OACPS/EU Post-Cotonou Negotiations: Still moving towards conclusion


By Elizabeth Morgan

I gave an update on the OACPS/EU post-Cotonou negotiations in October in my article titled “Trade updates: CARICOM/USA, WTO, and Post-Cotonou Negotiations.  With the negotiating timeline extended, the negotiations have been ongoing and reports indicated that the intention is still to conclude before the end of this year. As a reminder, the European Union’s (EU’s) focus continues to be on Africa. The EU-Africa Summit, at which the new EU/Africa Strategy was to be unveiled, as you may recall, was postponed to 2021.  The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josef Borrell, also wants 2021 to be the year of Africa. The new post-Cotonou Agreement, if concluded, will be signed possibly in the spring of 2021. The signing ceremony was scheduled to be held in Samoa.

The OACPS/EU negotiators have been focused on the outstanding issues, the one (1) percent on which agreement is needed for conclusion of the negotiations.  As I had indicated, outstanding items mainly concern observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all and migration and mobility. In September, the EU issued its new internal Pact on Migration and Asylum, which, among other things, deals with returning illegal migrants. This is a very divisive issue within the EU. African countries are concerned about provisions in the Pact and, as expected, this has affected the post-Cotonou negotiations and the Africa/EU Strategy.

I learnt that the Council of Ministers of the Caribbean (OACPS) Forum (CARIFORUM) met virtually on November 10 and a main item on the agenda was the post-Cotonou negotiations. As is customary, I couldn’t find a notification for the convening of this meeting, which was chaired by the Hon. Albert Ramdin, Foreign Minister of Suriname, the current chair of CARIFORUM, nor could I find a press release giving an indication of the outcome of the meeting. It seems that the Ministers reviewed the draft agreement text and considered the outstanding issues to provide instructions to the negotiators.

As the negotiations continue, it now seems that the lead negotiators, EU International Partnerships Commissioner, Jutta Urpilainen, and OCPS’ Minister Robert Dussey of Togo, are expected to meet before the end of November to further assess progress. I noted also that on the matter of development cooperation, the EU Council Chair (Germany) made progress with the EU Parliament in approving its new long-term budget for 2021-2027 (the multiannual financial framework). With COVID-19, these days, development cooperation takes on added importance.

The draft Agreement

As the negotiators are moving into what could be the wrap-up phase, I want to give you an idea of what is covered in the new post Cotonou agreement. It will have a structure similar to that of the existing 2000 Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA), which I am sure most of you have never seen.

The new agreement will start with a preamble describing shared objectives and referencing important events, then outline general provisions and strategic priorities, and will address the more substantive matters under the following headings:

  • FOUNDATION (overarching) Section: Human Rights, Democracy and Governance in People-Centred and Rights Based Societies; Peace and Security; Human and Social Development; Inclusive Sustainable Economic Growth and Development; Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change; Migration and Mobility; Global Alliances and International Cooperation; Development and Means of Cooperation; Institutional Framework; Final Provisions
  • REGIONAL PROTOCOLS: Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific

The Caribbean Protocol will outline a framework for cooperation, the actors and processes which includes institutional structures, countries/territories, stakeholders, and key areas of cooperation, such as inclusive sustainable economic growth and development, environmental sustainability, climate change, sustainable management of natural resources, human rights, peace and security, and migration and mobility.

So, this is the structure and content of the post-Cotonou agreement which will govern the relationship between the OACPS and the EU for possibly the next 20 years.

These negotiations must be concluded soon as the CPA now expires on December 31. If the post-Cotonou agreement is concluded, it may well have to be further extended to allow for the completion of the legal work and formalities required prior to signing.

Submitted by Elizabeth Morgan, Specialist in International Trade Policy and International Politics (Also see me on Facebook)

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