Cotonou Partnership Agreement
 ACP-EU Relations in a Changing World


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Cotonou Partnership Agreement: what role in a changing world?

In a rapidly changing world the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement (2000-2020) faces steep challenges. When Cotonou was signed in 2000 it represented a huge step forward in ACP-EU and international North-South relations. Cotonou was setting an ambitious and innovative agenda in terms of political dialogue, non-state actors participation, trade and development and performance based aid management. In several of these areas major progress has been realised, in others Cotonou was not yet able to live up to the high expectations.

In recent years some fundamental changes in the EU and the ACP cast a cloud upon the Cotonou Partnership and its future.

This ECDPM policy management report aims to stimulate a constructive debate on the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the future orientation of ACP-EU relations. It is based on the outcomes of a multi-stakeholder seminar organised by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) on 18-19 December 2006 on the occasion of its 20th Anniversary, and on recent ongoing debates and independent reflections in both the EU and the ACP.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Weekly updates on the EPA negotiations

Now that the pace of the EPA negotiations has increased in all ACP regions, ECDPM has set up dedicated pages on the discussions in each ACP region on the acp-eu-trade.org web site.

These pages will be updated on a weekly basis and provide breaking news 'as-it-happens.'

See also feeds from euforic members:

  • acp-eu news from ACP countries [subscribe to email updates]

  • acp-eu trade news [subscribe to email updates]

  • news on acp-eu cooperation [subscribe to email updates]

  • africa-eu cooperation [subscribe to email updates]

  • caribbean-eu cooperation [subscribe to email updates]

  • pacific-eu cooperation [subscribe to email updates]

  • news from acp secretariat

  • news from cta

  • news from ecdpm

  • Check out discussions in the eu-africa joint strategy consultation [subscribe to email updates]

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    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    ACP face difficulties in placing fishery products on the EU market

    Trade in fish and fishery products constitutes a vital source of income for a large number of ACP countries, especially some smaller countries – e.g. Seychelles, Namibia, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire – for which fish makes up the bulk of their export products.

    The fisheries sector shows strong potential for the sustainable development of local fishing communities. Fish is also a highly political commodity. Because European consumers' demand for fish exceeds the stocks available in the waters of the European Union (EU), the EU needs to negotiate access to third countries' stocks. As these third countries are often ACP countries, for which the fisheries sector is of major importance, stakes in the fishing trade are high.

    However, the fisheries policy of the European Commission is not consistent with its aim of development cooperation. The Evert Vermeer Foundation and CONCORD are monitoring these inconsistencies under their "EU Coherence Programme". A recent case study on this subject exposed a number of manifest inconsistencies in this area, and has been presented submitted to the European Parliament at an expert meeting.

    Fishery products originating from ACP countries have to comply to two sets of standards before they can enter the EU market: these are the "rules of origin", and a set of "sanitary and phyto-sanitary" (SPS) standards. These standards and regulations have led to a number of manifest inconsistencies in the practice of processing and exporting fish and fishery products from the ACP to the European market. For example, the rules of origin require ACP countries to buy and support their own fleets, but they do not have the means to do it.

    The sanitary measures introduced by the EU to protect European consumers also act as non-tariff trade barriers, putting considerable constraints on market access for ACP exporters. For example, for one year Seychelles were not allowed to export their swordfish catches to the EU. As a consequence, a large number of fishermen and small and medium-sized businesses in the Seychelles either went out of business or had to change to fishing for species that were less valuable and less suitable for export to the EU.

    Another inconsistent aspect is the difference in approach between EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) negotiations and the established fisheries agreements. Both should aim for a more regional approach, as the ecosystem does fit neatly inside national borders. Both arrangements should focus on the link between market access and resource access. Sustaining ACP fisheries while at the same time maintaining the current level of access for EU vessels to ACP waters is simply impossible.

    To summarise: if ACP fishermen cannot export their catches, or have no fish left to catch, because of EU vessels fishing in their waters, market access for ACP fisheries becomes a non-issue. The interests of the millions of people who depend on the industry should be taken into account, and sudden shocks to economies and livelihoods should be avoided as far as possible. Capacity-building for local fisheries should be reinforced, partly in order to help them reach EU standards.

    Field experts and NGOs advocate that the rules of origin should be applied with more flexibility where needed, in order to benefit processing industries in developing countries.

