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France, Europe and Development Aid. From the Treaties of Rome to the Present Day

 | 
Gérard Bossuat
, 
Gordon D. Cummings

Beginnings of European Development Aid (1957-1975)

From Dakar to Brussels: Passing on Colonial Methods to the Heart of European Development Policies1

Véronique Dimier

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 This article is taken from the book by Véronique Dimier, Recyling Empire: the Invention of a Europe (...)

This new post did not change my job in any way: as the controller delegate (“contrôleur délégué”) representing the European Commission I did what I had always done as a colonial administrator, persuading the people and their leaders that a particular project could benefit them, negotiating with my African contacts to initiate or launch a particular rural modernisation project. We […] spent hours talking with the African authorities […]. In some cases, we achieved a very great deal. I regarded X, the Minister for the Plan, as my brother. It was absolutely essential to have a valid interlocutor and to come to a good understanding with him.

  • 2 René Teissonnière (École coloniale 1945), head of district in Madagascar, 1951-1960, then Agricultu (...)
  • 3 Véronique Dimier, Le gouvernement des colonies, regards croisés franco-britanniques, Éditions de Br (...)
  • 4 At national level, see: V. Dimier, “De la décolonisation… à la décentralisation : histoire de préfe (...)
  • 5 On these negotiations, cf. Gérard Bossuat, Marie-Thérèse Bitsch, L’Europe unie et l’Afrique. De l’i (...)
  • 6 Cf. V. Dimier, “Construire l’association : regards croisés euro-africains”, Matériaux pour l’histoi (...)
  • 7 John Ravenshill, Collective clientelism. The Lomé conventions and North South relations, New York, (...)

1It would be hard to do better than René Teissonnière, former colonial administrator, controller delegate of the European Development Fund, European Economic Community,2 when describing what some European Commission officials regarded as the “remarkable understanding” between the French colonial administration and African elites, an understanding which was to endure long after independence, as is evident from the above quotation. In many cases, that understanding was greatly encouraged by the very nature of the colonial state: while such a state doubtless required the imposition of a western type of bureaucracy on African societies, the bureaucracy was of a very specific type in which the guiding principle of territorial officials (the colonial administration) was to adapt the laws and policies decided by metropolitan France to local circumstances by means of compromise, negotiation, a continuous dialogue, in short: highly personal relations with the local elites.3 The way in which those officials were able to transfer that model to other administrative entities after decolonisation, permanently influencing the culture of embryonic institutions, such as those at the European Commission concerning development issues, will form the subject of this chapter.4 Indeed, some people did not hesitate to continue pursuing their colonial mission in Brussels, taking part in this new project, the European Economic Community, and particularly the association with the overseas countries and territories, the first step towards a European development policy. France had insisted on that association at the time of the Treaty of Rome negotiations, when, as a moribund colonial power, it was trying to find a way of preserving influence in sub-Saharan Africa while making its partners share the heavy financial burden of the economic and social development of its overseas territories.5 France thus specified a trade element which renewed the French system of colonial preferences and extended it to the other EEC countries. It also included financial aid in the form of donations, a European Development Fund (EDF) financed by direct contributions from the Member States and managed by a European Commission department, Directorate General VIII. The EDF broadly reproduced the mechanisms of the Investment Fund for Economic and Social Development (FIDES) which France set up in 1946 to assist in the development of its overseas territories. Initially, the association – a typically colonial term – was only to concern territories having a “special” – not to say colonial – relationship with certain EEC members, i.e. primarily the French and Belgian territories in sub-Saharan Africa. Ironically, at a time when those territories (or at least the French ones) were being granted some internal political autonomy thanks to the Defferre framework law (1956), the embryonic African assemblies and their leaders were not even invited to give an opinion on what some of them immediately regarded as a “marriage of convenience” arranged without the consent of the main interested parties.6 However, that consent very soon proved necessary: once the age of independence had arrived, the association with African and Malagasy States had to be renegotiated; that led to the Yaoundé Convention, subsequently renamed the Lomé Convention with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (1975), and more recently the Cotonou agreement (2000). In a climate of widespread criticism, finding officials who could gain the trust of the African leaders and be capable of persuading them that the association arrangement was not a continuation of French colonial policy – which it quite clearly was – but a “great work of solidarity”, unique in the world, became a question of survival for DG VIII. This was specifically one of the factors which encouraged the recruitment of former French colonial administrators hankering after leadership, enabling them to “colonise” this new institution: confident in the team spirit acquired at the École coloniale [college training colonial administrators] and the networks created in Africa, these people immediately presented themselves as the sole experts on African development. This gave them a legitimacy which would enable them to influence the mission, methods and very identity of this Directorate General. As part of the EDF control arrangements they introduced a “supervisory territorial authority”, the EDF technical controllers, later renamed controllers delegate and then European Commission delegates, adopting a model which was to prove relatively similar to that of the former French colonial administrators. At the very heart of Europe, they were to help establish an administrative system resembling the neopatrimonial system of the post-colonial African States, or at the very least relatively well-suited to dealing with the latter: an apparently bureaucratic system comprising officials recruited for their competence, forming part of a clear hierarchy, tasked with applying a regulatory system of controls and objective legal rules, neutral in their dealings with the institution’s beneficiaries; a system which was in reality based on the discretionary power of a few leaders and their “clan”, on highly personal relationships, founded on mutual trust and loyalty, which was to be extended to African elites via a kind of “collective clientelism”.7

