ACP/EU post-Cotonou negotiations — an update

BY Elizabeth Morgan

Thursday, May 30, 2019

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The 109th Council of Ministers' Meeting of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the 44th Joint Council of Ministers' Meeting with the European Union (EU) were held last week (May 21-24) in Brussels, Belgium. These meetings were convened during a week in which the European parliamentary elections were in progress in all 28 EU member states and focus returned to Brexit culminating in the resignation of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May.

The Caribbean's lead negotiators, Carl Greenidge, foreign secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana, and Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade of Jamaica, attended.

The meetings, as customary, covered a range of issues, including the further revision of the Georgetown Agreement addressing the future of the African (sub-Saharan), Caribbean and Pacific (ACP), personnel matters at the ACP Secretariat, the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), tax blacklisting, Brexit, and, importantly, the ACP/EU post-Cotonou negotiations.

Post-Cotonou Negotiations

The ACP chief negotiator and chair of its Central Negotiating Group (CNG) Togolese Minister Robert Dussey reported to the ACP Council on the status of the negotiations. He informed members that the negotiations were progressing steadily. The three regional consultations in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific were held identifying priorities for the regional negotiations. Work has continued on the ACP/EU foundation agreement now known as “the common foundation” which sets out common principles and values. Work will be continuing on institutional arrangements. Dussey further informed that the negotiators are aiming to make maximum progress on the text by the end of July.

On a parallel track, it appears that work has been progressing on the regional protocols. You will recall that the structure of the post-Cotonou agreement will be the common foundation and three regional protocols with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The ACP Secretary General Dr Patrick Gomes, in his opening remarks, stated that the timetable for substantial progress in the negotiations warrants that the momentum be maintained and some strategic priorities be accelerated. He advised the council, however, that, despite substantial progress, realism has forced the parties to recognise that by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) end date of February 29, 2020, a new negotiated text would not be ready for signature by the ACP and EU member states. Thus, in accordance with CPA Article 95, transitional measures would be put in place by the ACP and EU jointly to cover the period until the new post-Cotonou agreement enters into force. The transitional decision would be drafted during the joint council meeting.

It now appears that realism has also led both parties to recognise that the negotiations cannot be concluded by July as originally proposed and would now extend possibly to October.

The president of the ACP Council Tjekero Tweya, minister of industrialization, trade and SME development of Namibia, in his remarks, pointed out that the post-Cotonou negotiations coincided with the EU's internal budgetary cycle and the revision of the its development cooperation financing instruments which will apply to the post-Cotonou arrangements. For Minister Tweya, these combined processes pose challenges as well as opportunities for the ACP.

Recall that the EU, in its post-Cotonou budget, that is the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), has proposed eliminating the European Development Fund (EDF) from which the ACP has been funded. Papua New Guinea's Minister Richard Maru, a negotiator for the Pacific, on development financing, expressed the view that the post-Cotonou agreement should be allocated specific funding. ACP/EU discussions on post-Cotonou development financing has not yet started.

The ACP and EU chief negotiators, Minister Dussey and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica, took the opportunity of the council meetings to have their own meeting to review progress in the negotiations. They are next scheduled to meet in July.

Change of leadership

As previously stated, the European parliamentary elections will result in a change in the political leadership of the EU. The ACP will also be having leadership changes in 2020 when the five-year term of Secretary General Gomes ends. This means that the search for a new secretary general, who will come from Southern Africa, will commence later in 2019.

Venue for the post-Cotonou signing ceremony

At the end of the ACP Council Meeting it was announced that Samoa in the Pacific region will host the signing ceremony for the completed and approved post-Cotonou agreement at a date to be determined in 2020.

Other issues

In concluding, I read an interesting paper entitled 'The new ACP/EU Partnership after 2020', which informed that the regional protocols will be administered by the regional organisations. This raises a question about the state of regional integration in the Caribbean and the status as a regional organisation of the Caribbean ACP Forum (CARIFORUM). The overarching formal regional organisation in the Caribbean is the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and neither the Dominican Republic, nor Cuba, are members. So, can CARIFORUM in its present form continue as the regional administering body for the post-Cotonou Caribbean Protocol?

The paper also proposes observer status in the post-Cotonou arrangements for other bodies, which share similar values and give value-added to specific objectives. Given the EU's recently published foreign policy on Latin America and the Caribbean, does this mean that the Latin American and Caribbean Community (CELAC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Organization of American States (OAS) as well as other hemispheric and international bodies could be observers?

The general assessment of progress in the post-Cotonou negotiations has been quite positive. There are, however, still some important issues to be addressed. With the EU elections over, we have to see the political alliances in the new EU Parliament and the political leadership which emerges as well as the political and economic state of affairs in EU member states. I do not think we can as yet declare that all is smooth sailing in these negotiations.

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade and politics. Send comments to the Observer or elizabethmorganstliz@gmail.com.

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