    More information: http://www.eucoherence.org

    Source: CONCORD Flash, May 2007

    See the Euforic Fisheries Dossier

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    Monday, April 02, 2007

    EPAs: much work remains to be done to accommodate ACP concerns

    Among the recent key meetings on EPA negotiations were the Joint Trade Committee Meeting (JTCM) on 1 March where the conclusions from the EPA review carried out in ACP sub-regions were discussed. This meeting was followed by the informal EU Development Ministers meeting on 13-14 March hosted by the German EU Presidency.

    Both meetings resulted in EU/EC statements affirming that progress is being made and "that much work remains to be done" but that negotiations are on schedule.

    However, from the ACP side, things seem to be less clear and from informal debriefings, it appears that much remains to be done to accommodate ACP concerns. There is appreciation of the fact that the EC and in particular Commissioners Mandelson and Michel have finally understood that their "dismissive tone" towards their ACP counterparts is little but provocative and can certainly not be understood as a confidence building approach. Recognition by Commissioner Mandelson about failing to listen to the ACP comes late, but it is hoped that such change will lead to the necessary sincere engagement and accommodation of ACP concerns. This "change of tune" only proves that the EU Council's political supervision is urgently needed to ensure that the EPA negotiations are in line with principles enshrined in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, rather than DG Trade negotiation practices.

    Source: EU NEWS - Issue 2, March 2007 (APRODEV, CIDSE, Caritas Europa).

    See also Euforic dossier on ACP trade.

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    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Agriculture and Development in the EPA Negotiations

    The Swedish Board of Agriculture has recently released a report on the trade and development aspects of the EPA negotiations on agriculture.

    The study sheds light on various issues related to the EPA regions' and the EU's export and import interests in the agro-food sector. The main purpose is to offer a comprehensive overview - and create some basic understanding - of the actors' positions in the ongoing EPA negotiations on agriculture. In this context, both the EPA-EU trade, as well as the EPA intra-regional trade, are studied in order to identify leading products and countries, as well as sensitive sectors, with regard to exports and imports. The overall ambition is that this study may be useful as a relevant background and reference material for the EPA negotiations in the agro-food area.

    Download the full report: http://www.sjv.se/webdav/files/SJV/trycksaker/Pdf_rapporter/ra06_32E.pdf

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    Scripting the future ACP-EU partnership

    Maastricht, 20 December. Participants in the ECDPM Seminar on the Cotonou Partnership Agreement yesterday concluded their reflections with a panel discussion on the future of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA). The Panel comprised João Gomes Cravinho, Portugal's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, John Shinkaiye, Chief of Staff in the Bureau of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Karl Falkenberg, Deputy Director General of the European Commission's DG Trade, Mr. Andrew Bradley, Assistant Secretary General of the ACP Group, and Mr. Rob de Vos, Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    The panelists reflected on discussions in the previous session in which participants expressed cautious optimism on progress achieved by the CPA, but also expressed their worries and concerns regarding the ongoing negotiations on EU-ACP Economic Partnership Agreements and a perceptible 'ownership deficit' on the ACP side.

    Panelists were positive regarding the overall niche and added value of the Cotonou Partnership: Gomes Cravinho lauded the improving political dialogue between the partners, also with regional entities – and called for it to focus on more ‘politically substantive issues’ rather than the more technical discussions that currently dominate. Shinkaiye argued, from an Africa perspective, that the Agreement provides a valuable overall framework within which Africa and Europe can dialogue and cooperate at a continental level – it has helped make Africa-Europe relations “warm, cordial, and growing.” De Vos, from a Dutch perspective, was really optimistic about recent improvements in EU aid (including via the CPA) and called on the EU and ACP partners to ‘cherish’ the special relationship offered by the CPA.

    However, as several panelists mentioned, there is much still to do. The ACP’s Bradley listed some challenges to be overcome – full implementation of the CPA, enhanced ACP ownership, avoiding unilateral actions in the partnership, and increased attention to the effectiveness of the cooperation. He also suggested that both sides need to look more strategically at how the ACP can more globally support the EU’s role as a global player, in other international forums for example. De Vos, while positive on improvements in the EU’s aid – higher disbursement rates, following the Paris aid effectiveness agenda, direct support for civil society in the South – also drew attention to some continuing challenges: the lack of progress in the ACP-EU trade discussion, too much disbursement perhaps at the cost of quality, insufficient on the ground coordination with other donors, a lack of interest by Brussels in the innovations of others, and the precise added value and niche of the CPA.

