Post-Cotonou period is decisive for EU-Africa relations

Written by Louis Michel on 21 November 2018 in Opinion

Talks on the future of the Cotonou Agreement are a unique chance to become genuine political partners with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, says Louis Michel



The Cotonou Agreement, signed on 23 June 2000, which governs relationships between countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), was revised in 2005 and 2010.

It currently unites the 28 European Union Member States and 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. It is due to expire in February 2020.

This agreement simultaneously brings together development co-operation, trade and political dialogue.

As the building blocks in this historic agreement, not only must these elements be preserved but also broadened and modernised ambitiously in any legally-binding future agreement.


Negotiations on the future of the agreement were officially launched on 28 September 2018.

We really cannot afford to miss this unique opportunity, one that finally helps us to become genuine political partners.

 Partners, whose futures would be inextricably linked for the better, equipped to deal with new economic, environmental, industrial, migratory, ethical and political challenges.

I am talking about real policies that promote gender equality, a legal human migration policy and the consolidation of the sovereign States, whose authority and legitimacy should no longer be brought into question arbitrarily.

"The legitimacy of the democratic system calls for stronger parliaments - be they national, regional or global"

The legitimacy of the democratic system calls for stronger parliaments - be they national, regional or global. Parliaments are the manifestation of the people’s will and the guarantors of their freedom.

As a pillar of democracy, they are expected to genuinely meet the people’s needs and reflect their wishes.

This is exactly why we need to preserve and strengthen the parliamentary function, its scope for scrutiny, consultation and discussion. However, we must also encourage cooperation between parliaments.

Exchanging best practices and experiences in these fora is essential. I understand the proposal for a pillar structure overseen by an umbrella organisation.

 However, I cannot help but think that this would risk hemming our relationships - with Africa in particular - into a straitjacket that is far too tight.

The EU-Africa strategy has already proven its worth and has established solid and honest political dialogue in key areas such as security, migration and sustainable development.

Nevertheless, I am one of those that believes that the creation of a large free-trade area covering both continents - Africa and Europe – one that observes current bilateral association agreements, would be an effective response to the uncertainties damaging the morale of Africans and Europeans alike.

Bringing greater prosperity, it would give African and European youths unprecedented economic and democratic opportunities to thrive.

It would mean that the sustainable development goals (SDG) adopted by the UN, are more easily attained. Above all, this is the only solution to help overcome the difficulties we encounter in managing migratory phenomena.

I fail to see a better way to uphold the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration initiated by António Guterres Secretary- General of the United Nations.

It puts the people at the centre of concern, strengthening the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.

Such a vision for the future of the Post-Cotonou agreement would finally strip sordid populists of all their cynical arguments and deadly rhetoric.

This is why, the Post-Cotonou period is decisive for the future of both our continents.

If we want to eradicate poverty, to see peace, stability and good governance (both political and economic) while upholding the rule of law, we need a strong and binding political agreement between partners that are equal in terms of their rights and their duties.

It is our job to focus on the longer term, by laying foundations for a legal and institutional framework that is adapted to tomorrow’s realities.

About the author

Louis Michel (ALDE, BE) is chair of Parliament’s delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

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