By Reinhard Jacobsen
BRUSSELS (ACP-IDN) – As talks progress on future relations between 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union in the aftermath of historic Cotonou Agreement due to expire in February 2020, Secretary-General Dr. Patrick Ignatius Gomes has spelt out vital tasks ahead.
The significance of milestones marking the coming six to nine months is underlined by the fact that the future ACP-EU partnership will span more than half of United Nations member countries and over 1.5 billion people, serving to further cement the close political ties between the two groups of countries on the world stage.
Negotiations on a new ACP-EU Partnership were launched in New York on September 28, 2018 in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. The initial rounds of talks mainly focused on the “common foundation” at EU-ACP level., which sets out the values and principles that bring the two groups together and indicates the strategic priority areas that both sides intend to work on together.
In addition, the future agreement is planned to include specific, action-oriented regional pillars focusing on each region’s needs. The first round of consultations on the regional pillars has meanwhile concluded.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development and EU’s Chief Negotiator, Neven Mimica, said on May 23: “The agreement is taking shape. It is time to step up our efforts and speed up our progress to deliver as expected. Today’s discussions on the regional partnerships bring us a step closer to this new and stronger cooperation we are aiming for.”
Togo’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Africa integration, also ACP Chief Negotiator and Chair of the Ministerial Central Negotiating Group, Robert Dussey, said: “We look forward to concluding an Agreement which is focused on the current and future needs of our Member countries.”
Following are excerpts from ACP Secretary-General Dr Gomes’ welcome remarks at the 109th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers on May 21 at the ACP headquarters in Brussels, in which he highlighted the need for serious commitment “if we are to craft a future that will be meaningful and enriching for the livelihoods of the millions of ordinary people, across the space of three continents occupied by our 79 Member-States”.
The Council’s agenda addressed matters such as, The Revised Georgetown Agreement which forms the constitutional basis of ACP’s unique identity, explicitly and ambitiously embedding the principles and objectives to give life to the unity and solidarity by which the Group is and must be known both in theory and in practice.
“This gathering of the 109th Session of the Council must truly mark the turning of a new page in the history of the A C & P!!!! – and set the trajectory for a higher level in how our decision-making is deliberate, informed, financially sound, adequately resourced and resolved for the most efficient and effective implementation,” Dr Gomes said.
“Such a path is logically linked to the endorsement that is required by Council to set in motion the Legal and administrative procedures for the next 5-year term of office of the Secretary-General and senior management of the ACP Group of States,” he added.
“While the Council only sets the spark to light the process and invites the comprehensive search for suitable candidates, it is left up to the Secretariat and the Southern African region to enable a transparent, inclusive, open and deep reflection for the new leadership as of March 1, 2020.”
Dr. Gomes continued:
This brings to mind some thoughts on “generations of leadership” by C L R James, the great Caribbean historian and philosopher. According to James, “each generation of leaders has the duty and responsibility to stand on the shoulders of the preceding generation and to see farther, be stronger and carry the current generation to new vistas and “rendez-vous” of victory.”
In considering the Agenda that will serve ACP countries’ session with the European Union, adequate preparation on the encouraging progress in negotiations for a post-Cotonou Agreement was presented to Council by the ACP’s Chief Negotiator and Chairman of the Ministerial Central Negotiating Group (CNG-M), Professor Robert Dussey, Minister of Foreign Affairs & African Integration of the Togolese Republic.
“Tough issues on governance, migration and civil society will prove demanding of shrewd negotiating skills, underpinned by principle and core values for which the ACP will remain uncompromising. The form and cultural context in which they become constructs of social reality will no doubt be shaped by historical experiences in our and their societies,” Dr Gomes said.
The time-table of substantial progress warrants that the momentum of the negotiations be maintained and some strategic priorities accelerated., he added, and “publicly” advised the Council that “commendable contributions have been provided to these negotiations by our staff, with exceptional service, far beyond the call of duty. We have to be justly proud and let due praise be given to those so deserving”.
The ACP Secretary-General further pointed out despite substantial progress, realism forces us to recognize that by the terminal date of the Cotonou Agreement of February 29, 2020, a negotiated text will not be ready to be signed jointly by the 79 ACP member states and those of the EU.
“This requires, in keeping with the Cotonou Partnership, the adoption of a Decision on transitional measures until the new agreement enters into force. The content of the proposed Decision will be the subject of deliberations by this Session of our Council and a similar Decision in the ACP-EU Council,” Dr Gomes said.
Also, the President of the 109th session of ACP Council, Tjekero Tweya, Minister of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development of the Republic of Namibia, who was tasked with chairing the Joint ACP-EU Council of Ministers session on May 23-24, 2019 made some notable remarks.
Tweya said: “We look forward to strengthening and deepening our partnership with Europe when we conclude the on-going negotiations of the new Partnership to replace the Cotonou Agreement.
“However, there is no doubt in our minds that we need to rely primarily on our own efforts and strengths, if we are to achieve the desired level of social and economic development to meet with the expectations of our populations.
“Closer cooperation among ourselves and with our partners is vital for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to which we committed ourselves along with other members of the United Nations in September 2015.”
In this regard, he underlined the urgency of mobilising adequate resources and financing to ensure the sustainable development “to which all our peoples aspire”:
The urgency for mobilising resources for human capital development and capacity building particularly for the youth and young people, as well as women;
The urgency for prioritising funds for the promotion of programmes in support of youth entrepreneurship, together with vocational skills training, higher education, research, science and technology and ICTs;
The urgency for the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to our countries on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms; and
The urgency to deal with the adverse effects of climate change, witnessed in most of our predominantly vulnerable regions, through floods, drought, hurricanes, sea-level rise and coastal erosion. [IDN-InDepthNews – 23 May 2019]
Photo: ACP Secretary General Dr. Patrick Gomes (left) and Tjekero Tweya Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development of the Republic of Namibia and President of the ACP Council of Ministers) (right). Credit: ACP
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