Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- The European Commission (EC) plans to welcome initiatives by African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to incorporate activities related to consumer rights and health protection, Louis Michel, the new European Commissioner for Development, said.
According to a press statement from Consumers International Africa Regional office in Harare, Michel said the ACP initiatives would be incorporated in National Indicative Programmes (NIPs) and regional programmes of the EC, provided the initiatives came from individual ACP member countries.
The statement issued Wednesday indicated that the gesture was in respond to questions raised by European Union parliamentarian Max van der Berg jointly with Burkinabe MP Achille Tapsoba at the 8th session of the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) held in The Hague 22-25 November.
Consumers International said it hails this position "as a most significant encouragement" to consumer and health protection efforts within ACP countries, and as "an open support to consumer organisations of initiatives and activities in favour of the implementation of effective consumer policies in those countries".
Michel emphasised that promoting consumer rights and health protection in both the ACP and the EU "is entirely consistent with our values and objectives".
This position seems to be in line with the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement signed on 23 June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin, which includes a major innovative shift, extending the partnership to non-state actors such as local government, trade union, private sector and civil society organisations, including consumer groups, the statement noted.
According to the agreement, civil society organisations should be involved in the consultations and the planning of national development strategies, be provided with access to resources and be involved in the implementation of programs.
In other words, consumer organisations are encouraged to take part actively in the process leading to the formulation of the national indicative programmes, the statement explained.
However, a recent survey conducted by Consumer International Africa Office showed that barely 33% of consumer organisations interviewed had been consulted by their governments on the planning of NIPs, and only one consumer body had been consulted on the negotiations for the economic partnership agreements.
The survey also shows that only 20% of consumer groups had any information on the planned Economic Partnership Agreements and this information had been availed to them by Consumers International Africa Office.
Article 51 of the Cotonou Agreement is an instrument for ACP countries to support consumer organisations to monitor the marketplace and drive out practices that may impact negatively on their economic interests.
Consumers International advocated and lobbied for the adoption of Article 51.
Michel further explained that "Article 51 does not support protectionist measures and its focus is on protecting individual consumer rights and on increasing the capacity of consumer organisations to alert governments to potential product dangers.
" Governments can then decide to restrict exports or imports of goods and services prohibited in the country of production, Commissioner Michel explained.
"The framework for any national measures introduced to tackle identified dangers arising from consumer concerns would be subject to international agreements such as those of the World Trade Organisation," the release quoted Michel as saying.