    Several speakers drew attention to the emergence of new issues and new actors posing challenges to the ACP-EU partnership. Bradley emphasized the change process that the ACP will go through in 2007, revisiting its original charter, more clearly defining the ACP niche, and strengthening the partnership. Shinkaiye called for increased consistency and enhanced dialogue between the AU, representing Africa, and ACP-related processes on the continent. Citing the EPA negotiations with different African regions, he cautioned that these need to mesh with the AU’s intention to enhance integration across the continent. De Vos suggested that the CPA avoid competing with the many other special initiatives in development and, for instance, avoid overburdening its agenda by concentrating on some critical issues, like governance, where it offers a unique added value.

    Following the earlier sessions, the future of the ongoing EPA negotiations was a major discussion point among the panelists and in the subsequent open discussion where one participant felt the EPA’s were a potential source of “serious divisiveness.” Responding to calls for both sides to retreat from fixed ideas, the Commission’s Falkenberg called for more ‘out of the box’ thinking to find ways forward. He argued that the EPAs are part of the wider-ACP-EU discussions and respond to the need to create opportunities for economic activity, by helping to build ‘regional’ markets in the ACP and by opening markets among the regions and the EU. It could be concluded that the EPA’s are initially designed to support sub-regional cooperation in the ACP countries, and then free trade between the regions and Europe.

    The unanswered question to the conference was whether this developmental focus of the EPAs - on building markets and economic activities in ACP regions - is an implicit recognition that the development pillars of the CPA have failed.

    Agreeing the script?

    Throughout the second day, participants called on a Hollywood metaphor to help explain some of the differences of opinion.

    Reflecting to participant comments on the EPA process, Karl Falkenberg wondered if he and the others were watching the same ACP-EU movie as he did not recognize all the scenes. Later, John Shinkaiye also asked what ACP-EU movie we were watching – he thought perhaps we were watching the same movie, but that each of the participants had a different script. He called for everyone to use the same script. De Vos commented that even when the same script is used by all the actors, different viewers often ‘see’ different films.

    Deciding just what kind of movie the ACP, EU, and other actors want to produce is clearly a continuing challenge.

    The sponsors are not sure just what they and the audiences actually want; we can call on more, and more diverse, actors - we have to deal with more crowd-scenes; script-writing is much more complicated and less centralized than in the past; and even film distribution is complicated by changing technologies, evolving viewing habits, and audiences with more choice than ever before.

    Perhaps one of the most valuable parts of the conference was the recognition that film-making itself is changing. Yes, we still have Hollywood blockbusters with big budgets, a renowned director, an all-star cast, numerous support actors, brilliant special effects, and a single script. We also have emerging film industries in many developing countries where local directors and producers are challenging the movie majors and attracting their own script-writers and actors. And on the Internet, sites like YouTube allow viewers to share their own film clips, inviting other viewers to write their own scripts.

    Deciding the best approach for the ACP and EU will clearly benefit from events, like the one organized by ECDPM, where directors, producers, actors, bit players, distributors, and script writers get together to assess progress and explore options.

    Three questions to Lingston Cumberbatch and Dieter Frisch

    ECDPM Trade specialists caught up with Lingston Cumberbatch and Dieter Frisch at the recent ECDPM Seminar on The Cotonou Partnership Agreement: What role in a changing world?

    Lingston Cumberbatch, Project Director of the ACP EPA Programme ManagementUnit and Dieter Frisch, Former Director General for Development at the European Commission, answered three questions:

    1. What in your view have been the major positive developments in the ACP-EU relations over the last 20 years?

    2. What are the key challenges for this ACP-EU partnership in the coming 20 years?

    3. Given the intense EPA negotiations between the six ACP regions and the EU, and the European strategies towards Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, how do you see the future of the ACP as a group?

    Read their comments in the December 2006 issue of the acp-eu-trade.org newsletter

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Cotonou Partnership Agreement: dialogue comes first

    Maastricht, 19 December. At the ECDPM Seminar on The Cotonou Partnership Agreement: What role in a changing world?, Carl Greenidge, former ACP Secretary General and former Director of CTA pointed out that "the Cotonou Agreement is unique in its very nature: first, it provides the 'South' with a permanent platform for dialogue, to discuss the principles of cooperation; second, its implementation mechanisms are joint; third, and this is the most important element, it adds the dimension of non-state actors participation."

    According to Greenidge, their role is "crucial, especially because in most ACP states, the capacities of Governments are limited . . . Only if you bring other actors into the process will you achieve better results, using the same amount of resources."

    However, he added: "the ACP Group as a whole has still to learn how to effectively manage a multi-stakeholders platform of this kind."

