afrol News, 25 February - The Ghanaian government has made use of a visiting Italian delegation to underline its desires to achieve a special status relating to the European Union (EU), as the Union expands southwards without much notice. While Italy will take over the EU presidency in July, Ghana is currently heading the West African economic union.
According to the Ghanaian government, an Italian business delegations, led by Italy's Vice Deputy Foreign Minister, has visited the country to discuss the opportunities for enhanced trade between Italy and Ghana; one of the most stable and economically developed countries in West Africa.
Ghana had also been promised Italian credits. The Ghanaian Ministry of Information announces that the Italian government was to have approved a loan of US$ 10 million, which was to be used to strengthen Ghana's small and medium sized companies. Italy further promised to assess whether to erase Ghana's current debts to Italy, which are valued at US$ 36 million.
The Ghanaian President, John Kufuor, also met with the Italian delegation, and emphasised that the current good political and economic cooperation between the two countries should be strengthened. Mr Kufuor especially mentioned the sectors of energy, development, infrastructure and agriculture as key to the bilateral relationship.
Visions were however even greater than bilateral ties. Mr Kufuor presently also is President of the West African economic union ECOWAS, while Italy is to take over the EU presidency from Greece on 1 July this year.
- We want to have a very special relationship with the EU, the Ghanaian President told the Italian delegation. Ghana was hoping to enlist the upcoming EU presidency to promote the Ghanaian agenda, so that the country could achieve a closer association with the EU, for example an association agreement.
Several African countries are in the process of strengthening their ties to the EU, which in general are handled through the Lomé agreement. This agreement provides most African, Caribbean and Pacific countries with low customs barriers to the EU market and includes development programmes worth billions of euros when certain standards of democracy and human rights are respected.
But the Lomé agreement does not provide free trade or political ties. Therefore, most of North Africa is now becoming associated members of the EU through the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, which aims at establishing a free trade zone on both sides of the Mediterranean by 2010. In economic terms membership in the Euro-Mediterranean union will not be much different from an EU membership.
Also other African countries are now trying to achieve a comparable association with the EU. The Cape Verde islands have made EU member Portugal lobby their case of a special relationship, or even a free trade deal. Ghana hopes to achieve something similar through the Italian channel.