I. Colonising DG VIII

  • 8 Appointed to the Commission almost by chance, if we are to believe his own biography; he had previo (...)
  • 9 Trainee administrator in Casamance (1941-1943), by 1945 he had been transferred within the French O (...)
  • 10 Émile Fay (École coloniale, 1935). He began his career at the French Overseas Ministry (Directorate (...)
  • 11 Michel Cellerier (École coloniale 1943; Directorate General of Economic Services and the Plan at th (...)
  • 12 Pierre Cros (École coloniale, 1949), was assistant to the “cercle” commander in Niger from 1949 to  (...)
  • 13 Interview, André Auclert, (16 May 1999). André Auclert, (École coloniale, 1945) began his career as (...)
  • 14 Jean Chapperon (École coloniale, 1940). In 1942, he began his career with a brief spell as assistan (...)
  • 15 Interview, J. Chapperon, 23 June 2000.
  • 16 J. Chapperon, interview cited, regarding himself and Ferrandi.
  • 17 J. Chapperon, ibid.
  • 18 Jean Petit Laurent (École coloniale 1939 ; chef de bureau at the French Overseas Ministry, Director (...)

2With a view to safeguarding its interests, France had successfully secured the post of development commissioner: the first to hold that post was Robert Lemaignen, one of the great colonial bosses in sub-Saharan Africa.8 It was not long before he asked Jacques Ferrandi to join him as his chef de cabinet.A former student of the École coloniale (class of 1935),9 Ferrandi had previously been Director General of Economic Services in French West Africa (1953-1958), becoming one of the main architects of FIDES in that part of the Empire. In November 1957, following a visit by Maurice Faure, who had travelled all over Africa to sell the future association, Ferrandi decided to pursue his career in Brussels. Following the Defferre framework law of 1956, the African colonies, renamed overseas territories, were moving towards increasing autonomy, and the French West African Federation was destined to disappear. In January 1958, the federal government of French West Africa, and hence the post of director general of economic services, were abolished. For Ferrandi, the association arrangement represented an unexpected opportunity: though the venture was uncertain and risky, it matched his leadership ambitions. Presenting himself – and being acknowledged – as one of the best specialists in African development, with a very extensive network among African heads of state, Ferrandi very quickly gained great legitimacy in DG VIII. Following Lemaignen’s departure, he was promoted in 1962 to Director of one of the two EDF directorates (Directorate of Research and Development Programmes, Directorate C) then, following a reorganisation of the DG in 1963, sole Director of the EDF until 1975 (Directorate C, Development Fund). With these various powerful positions and his expertise, he succeeded in positioning his “clan” of colonial administrators in key posts at DG VIII. Thus, Émile Fay,10 one of his fellow graduates, joined DG VIII in 1958 as Head of Division (Trade liberalisation) in Trade Directorate D, soon followed by Michel Cellerier,11 in charge of West Africa in the programmes division (Directorate of Research and Development Programmes, Directorate C). In that same year, Pierre Cros was recruited to the Commission’s information service and seconded to DG VIII to organise a veritable “propaganda” campaign aimed at African elites.12 André Auclert was also to follow his old boss13 (Ferrandi) from Dakar to Brussels: in 1958, he was appointed to the Research division (Directorate of Research and Development Programmes, Directorate C). Following the reorganisation of DG VIII in 1963, he accompanied Ferrandi as an assistant in the new Directorate C (Development Fund), where he was promoted (1967) Head of the Financial Operations Division, effectively remaining his trusted right-hand man. Finally, Ferrandi was also to ensure his own succession in the office of Henri Rochereau, the new Commissioner for Overseas Development (1962-1967): on his advice, Jean Chapperon,14 one of his best staff in Dakar, would be appointed as chef de cabinet to Rochereau, and later to Jean-François Deniau (the next commissioner, 1967-1973). All graduates of the École coloniale and having served in West Africa, some of these men (Cros, Auclert et Chapperon) had built up local, rural experience (assistant to the “cercle” – or district – commander) and then moved on to the central offices of the federal government. True, they were few in number owing to the need to share posts among nationalities in the European Commission, but they were still “in key positions”15 and “formed a hell of a team”.16 A team which, at the heart of Brussels, met every three months for a special “colonials”17 lunch. It was no surprise that other “colonials” wanted to join this select band.18

  • 19 Interview with Ferrandi, 26 August 1999.On this point cf. Véronique Dimier, “L’institutionnalisatio (...)
  • 20 Official Journal of Laws and Decrees of the French Republic, JO,4 June 1949, p. 5482.
  • 21 The treaty specified that “For investments financed by the Community, participation in tenders and (...)
  • 22 V. Dimier, “L’institutionnalisation de la Commission européenne … ”, op. cit.

