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Thursday, 24 March 2016

EU and ACP Cotonou Agreement post-2020: Opinions mixed, but potential recognised

The Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and ACP states has made a positive contribution to poverty reduction, and human and social development in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. This is according to a recently published (21 March) summary report based on the results of a four month long public consultation on the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) after 2020. Sustainable and inclusive economic growth, particularly in relation to the private sector, were not reported to have been as successful under the CPA. The report states that “respondents have mostly critical opinion of the effectiveness of the CPA, particularly with regard to private sector development and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), migration, the democratic governance related mechanisms and the generation of EU-ACP alliances on global challenges.” On the same day that the report was made public, the ACP Eminent Persons Group – which has been mandated by the ACP countries to deliver a proposal for an ACP position on the future of the ACP group – also presented its own draft final report to an extraordinary session of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels.

The role of agriculture in the context of ACP-EU cooperation received some strong responses. Among these were very encouraging views on the support provided by the CPA for agricultural development and trade in ACP countries, largely through the European Development Fund (EDF). The result has been “increased crop productivity and access to water for low-income rural populations, agricultural research and extension services, and engagement with low-income rural populations.” A smaller number of critics argued that the CPA had failed to achieve effective agricultural diversification or increased levels of exports from ACP countries.  Four broad trends concerning the future of the ACP and EU’s relationship were also reported, based on the replies to the public consultation. The first is that the legally binding nature of the CPA has been critical to its implementation. Secondly, it is felt that greater recognition should be given to regional and continental partnerships (African Union, Regional Economic Communities). The adaptation of the CPA to help achieve objectives related to global public goods (SDGs, COP21) was the third trend. Lastly, the role of civil society and the private sector in the future ACP-EU relationship would have to be increased.

The public consultation, which took place between October and December 2015, was based on a joint consultation paper titled ‘Towards a new partnership between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries After 2020’ by the European External Action Services (EEAS) and European Commission (Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development). In addition to setting out the major issues that the consultation seeks to address in light of the expiration of the CPA in 2020, the joint paper also explains that the results of the consultation will form a major component of the analysis and evaluation of the current Agreement, and of policy proposals for the future relationship. According to the summary report, a total of 103 contributions were made to the consultation with respondents from ACP and EU countries and representing associations, civil society, the private sector, companies, international or public bodies, think tanks, as well as individual citizens. Two Commission Staff Working Papers related to the issues raised in the consultation (ACP and EU cooperation post-2020, and EU development cooperation on social and environmental issues) will published before the summer. Additionally, the Commission will also submit a proposal to the Council with recommendations on the position to be taken in relation to the anticipated negotiations with ACP countries on a post-2020 cooperation partnership.

Source: CTA Brussels Office