Since 2000, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement has been the legal framework for the EU’s relations with the 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). The relationship focuses on the eradication of poverty, sustainable development, and the gradual integration of the ACP countries in the world economy. It seeks to strengthen peace, security and democracy. The Agreement entered into force in April 2003 and has been revised in 2005 and 2010, in accordance with the revision clause to re-examine the Agreement every five years. In 2010, ACP-EU cooperation was revised to be adapted to new challenges, such as climate change, food security, regional integration, state fragility, and aid effectiveness.
The EU-ACP Cotonou Agreement will come to an end in 2020, and its provisions foresee the opening of negotiations by August 2018 at latest, so as to agree on how to govern relations after. The European Commission’s recommendation aims at focusing on common interests, going beyond the sole aim of development policy.
Why do we need such a partnership and what are the potential benefits?
A renewed partnership will help to reaffirm and build on the unique and longstanding relationship between the EU, its Members States and the ACP countries. It will update the joint priorities in key areas, taking into account global challenges today. Many of today’s challenges of a global dimension require a concerted, multilateral approach, in order to achieve tangible results in areas such as economic growth, jobs creation and investment, climate change, poverty eradication, peace and security, and migration.
The alliance with the 79 countries of the ACP Group, representing together more than half of the UN membership, provides a strategic platform to build further alliances and promote wider interests. It can help to achieve high impact in several areas requiring urgent attention and intervention, such as – but not exclusively – climate change and sustainable ocean governance.
For example, the ACP-EU partnership was instrumental for the formation and steering of the High Ambition Coalition, which ultimately led to the conclusion of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change in 2015.
In which sense should the EU-ACP partnership be modernised?
Since the Cotonou Partnership Agreement was launched almost two decades ago, global and regional contexts have evolved significantly – and so have the challenges to be addressed and the opportunities to be grasped. Therefore, the main objectives of the partnership have to be reviewed, taking into account today’s EU external priorities and the internationally agreed framework for sustainable development. The aim is focus on a partnership of equals, based on common interests and going beyond the sole aim of development policy.
The Commission proposes that the future partnership with the ACP countries builds on the strengths of our long-standing cooperation, while building on a more regionally tailored approach. Its Recommendation therefore proposes to have one single agreement, articulated into a common foundation with the ACP countries and three regional compacts.
The common foundation agreement should focus on common principles and the overarching objectives of our cooperation, including at international level.
The three regional compacts, with tailored priorities and specific governance mechanisms, will guide the effective operationalisation of the new agreement and become the centre of gravity for political dialogue and action.
With the modernisation of the EU-ACP partnership into a foundation agreement and three regional compacts, the institutional set-up, processes of governance and decision-making, will have to be streamlined and simplified accordingly.
What are the priorities proposed towards the African region?
The priorities proposed by the European Commission for the EU Africa Compact are to focus on achieving peace and stability, consolidating democracy and good governance, unleashing economic opportunities, reaching human development standards, managing migration and mobility as well as addressing climate change. The proposal is fully in line with the outcome of the recent AU-EU Summit. It seeks as well to strengthen the ‘One Africa approach’ and foresees a strong involvement of North African countries, this with full respect for the existing bilateral association agreements of the EU with the North African countries.
What are the priorities proposed for the Caribbean region?
The European Commission sees a number of key areas of cooperation for the regional Compact with the Caribbean, addressing climate change, vulnerability, citizen security, good governance, human rights, human development and social cohesion. Deepening regional integration, fostering inclusive sustainable growth, trade and job creation, fighting inequalities and reducing natural disasters effects are also high on the agenda.
What are the priorities proposed for the EU-Pacific region?
The large number of island nations and their huge maritime territories make the Pacific countries an important player for the EU in tackling global challenges, particularly with respect to their vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change. Other priorities should focus on good governance, human rights and inclusive sustainable growth.
Will regional organisations have a role in the post-2020 partnership?
The growth of regional bodies has been a significant trend since the 1990s. Across the ACP countries, numerous regional organisations have emerged and some have become key actors in international relations, with the African Union, the Pacific Islands Forum and Cariforum especially strengthening their respective role, as well as sub-regional organisations in Africa including amongst others ECOWAS and SADC. This should be reflected in decision-making and institutional setup of the partnership.
Against this background, it is important to recall that the partnership between the EU and the ACP countries should rely on a multi-level system of governance that allows taking actions at the most appropriate level (national, regional, continental or ACP), in line with the principles of subsidiarity and complementarity. Along these lines, it shall be about identifying which common interests are best addressed and at which level.
Will non-state actors have a role in the agreement?
Structured dialogue and a multi-stakeholder approach that includes non-state actors – private sector, civil society, and local authorities – shall be key elements of a future agreement. These partners should also be able to work in an enabling environment and it should be ensured that they can make a meaningful contribution to national, regional and global decision making.
What are the next steps following this recommendation by the European Commission?
The adoption of this Recommendation is an important milestone towards a new Partnership Agreement after 2020 and will be sent to the Council that will take a Decision on the authorisation to open negotiations and the negotiating directives. The Council decision should fall within the first semester of 2018, in line with the Cotonou Agreement, which foresees the opening of negotiations by August 2018 at latest.