German President, Horst Kohler, on Tuesday cautioned heads of government in Africa and Europe against boycotting their meeting scheduled for December in Lisbon, Portugal.
Kohler told journalists in Berlin that the meeting between the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) should hold, despite the clamour against the attendance of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, had on September 20 said he would not attend the summit if Mugabe is present, and urged other leaders to bring more pressure to bear on Harare.
He also advised other EU countries not to attend, due to the economic and humanitarian devastation in Zimbabwe.
But Kohler stressed: "The meeting must take place. I hope that Mugabe is not a major obstacle to a very fruitful and successful meeting between Africans and Europeans in December. I want the meeting to take place.
"I want all heads of government of Africa and Europe to attend the meeting and not to boycott it. This will demonstrate that the Europeans are embarking on an open and fair dialogue with Africa. Talk and dialogue at the end, between Europe and Africa, is the way forward and not boycott."
He said Germany has received the EU’s framework for Africa’s development, but noted that there is need for Europe to reconsider some elements of its own African concept.
"In this context, I very much hope that the meeting in Portugal will bring some major steps forward, particular to have a view about migration, because I still feel that there is not yet a clear understanding what it means for Africans to come to Europe as refugees or people who just want to escape hunger and trouble."
Kohler asked the EU and other industrialised nations to move from the existing trade regime with Africa to a more open and transparent trading system.
"What I know is that we need to have a better trade regime. We need to move from the existing trade regime to a more open trade regime. Relatively difficult question is how to deal with the existing preferences that are hanging within the new trade regime because there is a time of transition to move to open trade regime in Europe or the United States."
On the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Europe and Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, Kohler called for caution by the parties involved in order not to jettison the pact, which is expected to be signed before the end of December this year.
He reiterated the commitment of Germany to support Africa towards the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
However, Deputy Chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU) of the German Parliament, Christian Ruck, described Mugabe as a dictator who has ruined his country and the people.