3Backed by this close-knit team, and taking advantage of a favourable institutional context and a reform of the EDF whereby the Director General of DG VIII – traditionally German – delegated to him the powers of chief authorising officer, Ferrandi very soon made his mark: “DG VIII was the EDF, and I was the EDF”.19 Coming from the “man in charge”, this assertion was probably exaggerated … though not for the African heads of state who visited him personally in Brussels in order to put forward their development projects. In fact, the Implementing Convention attached to the Treaty of Rome, along the lines of the decree of 4 June 1949 concerning the operating arrangements for the FIDES,20 specified that it would be for the authorities responsible for the associated territories and countries (which would evolve from colonial governments into African governments), with the agreement of the local authorities or people’s representatives, to initiate the economic and social projects for which European Community funding was requested, and then to implement them (and issue calls for tenders). The Council of Ministers of the European Community (very soon embodied in an EDF committee composed of representatives of the Member States) was to give a favourable opinion on the proposed projects (by a qualified majority), in fact deciding to allocate the funding. In this connection, the role of the Commission, i.e. DG VIII, was to examine the project proposals and submit funding proposals to the EDF committee, and finally to supervise the work and ensure that European companies shared equally in the contracts awarded via calls for tenders launched by the associated territories.21 This role of mediator and negotiator between the Member States, all of which wanted their companies to win some contracts, and the associated African states, which all wanted their share of the European largesse, fell mainly to Ferrandi and his team who, thanks to their expertise, were very soon dominating the process. Ferrandi therefore gained substantial discretionary powers, especially as the criteria for examining the projects were developed and formalised very slowly, and remained very general. He maintained that, in order to take account of the political, economic and social reality of Africa in the choice of projects, it was necessary to allow great freedom of action for the departments responsible for organising the records and the EDF officials responsible for assessing the projects, i.e. his own people.22

II. Adapting to African Countries: the Motto of Both the École coloniale and DG VIII

  • 23 On this point, see: V. Dimier, Le gouvernement des colonies, op. cit.
  • 24 Auclert, interview cited.

4Whether the French colonial administrators were the only experts on African development at DG VIII remains open to debate. Some Belgian officials, such as Lefebvre, one of the two directors originally in charge of the EDF, also had relevant experience, having worked in the Ministry of the Colonies and taken an active part in the Treaty of Rome negotiations. However, the fact is that he very soon had to leave DG VIII as he was unable to agree with Ferrandi on the projects to be approved. Conversely, it cannot be denied that the legitimacy and position of strength secured by Ferrandi and his team enabled them to impose their way of doing things on the other European officials, to influence their approach, in short to imbue DG VIII with a team spirit strongly inspired by their colonial mission and methods. According to the teaching of Robert Delavignette, Director of the École coloniale (1937-1946), that mission and those methods were governed by a profound pragmatism and had to be based on adapting to African realities.23 Greatly influenced by the cultural relativism of the day, he considered colonisation to be a particularly destructive form of cultural contact for African societies. The mission of the colonial State and its officials on the ground was therefore, in his view, to protect the colonised societies against the damaging effects of that contact (economic exploitation, cultural integration), to help them to achieve “harmony” between western influences and local culture. By that time, the official aim of the French Government was no longer to “civilise”, still less “assimilate” and instead to “develop” Africa economically and socially, while respecting its ancestral “civilisations”, an aim which is not without its contradictions, but which was very clearly enshrined in the 1946 Constitution. For the colonial administrators, the result was a particular type of approach: as a territorial official representing the authority of the colonial state in an extensive territory, the colonial administrator’s mission was not only to apply and monitor the implementation of the policies decided by metropolitan France, but to adapt those policies to local circumstances and customs. If we can believe Auclert, “respect for and knowledge of individuals and societies would become the motto of the École coloniale”.24 That was doubtless Ferrandi’s motto:

  • 25 J. Ferrandi, Conference before the European Committee of Engineering Consultants in Brussels, March (...)

I would add that, just as there is no disease, only sick people, so there is no under-development, only underdeveloped countries, with their characteristics, their specific needs, their potential and their specific solutions.25

  • 26 J. Ferrandi, “L’association : aventure ou nécessité ?” La Revue Nouvelle, 1967, p. 29.

And if it is true that the method of giving is more important than what is given, and that you can give less if you give well, it must be said that, with a relatively modest fund (compared to some international funds), the Community’s method of giving is appreciated by its associates. Why? Because the Community has established a continuous dialogue with its associates to find out what they need, to assess the problems encountered in carrying out the investments, and to reach mutual agreement on the appropriate remedies. All that is not particularly clever, nor is it a matter of doctrine: people say that doctrine is often the product of a lazy mind, representing for economists what rules are to a policeman, taking away the need to think. A problem arises: you apply the solution prescribed by the rules. That’s easy. You are never wrong … because if you make a mistake it is the doctrine that is wrong […]. We in Brussels prefer the school of real life. It is difficult and it means that we must pay attention and be constantly making choices. Thus, the Fund can finance investments of any kind […]. Similarly, the Fund makes it a rule to consider its associates as equal partners.26

  • 27 Cf. V. Dimier, Recycling Empire, work in publication.

