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Kampala gets Brussels to U-turn on oil pipeline ban

At a joint parliamentary summit in Maputo, Ugandan negotiators won the policy argument but doubts linger about the pipeline's viability

On the eve of the UN's COP 27 Climate summit, European parliament MPs dropped their opposition to Uganda's and Tanzania's oil pipeline project at the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) with MPs from the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific states in Maputo on 25 October-2 November. The manoeuvres over the pipeline point to wider tensions in African-European relations over policy, climate finance and debt relief.

The Euro MPs' U-turn could open the way for European-based institutions to finance the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) and it marks an important victory for Uganda's officials (Dispatches 28/9/22, African leaders warn on climate talks failure at UN General Assembly).

The U-turn comes less than two months after a European Parliament resolution, demanding that the project be halted because of environmental concerns, prompted a furious reaction from Uganda and Tanzania. The two countries have already indicated that they would be seeking Chinese funding to allow them to export oil via the pipeline by April 2025 (AC Vol 63 No 22, Dash to oil depends on China). Tough questions remain about the commercial logic of the project.

The final communiqué agreed at the Maputo meeting also included references to the need for a 'just transition to renewable energy' as opposed to the abrupt halting of fossil fuel exploration, and 'acknowledged the importance of fair phase out and gradual transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, stressing that achieving the 1.5°C target requires the drastic scaling up of renewable energy and supporting a global just transition.'

The bi-annual meeting of the JPA was dominated by political positioning by the EU and the ACP ahead of the UN COP27 climate summit which opened in Egypt on 6 November. ACP lawmakers repeated demands for the EU to meet its pledge to provide $100 billion per year in climate adaptation funding.

The meeting failed to break the deadlock over ratification of the post-Cotonou Agreement governing political and economic ties between the EU and ACP, nor did it resolve some of wider difficulties undermining the ACP's diplomatic clout.

EU and ACP negotiators finalised the new post-Cotonou treaty in April 2021. Since then, Hungary, which had urged the Commission to demand tougher commitments on return and readmission of migrants throughout the negotiating process, has vetoed attempts by the European Commission to ratify the agreement (Dispatches 19/4/21, Long-awaited new trade treaty lacks substance for Africa).

Officials in Brussels indicate that there is little urgency on the EU side towards overcoming the Hungarian veto. The treaty would not change trade relations or development funding for the ACP.

The influence of ACP, whose secretariat is financed from the EU budget, is waning. Last month, South Africa announced its withdrawal from the 79-member organisation, and the Commission's Africa relations are now almost exclusively conducted with the African Union.

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