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Wednesday, 06 September 2017

Europe ponders future relations with its former colonies

Cotonou still has a role, but as a partnership without development conditionalities or colonial culpability. The Lomé Convention of 1975 that created the ACP concept – the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States – was essentially a bridge built by the European Union (EU) for the former colonies of its member states to carry them over uncertain waters into their post-colonial future. Apart from a lot of development aid, Lomé gave them duty-free and quota-free access for most of their exports into the EU, in the hope of engendering viable industries and so integrating the countries into the global economy. But when Lomé expired in 2000, little of that had been achieved. The Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) succeeded Lomé, replacing its non-reciprocal trade access with gradually phased-in reciprocal free trade deals – Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) – between the EU and regional groupings of ACP countries, to be concluded by 2007. Among other changes, Cotonou – attributing many of the failures of ACP countries to bad governance – introduced a formal political dialogue. This included sanctions for ACP states that violated agreed values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Cotonou is due to expire in 2020 and the EU has just evaluated its achievements and begun charting the third, post-Cotonou, phase of its broad relationship with the 79 ACP countries.The EU assessment presents a mixed picture, with Brussels, perhaps not surprisingly, giving itself a higher mark than its ACP partners for implementing Cotonou. It notes significant progress on poverty eradication and human development and on integrating the ACP countries into the global economy. Evidence of this, it says, includes the relative increase in trade flows to and from the ACP countries, and the ‘finally’ increasing number of EPAs concluded. The growing number of ACP countries that are members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the group’s increasing role in international trade negotiations are also proof, it says. Though no EPAs made the initial 2007 deadline, seven are operating or have recently been concluded, including five in Africa. Of the 79 ACP countries, 49 are now in an EPA. In terms of trade flows, ACP integration into global markets has been greater than intra-regional integration for most ACP regions and for the group as a whole, the EU says. For Sub-Saharan Africa, however, the share of intra-regional trade has increased from 16% of total trade in 2000 to 24% in 2014. Overall ACP-EU trade more than doubled under Cotonou, to 5% of total EU exports and 5.4% of EU imports, up respectively from 1.5% and 1.8% in 2000. However the EU also says the CPA ‘has not achieved the expected results in increasing diversification and reducing commodity-dependency’, though it adds that the EPAs might eventually do that. On another critical goal, the EU believes it has ‘contributed significantly, through the implementation of the CPA, to the eradication of poverty, and the improvement of food security and social protection for the most vulnerable communities in ACP countries’. Evidence of this, it says, is that the share of people in ACP countries living in extreme poverty (defined as US$1.25 a day or less) decreased from 56% to 46% between 1990 and 2011. But the EU also says that while relative poverty has dropped, absolute poverty has significantly increased, from 277 million people in 1990 to 390 million in 2002 and to almost 404 million in 2011, due to population growth – mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. The EU also grumbles that the ACP countries have not done well enough in upholding the agreed values of good governance, democracy, human rights and the rule of law (though it says its sanctions have helped), nor on increasing cooperation with the EU in international forums or curbing illegal migration to Europe, among other complaints.