5It is not our intention here to see whether this approach was actually applied and put into practice by the officials of DG VIII.27 We would simply note that, as a principle, it was regularly repeated in the official speeches of the Commissioner or the Director General, to the point where – contrary to Ferrandi’s intentions – it became “the doctrine” of DG VIII, a way of distancing its action from that of other donors such as the World Bank, regarded as far too “technocratic”. The very idea of adapting to African reality would likewise justify the absence of specific criteria in the distribution of funding, and the lack of clear aims beyond the very vague objective set out in the Treaty of Rome, which was primarily to further the interests and prosperity of the inhabitants of the overseas countries and territories in order to lead them to the economic, social and cultural development to which they aspire (Article 131). Following the independence of these territories, the same idea was used to justify this basic principle of the Yaoundé and then Lomé Conventions up to the 1990s: the lack of any political conditionality in what would be presented as cooperation between “equal, sovereign” partners. Taking all regimes together, aid was actually offered equally to Bokassa and Senghor, to countries with communist leanings and to friends of the West.

  • 28 V. Dimier, “Du bon usage de la tournée : stratégies de légitimation et propagande au sein de la DG (...)

6According to Ferrandi, that aid could be effective only “in a climate of sincere collaboration with the authorities or governments responsible for these countries. It has already been said, and it is becoming commonplace to remark that the method of giving is more important than what is given. Everything depends on the style, I mean human relations.” Ferrandi’s method, or “style” was in fact embodied in very personal relations with African elites, in human relationships based on mutual trust and loyalty. A style somewhat reminiscent of that advocated by the École coloniale: it was via a continuous dialogue, very personal relations with the African elites – usually traditional chieftains regarded as legitimate representatives of the colonised populations – that the ideal colonial administrator was supposed to take the rules handed down from the centre and adapt them to local customs and circumstances. The administrator thus had to advise, educate and persuade the local chieftains of the benefits of the policies to be implemented, and in so doing use tact and pragmatism. By means of the art of negotiation and interminable discussions, he had to try to win the trust of the chieftains and reach the necessary compromises with them. It was thought that these daily dialogues and these compromises should enable the colonised societies to cooperate in and consent to the colonial project, in short, to endow the project with some legitimacy. Ironically, Ferrandi and his team used similar techniques to persuade the new African heads of state of the benefits of association, in short to reinforce the legitimacy of this policy now presented as unique in the world, and very different from colonial policies.28 These techniques also proved to be an effective method of managing the EDF, an anti-bureaucratic and pragmatic method, opposed to any rationalisation of procedures, such as the establishment of mechanisms for planning (i.e. setting priorities) or assessment. This method involved the piecemeal adoption of the projects proposed, without any formal criteria other than the very personal ones applied by Ferrandi, based on his relations with the various African heads of state, and to some extent on the political priorities of France and Europe in Africa, such as – in the context of the cold war – keeping these countries on the side of the West.

  • 29 David Jones, Les élus de l’Europe, London, ODI Publication, 1974.
  • 30 The available figures bear this out; on this point, see Marjorie Lister, The European Community and (...)
  • 31 Tony Chafer, The end of empire in French West Africa. France’s successful decolonization ?, Berg, O (...)
  • 32 M. Lister, The European Community …, op. cit., p. 135.

7That is in fact what he was later accused of by some young economists at DG VIII itself, and by British experts.29 Although this arbitrary approach was widely accepted by the other members of DG VIII, proof that this way of doing things had been successfully imposed, it still attracted some criticism, as it tended to favour the wealthiest countries and the French companies which already had a local presence.30 Clearly, the power and success of Ferrandi as the leading figure in DG VIII depended mainly on his ability to adapt to the people concerned by association, i.e. the French-speaking African political elites whose economic and political interests largely coincided with the interests of the former colonial power. In the system of interdependence which the latter set up at the time of decolonisation, their authority and legitimacy remained heavily dependent on the financial, military and political support of the French Government.31 In fact, Ferrandi could hardly ignore the political needs of France’s “African protégés” and French political priorities in Africa. Moreover, that explains the importance attached to prestige projects, such as the trans-Cameroon railway, the economic viability of which would remain hotly contested.32 In the neo-patrimonial African state, where the distribution of emoluments was a way for the African heads of state to secure a clientèle and thus enhance their political legitimacy and authority, such projects offered substantial financial largesse. They were likewise of some interest to French firms with a local presence which – because of their proximity to – and often shady dealings with – African elites enjoyed a de facto monopoly which soon became the envy of firms from other Member States. But it would be wrong to conclude that Ferrandi systematically favoured French firms. Supervising the calls for tenders managed by African authorities, and monitoring those authorities in the execution of the projects, became a central concern for Ferrandi and his team, a way of ensuring that European firms took part in the EDF tenders according to the principle of equality, and above all a way of avoiding instructions issued by France, as is evident from the conflict between Ferrandi and the French Government concerning EDF technical controllers.

