EU and ACP countries conclude first round of negotiations to modernise their relations
The two chief negotiators met on Friday, 14 December 2018 in Brussels to take stock of the progress achieved and discuss next steps.
The first series of talks between the EU and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) led to broad convergence on the structure of the future agreement and the strategic priorities.
On Friday, at the ACP house in Brussels, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “We welcome the progress made so far. There is still a great deal of work ahead, given our ambitions and the scope of what we want to achieve together. We are looking forward to stepping up the pace to embark on a new path with the negotiation of tailor-made EU-Africa, EU-Caribbean and EU-Pacific pillars early next year.”
The ACP Council of Ministers met on Wednesday, 12 December 2018 to take stock of the negotiation process. The Ministers appreciated the substantive progress made in the talks and observed that the coming stage in the process is demanding and would require flexibility and convergence from both sides.
The ACP Chief Negotiator and Chair of the Ministerial Central Negotiating Group who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Africa integration of Togo Professor Robert Dussey, said: “I take pride in the achievements recorded in a short span of time since the start of the negotiations. The positive spirit exhibited by the two sides is greatly encouraging and extremely useful in reaching a meaningful outcome in the next round.”
As of January, talks will intensify. The second round of technical negotiations is expected to take place over a three-month period. Throughout that time, EU and ACP countries will start drafting the agreement around agreed priorities.
The Cotonou Agreement currently governing EU-ACP relations is due to expire in 2020. Political negotiations on a new ACP-EU Partnership were launched in New York on 28 September, although the renewal process started in the course of summer 2018.
Since mid-October, the technical work, organised in five specific sessions, mainly focused on the so-called common foundation at EU-ACP level. This contains the values and principles that bring the EU and ACP countries together. It also indicates the strategic priority areas that the two sides intend to prospectively work on together.
In the future agreement, on top of the foundation there will be three action-oriented regional pillars to focus on each region’s specific needs. Through the future partnership, EU and ACP countries will seek closer political cooperation on the world stage. Together, they represent more than half of all UN member countries and unite over 1.5 billion people.
Declaration of the Co-Presidents on Post-Cotonou Negotiations on the occasion of the meeting of the 36th Joint Parliamentary Assembly
The Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) welcome the adoption of the negotiating directives by the EU and the negotiating mandate of the ACP Parties, and the launch of negotiations intended to conclude a successor Agreement to the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement.
The Co-Presidents draw attention to the resolution adopted at the 35th session of the JPA on a strong parliamentary dimension, and to the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 14 June 2018 on Negotiations for a new ACP-EU Partnership Agreement. The Co-Presidents echo the desire expressed by both negotiating parties in their respective mandates to conclude a successor Agreement at ACP-EU level, recognising the desire of the ACP Group of States to maintain its deep and unique partnership.
An ambitious and comprehensive Agreement is needed between the two parties to reflect the new geopolitical reality and tackle common challenges including climate change, poverty, terrorism, migration, illicit financial flows and achieving the SDGs. Globalisation can only be effectively harnessed and regulated at multilateral level, in which the ACP and EU can emerge as a powerful joint force.
The Co-Presidents reiterate that the new institutional and financial architecture must reflect these ambitions that continue to be based on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In addition to the regional pillars, the common foundation must remain a strong element of the Partnership, with regular meetings at all levels to monitor the implementation of the Partnership Agreement and build momentum for ACP-EU cooperation at the global level.
The post-2020 Partnership must be one of equal partners and better serve the needs of its citizens in ACP countries and the EU. In this regard, the Co-Presidents emphasise that a strong parliamentary dimension is essential for democratic legitimacy. This must include an autonomous Joint Parliamentary Assembly, meeting independently of the ACP-EU Council meetings, in order to assess the impact of the Agreement, hold the executives to account and provide a genuinely pluralistic parliamentary forum for citizen representation. Adequate resources are needed in order to support the Partnership including JPA at secretariat level.
Democratic legitimacy goes beyond parliamentary representation, and requires a formalised participation of non-state actors as provided for in the current Cotonou Agreement.