By Reinhard Jacobsen
BRUSSELS (ACP-IDN) – 2019 will be a crucial year for relations between the European Union (EU) and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) – uniting more than half of all UN member countries and representing over 1.5 billion people.
The current partnership, governed by the Cotonou agreement, is one of the longest-standing and most comprehensive framework for cooperation between the EU and developing countries. The current agreement expires in 2020. Therefore, the new agreement needs to be both finalised and approved by then.
To mark the opening of the first round of political negotiations in New York on September 28, 2018, in the margins of United Nations General Assembly, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said:
“The partnership between the EU and the countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, is an asset for the EU and multilateralism at large. The revision of the existing agreement is a great opportunity to further deepen the partnership and modernise it in response to global developments such as the UN 2030 Agenda or the Paris Agreement on climate change.”
In turn, Professor Robert Dussey, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo and Chief negotiator for the ACP Group of States, recalled that “the connection between the ACP Group and the EU was established in 1975 in first Article of the Georgetown Agreement, the Constitutive Act of the ACP Group”.
He underlined that “the ACP-EU partnership is a valuable and unique achievement that has strengthened bonds between ACP and EU peoples and countries throughout the last 45 years of its existence.” The opening of the negotiations, he added, “heralds the continuity of trust and confidence cherished by parties to this Partnership.”
The European Commission said in a press release: “The partnership seeks closer political cooperation on the world stage to tackle major global challenges, aiming to be a shining example of multilateralism as the cornerstone of a rule-based world order.”
In concrete terms, this will notably mean working jointly towards the Sustainable Development Goals. It will also guide the partnership countries’ joint efforts to address pressing challenges such as climate change, migration and peace and security.
“To have the intended impact, the future partnership will adapt to the new realities in the European Union, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, taking into account geographical specificities,” the press release said, adding: “The future partnership will aim at facilitating strong alliance-building in global forums and address key issues from which current and future generations alike can benefit.”
While political negotiations on a new ACP-EU Partnership were launched in New York, the renewal process started in the course of summer 2018 – with “the ambition” to transform today’s partnership into a modern political framework geared to deliver on.
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.
Knowledgeable sources confirmed that 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.
The two chief negotiators met at the ACP House in Brussels on December 14 to take stock of the progress achieved and discuss next steps. The first series of talks were reported to have led to broad convergence on the structure of the future agreement and the strategic priorities.
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 December 12, 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.”
Briefing the media on the outcome of the meeting of the ACP-EU Negotiators, ACP Chief Negotiator Professor Dussey and European Commission Director-General Stefano Manservisi, “confirmed good progress made by the Parties on the Structure of the New ACP-EU Agreement which will be a legally binding Treaty of at least 20 years duration.”
They also indicated that informal mapping of issues for Regional Protocols in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific as integral to the New Agreement, could begin already in February 2019.
The next meeting of the Chief Negotiators to review progress is slated for March 2019.
The two sides affirmed that 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, knowledgeable sources said.
Photo (left to right): Ms. D. Walsweer-Sore, ACP Secretariat; Stefano Manservisi, European Commission’s Director-General; Professor Robert Dussey, ACP Chief Negotiator; Rimnick Pato, Foreign Minister of Papua New Guinea.
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