The ACP countries are normally very polite... and amenable, So it has been since 1975 when EU-ACP Partnership was instituted. Now the ACP is fed up. And it made itself loudly heard on 25 November when the European Parliament tried to ban two Zimbabwean ministers from participating in the ACP-EU Joint Assembly session in Brussels.
All 77 ACP countries boycotted the meeting, plunging the entire ACP-EU relationship into an unprecedented crisis.
It all started when the British co-president of the ACP-EU Joint Assembly, Mrs Glenys Kinnock (wife of the former Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock) and the British Conservative MEP, Geoffrey van Orden, learnt that the Belgian ambassador in Harare, benedicte Frankinet, had granted visas to the two Zimbabwean ministers chosen to represent their country at the Joint Assembly, which was to take place from 25-28 November.
The two ministers are on the EU travel ban list, but under international law, they are allowed to travel in Europe on official ACP business. But Mrs Kinnock (an implacable anti-Mugabist) and Van Orden complained to the Irish president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, stressing that the two Zimbabweans, Chris Kuruneri (deputy finance and economic development minister), and Paul Mangwana (minister of state enterprises and parastarals), should not be there. In their view, Belgium had violated the EU travel ban by granting them visas. They instructed Cox to carry the European Parliament's protest to the Belgian authorities. Cox obeyed. But in his reply, sent on 15 November, the Belgian foreign minister, Louis Michel, was unapologetic. He explained that Belgium was right in granting the Zimbabweans visas.
"The EU Council's common position concerning restrictive measures against Zimbabwe of February 2002," Michael said, "provided for exemption for persons attending meetings of international bodies or conducting political dialogue that promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe."
In other words, the ban did not apply in this case. But Mrs Kinnock and Van Orden would not take it. On 21 November, they managed to convince the European Parliament's governing body that the two Zimbabweans should be barred from the Parliament buildings where the Joint Assembly was to take place. The following day, the ACP co-president of the Joint Assembly, Adrien Houngbedji, from Benin, was informed of the decision, without any prior consultation.
The ACP hit the roof. It considered the...