The current debates in the monopoly controlled media concerning the future of Britain’s membership of the EU are presented from the perspective of falsifying its essential character. The EU remains the organisation of the big monopolies and financial institutions of Europe, especially those of Britain, France and Germany, and acts on the basis of the requirements of these interests not those of the peoples of Europe nor those in other parts of the world.
The EU has, for example, established a neo-colonial relationship with the counties of Africa. This is based on the unequal relationship that was established historically, first during the centuries when African men, women and children were trafficked across the Atlantic Ocean and which was continued when the leading European nations, such as Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy invaded and divided the African continent in the period leading up to the First World War. For much of the twentieth century Britain and the other major European powers militarily occupied the African continent and argued that it was their right to exercise colonial rule. In many cases this relationship between Europe and Africa was only ended by armed national liberation struggles. Yet Britain and the other countries that dominate the EU have accepted no responsibility for the crimes committed over centuries relating to Africa and Africans, refuse to accept demands for reparations and continue to interfere in Africa’s affairs. Indeed, further crimes are being carried out. These include examples, such as, sanctions against Zimbabwe both by individual EU countries and by the EU as a body, the actions of the EU towards African migrants and the recent military intervention in the Central African Republic.
Today the EU claims that it is in “partnership” with the African Union (AU), the organisation of African states that was first established in 1999 precisely to address the many problems caused by neo-liberal globalisation. This “partnership” has been consolidated by various agreements and mechanisms and yet there can be no real partnership of those that are not equal, or when one party dictates to the other. This unequal “partnership” was formally established by the Cotonou Agreement of 2000 which governs the EU’s relations not only with the African continent but also with other countries of the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) until 2020. This agreement is based on the Eurocentric values enshrined in the Paris Charter and facilitates the intervention of some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful countries in the affairs of some of the poorest.
Amongst other things, Britain and the other big powers in the EU have used revisions of the Cotonou Agreement to force African and other APC countries to bind themselves to the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is itself another arm of the EU, mainly funded by Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Countries which refused faced financial penalties. Not only does the ICC not have any concern for or jurisdiction over the colonial crimes committed by Britain and the other big European powers in Africa, but to date nearly all the major investigations and prosecutions carried out by the ICC have been in Africa. This has created such opposition that it seems likely that the AU will formally withdraw from the ICC.
Although refusing to accept that wealth accumulated in the EU is in part a product of the exploitation of Africa over many centuries, the EU uses this wealth to continue its intervention in the continent. The EU countries are the main source of foreign direct investment in Africa, despite competition from China and the US. From 2007-2013 the EU provided €141 billion in “development assistance” to Africa and it remains the major financial contributor to the AU, providing 80% of the AU Commission programme budget. Through such means both individual African countries and the AU remain in a dependent relationship with the EU which continues to give itself the right to intervene in Africa’s economic affairs.
The nature of the EU’s intervention in Africa can also be judged by the free trade agreements, or Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), established with individual African countries, or regions such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which also form part of the Cotonou Agreement. Since these “agreements” are not between equals they are designed to open up Africa’s economies to the big EU monopolies. Countries that refuse to sign, such as Kenya, are pressured to do so by the threat of the imposition of tariff barriers. The EPAs were widely opposed by the workers’ movement in Africa and other ACP countries and by the TUC and other trade union centres in Europe, nevertheless they constitute the main basis for the economic relationship between the EU and the AU as well as other ACP countries.
The relationship established between the EU, Africa and other ACP countries is one of neo-colonial domination and imperialist intervention and must be ended.