Leaders of European and African countries hold their first summit for seven years in Lisbon today, amid calls from campaigners for a tougher line on human rights, and immediate help for the Darfur region of Sudan. The agenda calls for the world’s largest trading bloc and its poorest continent to revitalise trade ties, and improve cooperation over immigration and peace-keeping.
Europe has been accused of a blase attitude towards Africa, but growing Chinese influence on the continent has prompted this summit.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates is hosting the meeting. “I want you to know that my country is very honoured to hold such an historical and important summit, and I want very much to thank you for your presence. During these days, Lisbon will be the most African of European cities.”
Britain’s Gordon Brown stayed away because of the attendance of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, reviled by many for his record on human rights. However, many African leaders said they wouldn’t attend if Mugabe was not invited.