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EU Committed to Supporting African Integration Process

The European Union (EU) is committed to supporting Africa's integration process, a senior official said Thursday, adding that the world's poorest continent can "fully count on" the EU.

Regional integration is also in a central position in the EU political agenda, it is therefore that Africa can fully count on the EU's support in its integration process, said Louis Michel, EU commissioner for development and humanitarian aid.

Michel made the remarks in Rwandan capital of Kigali while addressing 10th summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Michel said many COMESA members are landlocked states and relatively small by world trading standards, which imply a serious challenge in the current globalization trend.

In order to help Africa, the European Union opened its markets to Africa more than to any other parts of the world in the past, said Michel.

Now, African exporters pay full duty on less than 3 percent of imports into the EU and the remaining 97 percent enter at zero duty or at very reduced rates of duty.

"But that is not enough," said Michel.

According to the commissioner, the EU, which suffered greatly after French and Dutch voters rejected its constitution, is going to enhance the development dimension of the multilateral trading system, through the Doha Development Round, with a special emphasis on Africa.

The EU will also give a big push to its regional trading agreements with Africa in order to support the continent's integration.

"We in Europe not only applaud the region's substantial efforts undertaken toward integration but we also actively encourage and try to bring our support to the process," Michel told African leaders attending the summit.

The commissioner said the EU will soon launch two major initiatives which is expected to give a fresh impetus to the regional integration process: the Regional Integration Support Project of € 30 million (about US$37 million), which is to contribute to economic integration by developing capacity in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring of regional integration.

The other is that the Trade Integration Budget Support of € 80 million (about US$98 million), which will give direct support to the member states of COMESA to move forward in their integration agenda.
The EU enjoyed a smooth cooperation with COMESA, especially with Rwanda. On his recent visit early last month, Louis Michael announced another phase of € 52 million (about US$64 million) that will help Rwanda refurbish most of the destructed infrastructure mainly roads hit during the 1994 genocide.

(Xinhua News Agency June 3, 2005)

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