Legal research can solve developing countries' problems – University of Copenhagen

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01 October 2012

Legal research can solve developing countries' problems

Research in the legal aspects of the relationship between the EU and the developing countries will now have an increased focus at the University of Copenhagen. The European Commission has just awarded law professor Morten Broberg at the University of Copenhagen, the prestigious Jean Monnet Chair.

For African producers, the EU is a very attractive market. Nevertheless, the assortment of African goods on the shelves of supermarkets in the EU is limited – many developing country manufacturers must in fact give up in their efforts to enter the market.

A major reason is that the European regulation makes it excessively difficult to meet the requirements to sell on the European market. This is one of the issues, which concerns law professor at the University of Copenhagen, Morten Broberg, and which he believes can be changed.

"Current development studies have had limited focus on the legal aspects, but from a legal point of view, solutions can be found, which would not have been spotted with a traditional sociological or political science research angle", says professor of international development law, Morten Broberg.

"A significant obstacle to the growth of the developing countries is the strict rules that the EU, the Member States, and for example private supermarket chains require to be met. When we talk about regulation of trade between the developing countries and the EU, the problems are often very different from what most people tend to think", explains Morten Broberg.

It is widely believed that the main obstacle to the developing countries' access to the European market is some excessively high customs barriers. But in fact, the EU has made it possible for the least developed countries to get duty-free access to the EU for all products - except for arms. In other words, the barriers are located in a completely different place. Where barriers are in fact located, and how they can be broken down, are among the tasks, which Morten Broberg will engage in as part of the new Jean Monnet Chair he has just been awarded by the European Commission.

The legal aspects of the relations between the EU and the developing countries are a relatively unexplored field of research and with strengthening of this research in mind, the professor has received the European Commission's prestigious Jean Monnet Chair. An honour, which the Faculty of Law is very proud of:

"At the Faculty we are extremely pleased to have received a Jean Monnet Chair. This is a sign of the international strength of the Faculty and the jurisprudence’s continued importance to the development of Europe", says Henrik Dam, Dean of the Faculty of Law.

Better regulation for the developing countries
With his research Morten Broberg hopes to make legislators in the EU and the Member States aware of how EU legislation obstructs trade with the developing countries, and how it may be possible to break down the barriers in relation to e.g. imports of foods from these countries.

For example, many farmers in the developing countries today produce food products that are 100% organic - simply because they cannot afford sprays and fertilizers. But if the produce are to be sold as organic in the European Union, they must meet the EU organic regulation that has been designed in a manner, which for a large part of developing countries' farmers makes it impossible to be recognised as organic. The consequence is that they are prevented from selling their goods in the EU as organic - but instead they must sell them at the lower price which applies to conventional foods.

"The point here is that it is actually possible to establish a system that is less burdensome for farmers in the developing countries, without actually compromising the need to ensure that there is no cheating with the EU organic labelling", says Morten Broberg.

The research will ultimately create a better understanding of the legal regulation affecting relations between the EU and the developing countries and thereby providing the Member States and the EU institutions with a better basis for future regulation within this area.

"The European Union’s Treaty-basis contains a requirement stating that in connection with implementation of new regulation the Union must take due account of the consequences for the developing countries. So far, this requirement has received an unmotherly treatment, and there has been little or no attempt to clarify the consequences. But if the EU legislators become more aware of the requirement and therefore increasingly start to meet it, we can expect that future regulation will increasingly take into account the consequences in the developing countries - without this having a negative impact on EU citizens ", says Morten Broberg.

Contact
Professor Morten Broberg
Tel. (+45) 35 32 31 96
Email: Morten.Broberg@jur.ku.dk