Current Status of the ACP/EU Post Cotonou Negotiations
By Elizabeth Morgan
You will recall from previous articles that the negotiations between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU), the 27 members, for a successor agreement to the ACP/EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) formally commenced on 28 September 2018. Technical negotiations commenced in October 2018. For the EU, the Chief Negotiator is the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and for the ACP, it is the Hon. Robert Dussey, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of Togo. Minister Dussey chairs the ACP Central Negotiating Group (CNG). Recall that these negotiations, addressing political, economic and social issues, are to conclude by July 2019.
At the 108th ACP Council of Ministers’ Meeting in Brussels in December 2018, it is reported that the ACP CNG agreed to the EU’s proposal to negotiate separate regional protocols or compacts. The structure of the Post Cotonou Agreement will thus be a general foundation agreement covering common principles and values and three separate regional agreements with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific covering priority issues for these regions. The EU is already clear on its priorities in these negotiations.
The Chief Negotiators meet periodically for stocktaking. Their first meeting was in December 2018 to coincide with the ACP Council Meeting. The Chiefs met again recently in Chad on April 4 following a meeting of the ACP CNG.
The technical negotiations resumed in January 2019 looking at the content of the general foundation agreement. As reported, technical negotiations on issues such as development support have not yet started.
As part of the negotiating process and in the interest of transparency and inclusiveness, ACP Non-State Actors (representatives from civil society groups) met in Brussels, March 7-8. This provided a briefing for these representatives on the negotiations and issues, and enabled an exchange of views. For the Caribbean, in preparation, regional Non-State Actors met through the convening of a meeting of the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Consultative Committee in St. Lucia in December 2018. This is an established Committee of civil society representatives. The issue here is whether Caribbean Non-State Actors are fully conversant with the issues to be active and effective participants.
The Parliamentarians are another group with interest in the post Cotonou negotiations. The 37th session of the ACP/EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) was held in Bucharest, Romania, March 18-20, and gave the Parliamentarians a further opportunity to be briefed and to exchange views on the negotiations. Again, at the regional level, this meeting was preceded by the 17th Caribbean Regional JPA Meeting held in Suriname, 28th February to 2nd March. Jamaica’s representative to the JPA is Member of Parliament, the Hon. Zavia Mayne.
Consultations, prior to negotiations, at the regional level have now commenced.
I noted that an ACP Intra-Regional High Level Consultation on Comparative Regionalism was convened in Barbados, March 26-27. The theme was “Revisiting the Georgetown Agreement: Comparative Region Building in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific”. The presentations should have been quite interesting. I do wonder what the post Cotonou regional agreements will mean for the future of the ACP as a group and for the Georgetown Agreement which established the ACP.
The regional consultations with the EU actually commenced in the Pacific with the convening of a High Level Dialogue on the Post Cotonou Negotiations which was held in Apia, Samoa, February 25-26. Similar high level dialogues with Africa and the Caribbean are to be convened.
In fact, I understand that the Caribbean (CARIFORUM) High Level Consultations are to be held in Jamaica, April 14-15. At the regional level, the lead negotiators for CARIFORUM will be Guyana and Jamaica. Key issues for CARIFORUM should be environment and climate change; economic and environmental resilience; human and social development, and peace and security. Work is continuing to fine-tune the CARIFORUM negotiating positions.
While this subject may seem arcane, it is necessary for us in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean to be aware of these negotiations and the structure and content of the agreements which will govern ACP and Caribbean, including Jamaica’s, relations with the EU for possibly the next 20 years, all things remaining the same.
Submitted by Elizabeth Morgan, Specialist in International Trade Policy and International Politics.