III. A Supervisory Territorial Authority

8As soon as discussions began on the Treaty of Rome, France expressed its desire to limit the Commission’s technical and financial control over the implementation of the EDF in territories which, at that time, still came under French sovereignty. The issue clearly became crucial when those territories gained independence. France then proposed that the Commission, which carried ultimate responsibility for the management of the EDF, should hand over that control to French firms in the field, possibly in association with other European firms. In view of the obvious inability of newly independent states to prepare technically viable and financially acceptable development projects, these firms could also play a key role in providing technical assistance. So it was easy to envisage the following scenario: an influential French firm supported by the French Government (or a consultancy linked to that firm) would help the government of the country to set up a particular project (or would even pay it to propose a project in which the firm itself would have a key executive role). With the backing of the French Government on the EDF committee and some haggling with other Member States, the project would eventually be adopted, a call for tenders would be issued at local level and, as a result of more or less legal practices, the same firm would win the tender. The firm would not only execute the project but would exercise control over it, including financial control. Such a system was bound to be prejudicial to companies from some other Member States which were already at a disadvantage, and to Ferrandi himself, who would thus lose much of his power. He knew about this type of practice from experience, and instead proposed authorising his own technical controllers, recruited under contract and paid by the Commission. The proposal was put forward a number of times in the Council of Ministers of the European Communities, but was always rejected despite Germany’s support.

  • 33 V. Dimier, “The birth of a European diplomatic service: from contrôleurs techniques to the delegate (...)

9In the end the matter was settled in a very pragmatic way. In 1960, Ferrandiwas to recruit technical controllers under contract, via consultancies, with the job of supervising the calls for tenders locally, monitoring the execution of the work (including financial supervision) and helping African authorities to set up their projects. However, the system was still very unsatisfactory, as is evident from a subsequent report on the subject: it was very soon apparent that the work delegated to these consultancies concerning a public service mission (controlling public funds) was at odds with the commercial interests of those consultancies (often linked to contractors), which aimed to maximise their profits. Chapperon therefore proposed the creation of a supervisory territorial authority which could ensure the impartiality and independence of the technical and financial control and make it harder for the controllers to engage in shady deals with the African elites. Imbued with the EDF’s philosophy, that authority would also be able, according to Ferrandi, to guide the governments concerned in the adoption of the projects submitted to the Commission, thus playing the same role as the colonial administration had done.33

  • 34 Interviews were conducted with the following controllers delegate, former colonial administrators: (...)
  • 35 Regarding the role and status of these controllers delegate, see: V. Dimier, “Préfets d’Europe, le (...)
  • 36 D. Schmidt, in: European Commission, Taking Europe to the World, 50 years of the European Commissio (...)
  • 37 They eventually acquired that status in the late 1980s.

10After much debate, a regulation was eventually adopted in 1965, establishing the EDF “contrôleurs délégués” (controllers delegate). They were recruited under contract, sent out for several years to an associated country and administered by the European Association for Cooperation (EAC), a Belgian non-profit organisation set up for the purpose by Ferrandi and funded by the EDF. This meant that Ferrandi was able to ensure that he had loyal people in the field, people he could trust and to whom he could easily delegate his supervisory powers. Some of these men were recruited from among former French or Belgian colonial administrators.34 Going by the quotation from Teissonnière in the introduction to this chapter, there is no doubt that these men considered their new job relatively similar to what they were doing before decolonisation.35 As intermediaries between the Commission and African elites, they became – like the model colonial administrator from the École coloniale – the people who made the necessary compromises between the ambitions of the African elites and the requirements of the European development bureaucracy, using – like Ferrandi – their personal connections of mutual loyalty and trust. Though their role was originally purely technical, it very soon became highly political. Admittedly, it is difficult to measure their true influence over African heads of state. While some former officials of the European Commission were quick to see them as veritably viceroys, others instead tended to stress the limits of their collaboration with African elites, a collaboration which could prove dangerous in many ways. In 1966, D. Schmidt, who was then a German controller in Mali, thus had to face the wrath of the Malian Government after having made some unfortunate statements to the local press. Thanks to the good offices of the owner of his residence, who worked for the Malian Minister for International Cooperation, he just managed to avoid a political crisis. However, in terms of personal safety, “I had escaped by the skin of my teeth”.36 The fate of successive EDF controllers under the Bokassa regime in the Central African Republic tells the same story. In 1971, the controller was expelled after Bokassa had accused him of corruption. A few years later, in 1977, when Bokassa proclaimed himself emperor and faced repeated demands from the European Parliament for effective sanctions, his successor was to suffer the same fate. In both cases, the investigations conducted by the Commission exonerated the controllers concerned. However, these repeated incidents reveal the fragility of the position of these employees, performing a diplomatic role without having either the status or the protection for it at the time.37 They also indicate their difficulty in getting on with heads of state who very soon showed that they had little desire to share the humanistic and democratic values of the European project. As one of them, a former French colonial administrator, recognised:

I told Ferrandi that an over-intimate and emotional relationship was inappropriate in our job. Controllers must maintain courteous relations, but must never have personal friends among the African elites. Ferrandi clearly took that as a criticism of himself. It was how he worked, as director of the EDF. He used to spend hours and hours on the telephone to African ministers. He viewed them as friends. As controllers, we received circulars asking us to act as unofficial advisers. But of course, the problem of such an attitude was that it could lead to dangerous shady deals.

11This comment effectively reveals all the ambiguities of the job: being close enough to the Africans to be able to persuade them and keep the dialogue open, but not too close, for fear of being an unwilling party to local political practices.

IV. Dangerous Liaisons?

  • 38 V. Dimier, “Constructing conditionality: the bureaucratization of EC development aid”, European Aff (...)

