Brussels Expert Meeting: Rhetoric and Reality. HSG reporting from Brussels, 06-12-2011
To Brussels, for an “expert” meeting on EU-Haiti Relations with our European co-ordinating group, CoEH. It’s a high-profile gathering hosted by two MEPs, with two EU Commission Caribbean chiefs, a Haiti Desk Officer and, most crucially, a former Haitian Agriculture Minister, Gerald Mathurin, who now heads CROSE, a major peasant farmer’s umbrella group based in Jacmel, Haiti. The three EU officials make all the right empathetic noises about on-the-ground experience and EU commitment to Haiti, but Mathurin turns such statements on their head, saying such assertions just demonstate they have no excuse and must confront the reality of their own theory and practice. John Caloghirou, the head of the Caribbean Division of the EEAS, is the target of a polite but forceful challenge by Mathurin, who asks why the EU is not speaking out publicly with the same pro-poor, people-centric development/aid vision as he hears being articulated here, semi-privately. Not for the first time, a real, on-the-ground Haitian vision succeeds in exposing the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality in Brussels. Exposing, then closing that gap, remains HSG’s prime objective as we enter a crucial year in determining the future of EU policy and practice in Haiti.