By Reinhard Jacobsen
BRUSSELS (ACP-IDN) – As negotiators inch towards updating the most comprehensive but 20-year old partnership agreement between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, they have a broad array of issues on their plate.
These include the name change to the ‘Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACP)’, ensuring the consistency of participation in parliamentary assemblies, establishment of the ACP Information Centre for South-South and Triangular Cooperation, and enhancing ACP’s financial stability.
The current Cotonou Partnership Agreement, signed in the capital city of Benin in June 2000 between the EU and the ACP involving relations with 79 countries, including 48 from Sub-Saharan Africa, covers one in five people in the world. It will expire in February 2020.
“As the world has changed considerably since the Cotonou Agreement first came into force, it needs to be modernized accordingly,” building on the lessons of 43 years of cooperation – which began with the June 1975 Georgetown Agreement and was once amended in 2003, said ACP Secretary General Patrick I Gomes.
“The future agreement can bring unprecedented opportunities including growth and job creation, human development, peace and a better way of dealing with security issues, climate change and migration,” he added.
With this in view, negotiations for a new treaty kicked off in New York on September 28, 2018, and are expected to reach a critical state by the end of the year.
According to the EU, the future agreement is expected to cover priority areas such as: democracy and human rights, economic growth and investment, climate change, poverty eradication, peace and security, and migration and mobility.
The ACP Secretary General was addressing the 52nd session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly on November 30 in Cotonou, “a sparkling jewel in the treasures of the ACP Group” – ahead of the 36th Session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly from December 3-5.
Gomes said, the intention is to make ACP “an effective global player” serving as a catalyst and an advocate for defending, protecting and advancing multilateralism, within the overarching framework of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This is to be done by revising the Georgetown Agreement. The revised document would be “the Constitutive Act of a new ACP Group, for itself and of itself, with a distinct identity as an inter-governmental and trans-regional, international organisation defending the rights of all its peoples and States, at global, continental, regional, sub-regional and national levels. So it was proposed by the COA that the ACP be called the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACP).”
Another issue on the plate is ensuring the consistency of participation in parliamentary assemblies. An impact assessment study of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly (PA) and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), which is near completion, has made the following observations:
Since elections to parliaments in ACP countries are held at different times of the year, parliamentarians from those countries attending the PA and the JPA tend to change much more often than those from the European Parliament, which holds elections every five years. As a result, there is an asymmetry of parliamentary experience between the ACP and EU legislators.
The assessment further found a lack of empirical data and detailed annual reports listing matters considered, follow-ups, outcomes and impacts of the PA and the JPA. There is therefore the need to consider commissioning annual and periodic reports highlighting the work, outcomes and achievements of the PA and JPA.
The impact assessment further found that the JPA is a consultative and advisory body under the Cotonou Agreement without any formal decision-making powers. There is therefore a need to enhance the oversight role of the PA in the context of the revised Georgetown Agreement, as well as lending a strong parliamentary dimension of the new Post Cotonou Agreement with a preservation of the JPA structure.
This, according to authors of the assessment, is consistent with the ACP negotiating mandate for the new ACP-EU Agreement, which has called for an enhanced engagement of political dialogue through the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
The ACP Secretary General further pointed out that the Secretariat continues to follow a strategy of embedding a vision for the ACP Group of States to be a global player and address geopolitical changes of the 21st century, with great scope for deepening South-South cooperation and advancing regionalization.
These aspects are being in part addressed through the on-going work on the Revision of the Georgetown Agreement, and by the institutional architecture enabling the establishment of the ACP Information Centre for South-South and Triangular Cooperation, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. This, he said, would be a strong demonstration of the commitment to be engaged by a permanent presence of the ACP in a member state.
President Teodoro Obiang NGUEMA of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea officially inaugurated the Centre on October 5, 2018. In his opening statement, he underlined that:
There is an increasing recognition of the role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation for the ACP Group, and that the Centre will help promote face to face encounters for trade and business promotion amongst ACP countries and other countries of the South;
Equatorial Guinea will continue its engagement to promote South-South and Triangular Cooperation; and
The launch of the ACP Centre took place during the celebrations of the 50th Independence Anniversary of Equatorial Guinea.
The launching of the ACP Centre was an important political event for the ACP Group of States especially by marking a tangible milestone in the promotion and implementation of South-south and Triangular Cooperation, noted Gomes.
Referring to another important issue, the ACP Secretary General also emphasised the need for the financial sustainability of the ACP Group, noting that the financial situation of the ACP Secretariat continues to be of great concern, because its ability to execute the statutory functions of the organs of the ACP Group is adversely affected.
A number of ACP Member States are yet to meet their annual financial contributions to the 2018 budget, despite the steps taken by the Secretariat in terms of follow-up letters and/or bilateral meetings, he said.
The Secretariat continues to appeal to the ACP Parliamentarians to use their oversight role in reminding their respective Governments to meet their financial obligations to the ACP Group of States.
On the other hand, the Committee of Ambassadors is continuing with the work of establishing the Endowment and Trust Fund (ETF), which will need the support of ACP Parliaments, particularly with respect to resource mobilization.
Closely related to this is the need to ensure that adequate financial resources are earmarked for the ACP to implement the new Agreement being negotiated. This will only be possible if the present EU Budget for 2021-2027 can have an allocation designated for ACP.
EU counterparts must be persuaded to challenge the current proposals that speak of funds for the five Neighbourhood (i.e. the North African) countries and in general, for Development and International cooperation.
Funds are proposed for thematic programmes (human rights, justice, climate change and gender equality, for example) and the bulk are geographic, in which sub-Saharan Africa is mentioned, so too are the Americas, in which the Caribbean will be placed and Asia can find a place for the Pacific Islands. “This is a clear fragmentation and reducing the allocation of resources to hand-outs in a pick and choose manner when the language of the Agreement is about partnership and playing a global role together.”
The EU Parliament has advocated that the EDF be within the EU Budget for accountability and oversight by the elected representatives of the people. But at the same time the European parliamentarian Norbert Neuser, as rapporteur of the report of the Budget Committee, called for ring-fencing the funds for external action of the EU.
“If there will be no EDF, a predictable, long-term, co-managed allocation, has to be available as an integral part of the new agreement,” noted the ACP Secretary General referring to an issue of grave concern. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 December 2018]
Photo: The 35th plenary session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels from June18-20, 2018, in the presence of MEPs and their counterparts from the national parliaments of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Credit: multimedia.europarl.europa.eu
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