12It also reveals all the ambiguities of a nascent European development policy, ambiguities based on interdependence between DG VIII and African leaders: the former providing aid which enabled the leaders to enhance their political legitimacy and authority; the latter enabling DG VIII to enhance its authority and legitimacy as an international player (in relation to the Member States, and particularly France). These ambiguities proved persistent despite the gradual establishment of a system of planning from the 1970s onwards, followed by political conditionalities in the 1990s.38 The first enlargement and extension of the Yaoundé agreements (renamed Lomé) to include the former British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (the ACP countries) in fact led to an attempt to rationalise the EDF management procedures by establishing national indicative programmes specifying each country’s priorities and the amount which might be available over five years. This rationalisation also included formulating more specific goals linked to poverty reduction and the adoption of clear criteria (based on the level of poverty) in the allocation of the funds among countries. Encouraged by the British, the new system – long envisaged by certain DG VIII officials calling for more transparency (including Dieter Frisch, Head of the Development Research Unit from 1968) – was deemed to restrict the arbitrary activities of the Ferrandi team in the management of the EDF, and ensure that aid was fairly shared between former British and French colonies. In order to establish this system and prevent potential sabotage by the operational staff controlled by Ferrandi, the new French Commissioner for Development, Claude Cheysson, instructed a young Italian statistician recruited by Frisch, Giorgio Bonacci, to proceed quickly, and “in the greatest secrecy” to develop the criteria for the geographical allocation of the funds.

  • 39 Interview with Bonacci, 14 February 2008.

I did what I could. Of course, these statistics were questionable, but I at least managed to define an amount to be allocated to each country according to criteria such as GNP and population size […]. These statistics became a source of embarrassment for Ferrandi, because you could now compare how much had been given to a particular country according to Ferrandi’s methods, and how much that country could have received under the new system. They demonstrated that some of the poorest countries, such as Niger and Burkina Faso, received much less than Gabon, Senegal or Ivory Coast for example.39

13The expected opposition to these new methods from Ferrandi eventually prompted Cheysson to reorganise DG VIII, depriving Ferrandi of some of his powers. Following this reorganisation, Ferrandi eventually left DG VIII prematurely, though not without trying one final manoeuvre: thus, some African heads of state, including Senghor, Houphouët-Boigny and Bongo, asked the president of the French Republic to intervene with the president of the Commission to prevent the reorganisation planned by Cheysson… The manoeuvre failed. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the links that Ferrandi maintained with African elites and the methods that he used in managing the funds. Did those methods change very much after he left? If we believe Bonacci, far from it:

  • 40 Bonacci interview, 14 February 2008.

I came after Hauswirth (Ferrandi’s successor, Deputy Director General in charge of EDF operations) in Ivory Coast, France’s African jewel. Our job was to tell the Ivorian representatives that, because of the new aid distribution system, they would receive less than in previous years. The job turned into a nightmare. Calais, the local controller delegate, a great friend of Ferrandi, told me: “Don’t even think about it. They’ll stop you at the airport”. In the end, the dinner we had with the Minister for the Plan was the worst of all. He very angrily told us that Ivory Coast was not a beggar. Hauswirth said: “We have to give them more”. But of course, that would have totally derailed the new system. In the end, we signed a paper with no amount stated on it. Cheysson came along later to resolve the problem. The same thing happened when I went to the former British territories. Foley (one of the British deputy director-generals) told me : “We must give them more, these people are poor. The guide amount is not high enough.”40 So the opacity of the methods persisted, supported by the political logic of the European Community and the need for DG VIII to maintain its clientèle in Africa, though that clientèle was constantly growing with each successive enlargement… .

14Moreover, the same scenario was repeated some thirty years later, once conditionality measures were included in the Lomé conventions (Lomé IV bis, 1995), then Cotonou (2000). These measures specified the new commitments – including respect for democracy and human rights, and good governance – which the signatories to the convention had to endorse, and envisaged the possibility of sanctions (already applied several times) if those commitments were not respected. Incentives were also envisaged from 1995 onwards, via a new instrument, the governance incentive tranche, which became general in 2007 at the instigation of Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development at that time. The aim of this instrument was to offer a supplementary budget (which could represent up to one third of the amount of the national indicative programme) to reward recipient countries which had embarked on democratic reforms and “good governance”, a concept which has remained relatively vague. In order to measure the true degree of commitment by a country, a “governance profile” was to be drawn up by DG VIII (since renamed DG DEV), according to a set of criteria to be defined. According to one of the officials who played an active part in establishing these criteria:

The idea of such a system was interesting in itself, but was not carried out and translated into practice in line with the original logic. We were asked to construct indicators jointly with local Commission delegations in order to measure a country’s [record on] good governance, its degree of commitment to democratic reforms, and the progress achieved. We set up a classification system: depending on the results, a country could score one, two or three points and the budget would be allocated accordingly. We spent eighteen months working on it. In the end, Louis Michel decided to give all countries the same allocation, except for a few minor differences… .

  • 41 L. Breton, “Le rôle de compromis de la délégation de la Commission européenne en Érythrée”, IEE mas (...)
  • 42 V. Dimier, “Adieu les artistes. Here are the managers : la réforme de la DG Développement, 1997”, S (...)

