European Union External Action

The Republic of the Congo and the EU

The relations between the EU and the Republic of the Congo are established within the framework of the Cotonou Agreement, which has the central objective of reducing poverty.

The fight against poverty follows a global development strategy, evaluated using qualitative and quantitative indicators. This integrated strategy combines the political (regional cooperation), economic (development of the private sector, structural and sectoral reforms), social (young people, equal opportunities), cultural and environmental dimensions of the country.

The development programme, set out as part of the agreement, is based on political dialogue, which must address all issues of mutual interest. It mainly concerns:

  • the consolidation of peace,
  • the prevention and resolution of conflicts,
  • respect for human rights,
  • democratic principles and the rule of law,
  • the correct management of public affairs.

Procedures are set up to be applied in the event of human rights violations or corruption.

The Republic of the Congo has numerous natural resources (water, forests, ores), but these are not heavily exploited. The Congolese economy mainly relies on subsistence farming, craft and hydrocarbons. Although the majority of the population lives on subsistence farming, the country's economy also depends on exports, and primarily on petrol.

The Republic of the Congo displayed GDP growth of 8.4 % in 2011, but inflation remains high (5.9 % in 2011). Its external accounts remain strong, as long as commodity prices stay high.

The economic development programme, as part of the Cotonou Agreement, is based on:

  • A new economic and commercial cooperation framework established in order to liberalise trade and integrate the country into the global economy. The strengthening of production capacities and the stimulation of investments are also declared as strategic objectives. Commercial cooperation mainly concerns services, competition, intellectual property, standardisation and certification, sanitary standards, the environment, working standards, consumer policy and public health.
  • A financial cooperation reform to ensure, in particular, the coherence, effectiveness, flexibility and ongoing adaptation of assistance for the country's situation. Concretely, the country has a basic envelope prepared jointly by the EU and the Congolese government. There is a second envelope to cover unexpected needs.

The Republic of the Congo is a very open country in trade terms, with a cumulative export and import value higher than its GDP.

The country's trade balance is structurally in surplus (a positive balance of CFA 1 678.9 billion in 2008). The trade surplus mainly comes from the oil sector (over 90 % of exports), which thus provides a very comfortable import cover ratio. However, this lack of diversification shows that the economy depends heavily on the oil sector.

The Republic of the Congo mainly exports to Asia, and in 2007, Europe represented just 8 % of exports. However, the EU is the leading supplier of import goods (54 % of imports in 2007).

As part of the cooperation policy, the EU implements projects that favour the diversification and improvement of the competitiveness of Congolese products, particularly:

  • the ‘Sucre’ project (support for the national adaptation strategy for the sugar sector), which should allow the sugar sector to make the necessary investments and reforms to adapt to the new context of the sugar market in Europe;
  • the ‘Strengthening commercial and entrepreneurial capacities’ project, which also aims to make the Congolese economy more competitive;
  • the ‘Diversification of the economy’ component, which should help the country acquire a business diversification strategy and improve the environment in the private sector.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play a key role in the identification of priority actions. Their role is also important in promoting and monitoring the application of decisions. Through its Delegation to the Republic of the Congo, the EU thus encourages a wide variety of players committed to the promotion and evaluation of action plans, and supports dialogue between the CSOs and the Congolese government to encourage the necessary reform procedures.

With this aim in mind, the EU Delegation to the Republic of the Congo regularly meets organisations which work to strengthen the capacities of the media and journalists, or of civil society associations working in the domains of human rights, professional training for the disadvantaged, health, etc.

The Delegation is attempting to intensify its dialogue with these structures in order to collect opinions and suggestions to improve its cooperation with the Congolese government.

The humanitarian aid actions funded by the EU are implemented by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), specialist agencies from EU countries, Red Cross organisations and United Nations agencies.

Individual subsidies are attributed according to criteria such as financial and technical capacity, availability and experience, and the results of past interventions.

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