After a decade of political crises, the political situation has been stable since 2002.
The various institutions provided for by the 2002 constitution had all been established by 2005, but they face operational difficulties because of continued governance problems. While a separation of powers is planned, parliament is too weak to exercise control over the executive.
The outgoing president, Sassou Nguesso, won the first round of presidential elections in July 2009, with 78.6% of the votes. National and international observers voiced contrasting opinions, though the elections passed off peacefully and the grievances expressed by the opposition were rejected by the Constitutional Court.
In the new government, the post of prime minister was eliminated, and 4 ministers of State and coordinators of opposing factions were appointed, answering directly to the president. The programme for the new 7-year term aims to modernise and industrialise the Congo to combat poverty and corruption.
The country was granted eligibility for HIPC in 2006 and should complete the process in Q1 2010. With a population of 4 million and a 2008 GNI of $1,970 per head (World Bank), the Congo is 136th (of 182 countries) in the Human Development Index.
The global recession has led to a sharp decline in oil revenues (-58.9%), on which the Congolese economy relies heavily, and losses in the timber sector, leading to thousands of job cuts. However the government has taken steps to soften the impact of the crisis.
Key issues in EU-Congo relations
The EU-Congo development strategy, signed in 2008, provides €85m, mainly to support:
The strategy also covers healthcare and rule of law – financed as projects, since Congo is not eligible for budget support.
In 2009, the Commission and Congo signed an agreement on forestry regulations, governance and trade in timber and wood-derived products (FLEGT).
Congo also has regular (twice yearly) political dialogue with the EU, as well as meetings on specific issues (e.g. the preparation of the presidential elections in 2009).
The Congo a member of the Central Africa group negotiating an EPA (currently only Cameroon in the region has signed an interim agreement, on access of goods to the market).