15It was also Michel, the former Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs and a great ally of the Kabila regime in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who encouraged the Commission delegation in Eritrea to be flexible in dealing with a military government firmly resolved to prevent delegation officials from conducting on-site checks on the implementation of the projects, and to convert Community food aid into money.41 That logic also explains why the gradual establishment of an evaluation system aimed at measuring the effectiveness of development projects and programmes concerning poverty reduction (an objective now enshrined in the treaties) is still decidedly haphazard: if more or less transparent political goals and criteria continue to take precedence over that objective in the distribution of aid and the negotiation of programmes, then it makes no sense to try to measure the results which those programmes achieve according to predetermined criteria concerning poverty reduction.42 Talking about the numerous evaluation reports to be written, one of the officials of the present DG DEVCO (now responsible for all European development aid programmes) eventually concluded:

This bureaucratic persecution is nothing more than a façade used to give the appearance of neutrality. But at the end of the day, the outcome is the same as before: arbitrary decisions on the allocation of aid. We are still giving millions to President Kagamé in Rwanda, who is hardly the most democratic leader in the world, just because he is our friend. 

16A quotation which proves how hard it is for the European institutions to extricate themselves from this system of interdependence with the African elites, which was inherited from colonisation and which has formed the basis of the identity and legitimacy of the European Commission’s development cooperation and aid for more than fifty years … just as it has for other donors.

Notes

1 This article is taken from the book by Véronique Dimier, Recyling Empire: the Invention of a European Development Aid Bureaucracy, Palgrave Macmillan, in publication.

2 René Teissonnière (École coloniale 1945), head of district in Madagascar, 1951-1960, then Agriculture Secretary (to the Malagasy Government), served as Commission delegate from 1966 in Burundi, Congo, Togo, Gabon, Niger, Ivory Coast. Interview, 26 June 2000.

3 Véronique Dimier, Le gouvernement des colonies, regards croisés franco-britanniques, Éditions de Bruxelles, 2004.

4 At national level, see: V. Dimier, “De la décolonisation… à la décentralisation : histoire de préfets coloniaux”, Politix, vol 13, No 53, 2001, pp. 203-226; Marie-Ange Rauch, Le bonheur d’entreprendre : les administrateurs de la France d’outre-mer et la création du ministère des Affaires culturelles, Paris, Ministry of Culture History Committee, 1998.

5 On these negotiations, cf. Gérard Bossuat, Marie-Thérèse Bitsch, L’Europe unie et l’Afrique. De l’idée d’Eurafrique à la convention de Lomé I, Brussels, Bruylant, 2005; R. Schreurs, “Un legs historique : l’Eurafrique dans les négociations du traité de Rome”, Politique Africaine, No 49, 1993, pp. 82-92. Pierre Guillen, “L’avenir de l’Union française dans les négociations du traité de Rome”, Relations Internationales, No 57, 1989, pp. 103-112.

6 Cf. V. Dimier, “Construire l’association : regards croisés euro-africains”, Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps présent, 2005. Special report on Eurafrica, directed by G. Bossuat, pp. 32-38.

7 John Ravenshill, Collective clientelism. The Lomé conventions and North South relations, New York, Columbia University Press, 1985.

8 Appointed to the Commission almost by chance, if we are to believe his own biography; he had previously been chairman of the French West African Société commerciale des ports africains (1941-1958), a former administrator of the Institut d’émission de l’Afrique occidentale and vice-president of the International Chamber of Commerce (1942-1958): Robert Lemaignen, L’Europe au berceau : souvenirs d’un technocrate, Paris, Plon, 1964, p. 25; Catherine Hodeir, Stratégies d’Empire : le grand patronat colonial face à la décolonisation, Paris, Belin, 2003.

9 Trainee administrator in Casamance (1941-1943), by 1945 he had been transferred within the French Overseas Ministry to the Directorate General of Economic Services and the Plan. In 1947, he became head of International Affairs, in 1949 he was France’s delegate to the Overseas Territories Committee of the OEEC, and in 1951 technical adviser to the French Overseas Minister.

10 Émile Fay (École coloniale, 1935). He began his career at the French Overseas Ministry (Directorate General of Economic Services and the Plan, 1946-1948). He then pursued his career as head of the import office in that directorate in 1953, then in Dakar in the Directorate of Planning and Facilities, and finally as the deputy director of Economic Services, 1954-1957.

11 Michel Cellerier (École coloniale 1943; Directorate General of Economic Services and the Plan at the French Overseas Ministry, 1956-1958).

12 Pierre Cros (École coloniale, 1949), was assistant to the “cercle” commander in Niger from 1949 to 1951; he subsequently worked in the Ministry of the Colonies, seconded to the French Parliament, then from 1955 to 1958 as head of the press service of the High Commissioner in Dakar.

13 Interview, André Auclert, (16 May 1999). André Auclert, (École coloniale, 1945) began his career as assistant to the “cercle” commander in West Africa, and later served in the Directorate General of Economic Services and the Plan in French West Africa under the direction of Ferrandi (1953-1957).

