The summit between European Union (EU) and African leaders last week only made the news in Britain because Gordon Brown boycotted it over the presence of Robert Mugabe.
But the real worries at the summit in Lisbon, Portugal, were about imperial competition in Africa. The US is moving into the continent economically and militarily. EU powers are now also feeling threatened by competition from China, Brazil, Russia and India.
Many trade agreements between African and European countries relate to colonial era preferential trading. New rules from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will make all such agreements obsolete in three week’s time.
The EU hoped the summit would replace the expiring agreements with free trade Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
These would be a disaster for Africa’s poor, meaning that to gain access to world markets African governments must clear away any obstacles to the multinationals.
Some African governments have resisted EU attempts to strong arm them into signing up to EPAs. But the pressure is far from over. The imperial powers will demand they get their way.
Splits among our rulers offer the opportunity for other forces to mobilise. Previous arguments over WTO treaties have inspired struggles around the world. It is time for those who have been excluded to demand a say.
Ed Balls loses the plot
Britain will become the “best place to grow up” in the world in just a decade. That’s the claim of schools secretary Ed Balls.
He was launching the government’s ten year children plan – a response to reports from the United Nations, Cambridge university and a multitude of childhood experts pointing to serious concerns about children’s mental health, and their social and emotional development.
A committee of MPs recently reported that 200,000 extra children were thrust into poverty last year. But Balls still claims that this government will halve child poverty in the next three years.
Last month he claimed, “Virtually every child in the UK is happy, healthy and well cared for”.
His claims grow wilder. Last week he said, “Margaret Thatcher was a good role model. And the Spice Girls work hard, are clean-living and are about girl power.”
It all suggests he has lost any sense of reality.
Causing a life of crime
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) encourage children towards a life of crime. That’s the conclusion of a report from the Institute for Public Policy Reform think-tank.
The report calls for Asbos to run for a maximum of two years, rather than the ten years currently allowed, and argues that they should not be issued to under-12s.
The Children’s Society reports that Britain sends 10 times as many juveniles to prison as Spain, pointing out that nearly 80 percent of young people leaving custody reoffend within a year.
Asbos help create a culture where adults are encouraged to fear children. They criminalise young people and do not tackle the domestic, educational and other problems affecting them.