ACP-EU: The Cotonou deal must be reinforced and safeguarded

Written by Cécile Kashetu Kyenge on 27 October 2016 in Opinion

The Cotonou agreement is an essential tool in promoting common values with our ACP partners and protecting human rights, says Cécile Kashetu Kyenge.

Cécile Kashetu Kyenge | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

EU-ACP relations are at a turning point. In February 2020, the Cotonou agreement, concluded in 2000, will come to an end. What will be next for this unique partnership? 

According to the deal itself, official negotiations on a new agreement will start by the end of August 2018. 

However, the stakes are so high that informal talks have already begun, and in October 2015, the European Commission launched a public consultation to assess this cooperation.


The Cotonou agreement states that the ACP-EU partnership is "centred on poverty reduction, coherence with sustainable development goals and the progressive integration of ACP countries into the world economy". 

Three pillars contribute to the realisation of this mission: political dialogue, trade relations and development cooperation. These pillars are supported by three institutions: the council of Ministers, the committee of ambassadors and the joint parliamentary assembly.

The first exchanges on the post-Cotonou era have revealed a willingness to develop the partnership in a world that has changed a lot in 20 years, with new challenges such as climate change, and the growing influence of emerging countries.

This year, the Commission carried out an assessment of the implementation of the Cotonou agreement, which has turned out to be very balanced and has made good progress on eradicating poverty, but with mixed results in terms of essential elements.

The future of the partnership presents three options. Will we revise the current partnership, but maintain the current ACP framework? Will we establish three separate agreements for Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific?

Or will we establish an umbrella deal with the ACP countries, based on common rules and values, and integrate three specific partnerships that take into account the specificities of each region?

To date, this third option seems to be gathering the most consensus, although it remains to be seen how legally binding such an agreement would be. A joint communication will be published in November to lay out the groundwork for the negotiations.

As a Vice-Chair of the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly, I would like to underline the unique character of this partnership and its importance as a discussion platform. It presents a great opportunity for parliamentarians to exchange best practices. We could improve its functioning by further integrating opposition parties and civil society. 

The Cotonou agreement has only given the assembly advisory power. For it to really be able to listen to citizens and have a concrete impact, any future agreement must grant the assembly the right to issue certain binding opinions.

Its function as a guardian and watchdog of the implementation of the agreement and of the sustainable development goals must also be reinforced.

Additionally, it is essential to maintain political dialogue: a pillar that is unique to the deal and guarantees the respect of common values. It is an essential lever to ensure democracy and human rights.

We must safeguard this in the future deal, and improve its implementation, so that we can use this tool ahead of a potential crisis.


About the author

Cécile Kashetu Kyenge (S&D, IT) is a Vice-Chair of Parliament's delegation to the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly

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