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By Agnes Agyepong

Friday, February 19, 2010.

Many talk about the possibility of an African Union, similar to that of the European Union we have today. And yes Africa does have an African Union, but I am talking more on the functioning and the stability of its institutions in a way that best benefits the continent and people of Africa. When these talks arise, passion often merged with frustration engulfs the debate as people from all spectrums, journalists, country men, with those from the Diaspora throwing into the mix their reasons as to why Africa is not ready to follow in the “golden” footsteps of the EU.

And so the tirade begins: “African leaders are too corrupt to even contemplate a viable functioning AU”, “Unlike Europe, Africa does not have the institutions to embark on such an ambitious project”, “Africans are too busy fighting one another to even think about working together”, “the West have done everything they can to insure that Africa is not united and will never be” and so the debate proceeds.

Back and forth, like a yoyo until one by one the conversation fizzles out, a lot of talk that goes around in circles. The conversation resumes the next day and the days after, in bars, houses, offices, via emails around the globe; Africans and beyond searching for answers for the current woes besieging the continent. Their continent. Their homeland.

The EU forever the exemplar and beacon of hope to Africa, is held as a pillar. And why shouldn’t it? On the EU website its key aim is for “Peace, prosperity and freedom for its 498 million citizens — in a fairer, safer world”. And who could argue that within the EU this has not been the case? After two World Wars in Europe, EU members have operated under an umbrella of safety and security whilst being able to freely move from one state to another. EU members work side by side to negotiate and work together on issues ranging from trade to security, from bananas to boats.

However, the past few months has revealed that the stitching on the EU garment has begun to fray, and the quality of the fabric has started to pose questions. By this, I am talking about the increasing possibility of Greece defaulting on its debt, signalling a sharp halt to the prosperity of that nation and stoking frantic fears of lack of confidence in the Euro. According to Sapa-AP, Greek trade unions ranging from doctors to school teachers to tax officials have protested en masse via strikes at the threat of the government’s proposed slash in spending in an attempt to reduce the deficit to 9 percent by the end of the year 2010.

At present, Greece has a government deficit of approximately 12 percent (GDP), which is more than four times the limit for the EU and a public debt of e300 billion which equates to nearly 125 percent of GDP. The beginning of such protests is just a microscopic view of what awaits if Greece goes ahead with additional austerity measures being called for by EU leaders in unison.

Unemployment in Greece has already been increasing unsteadily with one in ten unemployed a figure that is rising sharply. The perceived threat of default on this debt has been deemed so severe that calls for the IMF to step in - just like recently in Jamaica - has reached so high that the Daily  Telegraph (UK) this week wrote a whole article dedicated to the topic entitled "Greece doesn’t need the IMF" with a satire by line reading "Should the Eurozone hire Supernanny?".

Ironically, the EU does not see the IMF as fit for its institutions but Africa, with its hopes of African Unity is riddled with the IMF and the conditionalities that follow. Is there a lesson here? This threat of default is magnified by the fact that within the EU, United Kingdom included, member states hold large amounts of this debt which has created a sense of insecurity within Europe.

If Greece defaults it creates a domino effect, impacting all EU nations, and threatening to derail the whole EU institution itself. Such a fate could render the EU worthless and infect the entire financial system. And although this has not happened yet, this saga has exposed serious weaknesses and limitations that Africa should be paying close attention to if it is to attempt the European model.  "Peace, prosperity and freedom" as stated on the EU website may not be in the bosom of the African Union as some may think.

Agnes Agyepong comes from a Public Relations and Communications background and is currently a postgraduate student in International Relations.

She blogs at http://agnesagyepong.blogspot.com/


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