EU, SA set for talks on trade, mine deaths

2012-09-18 08:46

Brussels – South African President Jacob Zuma was set to meet with European Union officials for a summit expected to focus on trade and foreign policy issues, but also the contentious killings of striking workers at the Marikana mine.

South African police shot dead 34 miners during clashes on August 16, making headlines around the world.

There are concerns that the incident and continuing strikes will affect investment in Africa’s largest economy.

“It will certainly come up,” an EU official said, speaking about the Brussels summit on condition of anonymity.

“The deaths were tragic, regrettable and it’s very important that ... it doesn’t happen again.”

EU companies are among the biggest investors in South Africa, accounting for €7 billion (R75 billion) in 2010.

The bloc is also South Africa’s largest trading partner, with more than 90% of their two-way trade liberalised this year under a trade, development and cooperation agreement.

But the EU is pushing South Africa to go further by endorsing a regional Economic Partnership Agreement covering all countries in the Southern African Development Community.

The last hurdle, EU officials said, lies in Pretoria.

“It’s very difficult to wet their appetite because they’re already sitting comfortably in a preferential (trade) agreement,” one official noted.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who will meet Zuma along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, noted that the summit is taking place “at a time when bold actions are required ... to consolidate our partnership to stimulate growth and employment”.

Syria is expected to be another key topic, with one EU official noting that South Africa is a member of the United Nations Security Council with “good ties to Russia and China” – the two countries that have steadfastly been blocking action against the Syrian regime.

Other issues on the summit’s agenda are to include human rights, climate change, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism operations in Africa, and the situation in Zimbabwe.

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