Euro MPs Hear From Food Communities at Slow Fish

06 May 2007

The Water Workshop “Sustainable Development in Developing Countries,” held today at Slow Fish in Genoa, was the location for a stimulating encounter between members of the European parliament, World Wildlife Fund representatives and delegates from food communities from the southern hemisphere.
The talks of the various panel members and contributions from the audience were highly varied, but certain themes kept returning as they debated development and sustainability and how Europe is helping and hindering, often using specific examples from the world of fish and the fishing industry.
One key topic was the proposed EPAs, Economic Partnership Agreements, set to come into force at the end of the year. Designed under pressure from the World Trade Organization to make trade between Europe and developing countries more fair, according to Vittorio Agnoletto, a Euro MP, these will have disastrous effects for the world’s poorest countries. They will no longer be allowed to have protectionist policies which help support their economies by, for example, preventing the EU from dumping subsidized agricultural products in Africa, or encouraging inter-African trade. Armando Veneto, another Euro MP, agreed that having too free a market would lead to inequalities and in effect a new kind of colonization.
Europe needs to mediate between the rich and poor countries, said Veneto, following a path of cooperation, convergence and solidarity instead of individualism. Many of the panel members spoke about how this would be possible only with the pressure of associations, NGOs, democratic movements and consumers. Roberto Musacchio described the success of a recent WWF campaign to limit the practice of catching sharks, cutting off the fin to be used in soup, and throwing the stil-alive fish back in the water to die a slow death. “Europe is a good opportunity,” he said, “but it’s only successful when it’s supported by democratic movements.”
The participants from the south of the world had many suggestions on how Europe could better serve the developing world, starting with helping it have a powerful voice. “We need training sessions so that our governments can negotiate better for themselves,” said Mamadou Diallo from the WWF in Senegal.
“There’s all this discussion about EPAs, but we can’t talk too loud because we don’t have a voice,” said Antonio Reina from Mozambique. “In fishing communities, we don’t have the opportunity to talk to EU representatives, they only recognize the government.”
Mamayawa Sandouno of Guinea lamented the high rate of illiteracy among her people, and called on the EU to reinforce professional organizations in Africa and help producers gain the skills necessary to add value to their products through processing and packaging. “We need your help,” she said.
The workshop concluded with Vittorio Agnoletto calling for a meeting of food communities, similar to Terra Madre and Slow Fish, to be held in Brussels: “The communities have to come to the European parliament to tell directly what their problems are.”

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