Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Eizabeth Morgan | The ongoing ACP/EU post-Cotonou negotiations

Published:Wednesday | March 4, 2020 | 12:13 AM
H.E. Georges Rebelo Chikoti of Angola
H.E. Georges Rebelo Chikoti of Angola

I last dealt substantively with the post-Cotonou Negotiations of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group and the European Union (EU) when the 26th Council of Ministers’ Meeting of the Caribbean ACP Forum (CARIFORUM) was held in St Vincent and the Grenadines on January 17.

Milestones

Since then, the United Kingdom (UK) left the EU and is now starting trade negotiations to determine its future relationship with the EU27. The UK is in a transition period up to December 31. The Gambia assumed the chair of the ACP Council/Committee of Ambassadors from February to July. H.E. Georges Rebelo Chikoti of Angola assumed the post of ACP Secretary General on March 1, replacing Guyana’s Dr Patrick Gomes.

Cpa extension

The Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) would have expired on February 29, but the ACP and EU agreed to extend it to December or until the new post-Cotonou agreement is concluded and signed.

Post-cotonou chief negotiators met

The ACP and EU chief negotiators, Minister Robert Dussey of Togo and EU International Partnership Commissioner, Jutta Urpilainen, had their first formal meeting on February 14 in Brussels.

An EU press release on this meeting gave a positive assessment. Minister Dussey described it as cordial and productive with discussions being frank and direct. He said that both chiefs noted the significant progress made in the negotiations on the common foundation and the regional protocols. Commissioner Urpilainen spoke of her commitment to accelerating the talks to reach a final conclusion as soon as possible.

It was further reported that substantial progress was made on the regional protocols. In the following weeks, the ACP and EU negotiators in Brussels would be working to achieve consensus on texts. It seems negotiators would need to conclude their negotiations before the 111th ACP Council of Ministers’ Meeting scheduled to be held in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April/May. A joint ACP/EU Council Meeting is usually held as well.

Some sticky issues remaining

EU/AU Relations – Note that 10 commissioners were in the EU delegation attending the EU/African Union (AU) Commissions Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 27. The aim was given as further advancing EU-AU cooperation and having consultations on the EU’s comprehensive Africa strategy. This strategy will be presented at the EU-AU Ministerial Meeting in Rwanda in May and the EU/AU Summit in October in Brussels.

The post-Cotonou regional protocol now being negotiated is between ACP Africa and the EU. I assume that there is a link between this regional protocol and the EU’s Africa strategy. Recall that for the post-Cotonou negotiations, the EU’s original preference was a regional agreement with the AU. This was opposed by ACP African leaders.

Development cooperation – the post-Cotonou negotiations on development cooperation cannot be concluded, I don’t think, without the EU Council agreeing on its new budget for 2021-2027. Agreement has not been reached so far and this does not seem likely before the summer.

Migration – This is a very sensitive issue between the EU and Africa primarily. I believe, however, that CARIFORUM would also want to know whether all its members could have visa – free access to the EU market especially with their comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

CARIFORUM/EU relations

For me, it is a myth that the UK was consistently a champion of Commonwealth ACP countries in the EU. The UK, indeed, was the traditional trading partner and gateway into continental Europe.

CARIFORUM members must now reset their partnership with the EU27 as I have previously stated. As in the Pacific, there is concern about the partnership and particularly the EU’s unilateral blacklisting of some countries as tax havens. This blacklisting was addressed at the recent 31st Intersessional Meeting of CARICOM heads.

Acp development to note

The ACP/EU Technical Centre for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation, established in 1983 and based in the Netherlands, will be closing in December. The EU will no longer fund it. As a result, the ACP is seeking a new source of financing. The ACP endowment fund is needed.

Eizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com