What is the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries?
The Cotonou Partnership Agreement is the legal framework governing the relations between the EU and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). It is one of the oldest and most comprehensive frameworks of cooperation between the EU and third countries. Signed in 2000 and due to expire on 29 February 2020, the Agreement unites more than one hundred countries (EU member states + 79 ACP countries) and represents over 1.5 billion people stretched over four continents.
The EU-ACP partnership focuses on the eradication of poverty and inclusive sustainable development for ACP and EU countries. It is divided into three key action areas: development cooperation, political dialogue and trade.
Why does it need to be modernised and why is this important?
The world has changed considerably since the Cotonou Agreement was adopted almost two decades ago in 2000. Global and regional contexts (in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific) have evolved significantly - and so have the common global challenges and opportunities to be grasped. Thus, the core objectives of the partnership have to be reviewed to adapt to the new realities. The EU is therefore seeking a comprehensive political agreement, setting a modern agenda framed by the internationally agreed sustainable development roadmaps (the UN 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well as the Paris Agreement, the New EU Consensus on Development, the Global Strategy on EU Foreign and Security Policy, etc.). The coming months will be crucial, as the EU is about to enter a new era in its relationship with ACP countries. The negotiations will pave the way for new dynamics and cooperation going beyond the traditional development dimension.
What are the potential benefits? What change will a new era of EU-ACP relations bring for people?
Building on the lessons learned during four decades of cooperation and having assessed the challenges and possibilities in the new context, the future agreement can bring new opportunities. By setting up a powerful political alliance, the EU and its partners will be in a position to develop solutions to the challenges faced in each region. These include growth and job creation, human development and peace, migration and security issues. Many of today's challenges of a global dimension require a concerted, multilateral approach, in order to achieve tangible results. A good example was the successful coalition we set up in 2015 that ultimately led to the conclusion of the Paris Agreement on climate change. This shows that the ACP-EU partnership has the power to lead responses to global challenges. If we join forces, we can form a majority worldwide, as the EU and ACP countries represent more than half of the seats at the United Nations. Together, we can make a difference and set a global agenda in international forums.
Under the negotiating directives, the EU's strategic priorities include:
-Speeding up progress towards meeting the goals of UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and eradicating poverty in all its dimensions;
-Moving inclusive, sustainable and economic development forward;
-Building stronger states and societies (through peace, security, justice and fighting against terrorism);
-Supporting private sector development and enhancing regional integration;
-Promoting and upholding human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and good governance;
-Managing mobility and migration issues;
-Supporting the transition to low greenhouse gas emissions and developing climate resilient economies;
-Ensuring environmental sustainability and sustainable management of natural resources.
How do EU and ACP countries intend to achieve these objectives?
Through a new structure better adapted to each region's needs.
The proposed new structure consists of a combination of:
-A common foundation agreement (containing values & principles common to the EU and Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, and the overarching objectives) at EU-ACP level;
-Three strengthened regional partnerships (EU-Africa, EU-Caribbean, EU-Pacific), in the form of specific protocols. These three strong, action-oriented pillars will enable the relevant actors to participate in the negotiation, governance and implementation of the future partnership while respecting the subsidiarity principle.
These three “regions” will manage the flexible regional partnerships themselves, providing for a greater role for the relevant regional organisations in the establishment and management of the future regional partnerships.
Our new partnership can act as a powerful tool to strengthen our relations with the countries as a group, as well as with each “region” (namely Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific), and to focus on key tailored priorities. This will also allow for the further development of our "continent-to-continent" relationship with Africa.
What are the specific priorities proposed towards the African region?
The priorities proposed by the European Union for the EU Africa partnership are to focus on achieving peace and stability, managing migration and mobility, consolidating democracy and good governance, unleashing economic opportunities, reaching human development standards, and addressing climate change. The proposal is fully in line with the outcome of the African Union-European Union Summit held in November 2017 in Abidjan.
What is the link between the future ACP-EU Partnership and the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs announced by President Juncker?
The new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs aims to bring our continents closer together by promoting a substantial increase in private investment from both Europeans and Africans, helping improve the business environment, boosting trade and job creation, while supporting education and skills that will benefit European and African people alike.
It will therefore contribute to the economic agenda of the African regional pillar of the future ACP-EU Partnership.
Increasing investment in Africa, especially in strategic sectors where the European Union has a value added, is among the EU's key priorities. The new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs is not a stand-alone initiative. It is part of the wider set of strategic frameworks and a crucial element to deliver on the AU-EU Abidjan Summit Declaration.
What are the specific priorities proposed for the Caribbean region?
The key areas of cooperation for the regional partnership with the Caribbean include addressing climate change, vulnerability, citizen security, good governance, human rights, human development and social cohesion. In the same way, fostering inclusive growth, deepening regional integration and ocean governance as well as reducing natural disasters effects are also high on the agenda.
What are the specific priorities proposed for the 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 maritime security, sustainable management of natural resources, good governance, human rights, especially gender equality, and inclusive sustainable growth.
Will regional organisations have a role in the post-Cotonou partnership?
The growth of regional bodies has been a significant trend since the 1990s. Across the ACP countries, numerous regional organisations have emerged. Some have become key actors in international relations. The African Union, the Pacific Islands Forum and Cariforum especially have strengthened their respective roles, as have sub-regional organisations in Africa, including ECOWAS and SADC. The EU and the ACP countries will continue to rely on a multi-level system of governance that allows taking action at the most appropriate level (national, regional, continental or ACP), in line with the principles of subsidiarity and complementarity.
Will the civil society and private sector have a role in the agreement?
The EU values structured dialogue and is in favour of a multi-stakeholder approach that includes the private sector, civil society, and local authorities. These partners should be able to work in an enabling environment and have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to national, regional and global decision making.
The Agreement should include a provision establishing that third parties that subscribe to the values and principles underpinning the Agreement and have an added value in fostering the specific objectives and priorities of the Partnership may be granted observer status.
What will change in terms of funding?
Discussions on the financial implications will be held at a later stage, given that the EU financial instruments are currently under negotiation as part of the European discussions on the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027. In this context, the EU has proposed a new single instrument for external action, superseding a number of existing external financing instruments. This also includes the European Development Fund (EDF) that currently provides support to African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
What if the Cotonou Agreement expires before negotiations are concluded?
Parties have agreed on transitional measures to extend, without any change, the application of the Cotonou Agreement until December 2020. These measures will ensure the legal and political continuity of the ACP-EU Partnership. This is in line with the validity of the 11th EDF, which also expires in December 2020.
How long will the new agreement last?
The future EU-ACP partnership would be concluded for an initial period of 20 years. Three years before its expiry, a process should be initiated to re-examine what provisions should govern future relations. Unless a decision on terminating or extending the agreement is taken by the Parties, the agreement will be tacitly renewed for a maximum period of 5 years, until new provisions or adaptations have been agreed upon by all Parties. The agreement should also include a “rendez-vous” clause for a comprehensive revision of the strategic priorities, after the expiration of the UN 2030 Agenda.
Will Brexit affect the post-Cotonou agreement?
The EU will soon open talks over the future relationship with the UK, thus we can't predict if and how ACP-EU relations would be impacted at this stage.
For more information
The EU negotiating directives are available here.