14 Jean Chapperon (École coloniale, 1940). In 1942, he began his career with a brief spell as assistant to the “cercle” commander in Guinea, and was then mobilised until 1945; after that he worked for the French Overseas Ministry (Directorate General of Economic Services and the Plan, 1945-1946); in 1946, he was sent back to Guinea to organise the first elections, and then to serve as assistant to the “cercle” commander until 1949; afterwards, he returned to the French Overseas Ministry (Directorate General of Economic Services and the Plan), 1950-1953; he subsequently became chef de cabinet to the secretary general of French West Africa, 1953-1958.

15 Interview, J. Chapperon, 23 June 2000.

16 J. Chapperon, interview cited, regarding himself and Ferrandi.

17 J. Chapperon, ibid.

18 Jean Petit Laurent (École coloniale 1939 ; chef de bureau at the French Overseas Ministry, Directorate General of Economic Services and the Plan, 1953-1958) joined the Commission in 1967, followed in 1970 by Guy Salmon (École coloniale, 1946), local administrator (1948-1962) in Cameroon. Cristofini, a former subaltern in the colonies and Corsica like Ferrandi, also joined him as an assistant in the late 1960s.

19 Interview with Ferrandi, 26 August 1999.On this point cf. Véronique Dimier, “L’institutionnalisation de la Commission européenne (DG Développement) : du rôle des leaders dans la construction d’une administration multinationale, 1958-1975”, Études Internationales, vol 34, No 3, September 2003, pp. 401-428.

20 Official Journal of Laws and Decrees of the French Republic, JO,4 June 1949, p. 5482.

21 The treaty specified that “For investments financed by the Community, participation in tenders and supplies shall be open on equal terms to all natural and legal persons who are nationals of a Member State or of one of the countries and territories”(Art. 132).

22 V. Dimier, “L’institutionnalisation de la Commission européenne … ”, op. cit.

23 On this point, see: V. Dimier, Le gouvernement des colonies, op. cit.

24 Auclert, interview cited.

25 J. Ferrandi, Conference before the European Committee of Engineering Consultants in Brussels, Marchés Tropicaux, 1974, pp. 1055-1056.

26 J. Ferrandi, “L’association : aventure ou nécessité ?” La Revue Nouvelle, 1967, p. 29.

27 Cf. V. Dimier, Recycling Empire, work in publication.

28 V. Dimier, “Du bon usage de la tournée : stratégies de légitimation et propagande au sein de la DG VIII (Développement)”, Pôle Sud, No 15, 2001, pp. 19-32.

29 David Jones, Les élus de l’Europe, London, ODI Publication, 1974.

30 The available figures bear this out; on this point, see Marjorie Lister, The European Community and the Developing World, Aldershot, Avebury, 1988, p. 50; Carol Cosgrove Twitchett, A framework for development : the EEC and ACP, London, Allen and Unwin, 1981. French companies won around 45% of the EDF contracts in the 1960s.

31 Tony Chafer, The end of empire in French West Africa. France’s successful decolonization ?, Berg, Oxford, 2002.

32 M. Lister, The European Community …, op. cit., p. 135.

33 V. Dimier, “The birth of a European diplomatic service: from contrôleurs techniques to the delegates of the Commission in ACP countries”, in: G. Bossuat, A. Deighton, (ed.), The EC/EU: a world security actor?, Soleb, Paris, 2007.

34 Interviews were conducted with the following controllers delegate, former colonial administrators: R. Teissonnière, 26 June 2000; R. Calais, reply to a questionnaire, 27 November 1999; P. Hugot, 26 September 2002; C. Blanchard, 22 January 2000; Aubenas (former colonial magistrate), 18 December 2003; A. Van Haeverbeke (former Belgian colonial administrator), 4 May 2002. It is hard to know exactly how many former Belgian and French colonial administrators were recruited among the delegates. As they were employed under contract and were not officials of the Commission, there is no complete contemporary list of their names and nationalities.

35 Regarding the role and status of these controllers delegate, see: V. Dimier, “Préfets d’Europe, le rôle des délégations de la Commission européenne en Afrique, 1964-2004”, Revue Française d’Administration Publique, No 111, 2004, pp. 433-446.

36 D. Schmidt, in: European Commission, Taking Europe to the World, 50 years of the European Commission’s external service, Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2004, p. 18.

37 They eventually acquired that status in the late 1980s.

38 V. Dimier, “Constructing conditionality: the bureaucratization of EC development aid”, European Affairs Review, No 11, 2006, pp. 263-280.

39 Interview with Bonacci, 14 February 2008.

40 Bonacci interview, 14 February 2008.

41 L. Breton, “Le rôle de compromis de la délégation de la Commission européenne en Érythrée”, IEE master’s thesis, directed by V. Dimier, 2007.

42 V. Dimier, “Adieu les artistes. Here are the managers : la réforme de la DG Développement, 1997”, Sociologie du travail, No 52, 2010, pp. 234-254.

Auteur

Véronique Dimier is a professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles where she teaches international development policies. With a doctorate in political science from Grenoble University, she has previously taught at the Institut Européen d’Administration Publique in Maastricht (IEAP). She is the author of Le gouvernement des colonies : regards croisés franco-britanniques, Presses Universitaires de Bruxelles, 2004, and Recycling Empire: the Invention of a European Development Aid Bureaucracy, Palgrave Macmillan, in publication.

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