a time. This was the guiding thread of the political positions of the ACP delegates along the mandate: a refusal of paternalism which has often been expressed in a verbally violent way, suggesting the necessities of a deeper work of conversion of rationalities. This work remains to be done, yes, the relationship between the EU and the ACP is certainly rawer but at the same time, it reflects the reality of visions and contrasts; it therefore seems more accurate.

2. How can the International Trade policy of your Political party support measures that enable the African countries to develop the industrial sector, creating jobs and quality products that can compete with European products?

Mrs. Kyenge: International trade is a much more complex area than it appears in everyday life. Under the Cotonou Agreements, the EU is leading the recovery of ACP economies in international trade. In this context, two visions are opposed at the level of Europe: on the one hand, there is the liberal vision of the governments of Europe, which advocates the opening up of the ACP markets often to the often-confused conditions of international trade which has harmful consequences for African societies. On the other hand, there is the proposal of my political group to introduce correction and protection mechanisms in trade policies between the EU and the ACP. By demanding whenever the commercial policies are respectful of ethics and morality. Throughout our mandate, there has often been talk of discussing economic partnership agreements, which consist for the most part of the gradual and reciprocal cancellation of customs fees to enable the ACP to market in Europe and vice versa. I was among those of the Euro MEPs who criticized the EPAs the most because they are based on an assumption of the ability of ACP economies to enter European competition immediately. But we know that the ACP countries, being not sufficiently industrialized, they would not succeed now or in the near future to resist on such a market. We have thus fought for the industrialization of ACP economies to be given priority over agreements. This industrialization must be done on the initiative of the ACP countries and especially in the respect of the social and environmental values ​​of the countries concerned. For several reasons, we believe that the EU must accompany the ACP in their process of industrialization in a spirit of selfless cooperation at the grassroots level. We thus see in the real implication of the diaspora a pledge for the sincerity of the reports.

3. In relation to the Transparency Directives, what initiatives does your political group have to improve the transparency of European companies that work outside our borders? How can they guarantee the respect of human rights and pay their taxes correctly when they work outside our borders?

Mrs. Kyenge: the answer to this question is spontaneous. The European Parliament Resolution on Traceability has emerged in our political group. I have been personally among the Euro MPs most active in the field given my Katangan origins. I know almost directly the question of the Traffic of the minerals and the damage that this practice could inflict on the African continent. Not only are we pushing for traceability, but we have also been following the evolution of the issue along our mandate at the level of the Committee on Development where there has been regular discussion of following the implementation of our recommendations by the Commission. On this subject, we will conclude the mandate by examining the guide to companies that the European Commission has produced in collaboration with the OECD to facilitate the accession of mining companies and their intermediaries to the indications of the law on traceability. On taxes, we know that it is the ACP countries that decide their tax regimes and their application to foreign companies operating in their area. Foreign investment attraction policies unfortunately push the ACP to more flexibility, tax relief for foreign companies, especially European. So it will be necessary to find a way to measure the ethical value of the taxes paid to the ACP countries in order to constrain the foreign companies that work there. For this, the legislation of the ACP countries is fundamental. We must start by putting good rules down on the spot and not allow for example, as is the case today the repatriation of total profits.

4. European consumption pattern puts pressure on land outside Europe, increasing private sector control over food and agriculture and eroding peoples’ rights over land and its resources. Which agricultural model are you going to promote in view of reducing hunger and extreme poverty through the instrumentality of the cooperation between Europe and Africa?

Mrs. Kyenge: I have always wanted to invite the ACP members to Italy to visit the agrarian consortia that exist in my region Emilia-Romagna. I have always thought about this small-scale farming model and that this model is a good model for the ACP countries. Because it allows small and medium-sized family businesses to manage a few acres of land and succeed in remaining on the market. This Emilian model is therefore based on a wide territorial distribution of production. An almost democratic diffusion that saw its principles materializes in the multiplication of small and medium-sized local agricultural cooperatives. Naturally, a fundamental role has been recognized for local institutions, including the Region that funds and promotes agriculture and Provincial institutions that have specialized in promoting structuring activities and services, land improvement, environmental protection, the regulation of the use of pesticides, the structuring of processing sectors. Emilian local institutions even defined artisanal and industrial areas.

They have built infrastructure that can facilitate the conservation, processing and marketing of the territory's agricultural products. I can say that in the face of the Liberals who are pushing for the inflow of large investments in ACP agricultural space by large mechanized agricultural producers we must, in my opinion, support the emergence of a diffuse agriculture that can enable ACP citizens to remain owner of a part of their destiny. And this is how they could benefit from the products of their work while preserving their integrity and respect over time.

On this subject, we have fought a lot during this legislature, especially when we have had to face the role of agriculture in the objectives of sustainable development. If I could take some ACP decision-makers to see the Emilian model, I will do it with a lot of pleasure.

5. AEFJN is following with great interest the huge problem of land grabbing, in particular the case of a Canadian agri-business company FERONIA, financed by a German development bank. In November 2018 Deutsche Welle revealed that Feronia not only grabs land but also mistreated its workers and pays them a daily wage less than 1 $. A German development bank... It is only one example! How do the MEPs deal with this question of land grabbing?

Mrs. Kyenge: The problem of land grabbing in ACP countries by Western companies is very much felt at the level of the European Parliament. Throughout this legislature, I have attended several conferences on this theme and often we have had the opportunity to hear the activists of land grabbed who struggle for the recognition of their rights. I have personally followed the theme of Liberia and the Great Lakes area, and in the Development Committee we have been diligently tackling the issue of land grabbing and violation of indigenous rights.

I must tell you that in general the parliamentary sensibility is moderately against land grabbing and this is how we adopted with a very large majority the resolutions, inviting the institutions to give legal guarantees for the populations whose lands are susceptible to exposures to agro-industrial predation operations. That's basically the policy direction we have on this.

Here ends my presentation in this video and my collaboration for your meeting. I am very grateful to José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions as well as your organization AEFJN for its commitment to the most vulnerable populations of our world.

If there has been an exciting side to my work as MEP, it has been my total commitment, body and soul, to ACP issues. I have done so with all the necessary conviction and I am preparing to start on the first day of the next legislature if I have the honor to participate.

Thank you for your kind attention.