    Reflecting on the ECDPM Seminar, Greenidge valued it as a "success, both in terms of quality of the debates and final results. A lively discussion was in fact needed, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, as well as the challenges lying ahead. This leaves room for optimism, based on the recognised importance of the Agreement and the fact that problems can be tackled."

    "Once again, ECDPM demonstrated its effectiveness as a platform for discussion, not only by launching the debate and providing a space for it, but also, and that's the most important thing, by identifying the key people that can contribute to a thorough and forward-looking discussion".

    Post your comments

    ACP-EU Cooperation - Cautious optimism, ownership deficit?

    Maastricht, 19 December. Participants in the ECDPM Seminar on "The Cotonou Partnership Agreement: What role in a changing world?" today debated the outputs of their discussions on whether the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) has delivered on the innovations and improvements it promised.

    Four main topics were discussed: Has the increased political focus contributed to development? Has it effectively included non-state actors and local governments? Are the EPAs instruments for development? How effective has Cotonou been in delivering more, faster and better aid?

    The group is generally optimistic on progress so far, except regarding the ongoing EPA negotiations which pose many challenges. This optimism is qualified however by a lack of concrete evidence and a sense that not enough is being learned to guide future policies and actions.

    Group discussions indicate that non-state actors are slowly becoming more involved in different aspects of the Agreement – dialogue, negotiations, implementation. What is visible however is the 'tip of an iceberg' that still needs to be fully understood. Calling for actions leading to 'more and better' participation, it was argued that "we know what we need to do, but we have not yet made the fundamental shift to involve these actors."

    While the EPA negotiations are all about creating an enabling environment and 'policy spaces' for economic and social development, participants notice a significant lack of ownership of EPAs inside ACP countries, and that the EPAs seem to be disconnected from national policy processes. At the same time, it is important that discussions on EPAs are effectively re-connected with other development issues in the ACP-EU partnership – such as effectiveness, participation of non-state actors, and governance. At the wider level, the move to sub-regional negotiations has led to less 'all-ACP cohesiveness' and capacity to negotiate – at a time when the European Commission itself is taking an increasingly strong and unifying role from the EU side.

    EC aid is getting better managed and more effective. Despite "rather shallow" evidence, it is moving in a good direction - with signs of more ACP ownership and certainly much higher levels of disbursement. However, the principle of 'co-management' is getting lost in special 'vertical funds' that are managed (more efficiently) by the EC, but with less ACP ownership and involvement that raises questions on their ultimate effectiveness. These tensions between increasing quantities of disbursement (desirable) and enhanced effectiveness (also desirable) seem to put pressure on co-management processes designed to guarantee ACP ownership.

    A question mark was also put against the amount of learning taking place through the CPA. For the partnership to stay innovative and relevant, it needs to have continuous learning processes and mechanisms in place. It seems that current review mechanisms are used more to account, report on, and punish instead of to properly learn.

    Despite this cautious optimism, there are many doubts in the group about ownership and recognition that there is something of an 'ownership deficit'.

    Starting with political dialogue, it was argued that it is critical to be clear who shapes and forms agendas and thus decides (and owns) what is discussed. This gets complicated when there are more and more potential 'owners' – still the CPA probably offers a lot more possibilities if the partners can get themselves to 'think enough out of the box.' From a non-state actor point of view, ownership needs to be increased by encouraging participation from the beginning. Otherwise, the result is consultation on someone else's agenda.

    It was suggested that ownership is a function of power relations – ownership follows where the power is. The fundamental issue is that whoever sets the agenda has the ownership. Thus, it was argued, the currently emerging ACP-EU trade framework will never be strongly owned by the ACP as it is an EU 'product.' This, and other provocative questions generated much frank dialogue that revealed how important it
    is to provide spaces where multiple perspective can come together.

    Post your comments on the issue.

    Cotonou Partnership - Premature questions?

    Maastricht, 18 December. Asked to reflect on what's working and what's not working in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA), Laurent Toulouse from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs felt this question to be rather premature - though he could draw up a quick balance sheet:
    • The best impact has been with the political dialogue and consultation at the country level;
    • Budgets have increased;
    • There is a stronger political control focusing on the impact of aid and investments in development;
    • It has integrated more players, but this is difficult to measure;
    • On the technical and trade dimensions, the picture is blurred. "We are more efficient today";
    • At the EU level, the CPA has created opportunities and food for thought on ways to be more consistent, more coherent, and more harmonized.

    The ECDPM Seminar on "The Cotonou Partnership Agreement: What role in a changing world?" is assessing progress and prospects for the ACP-EU partnership.

    Post your comments on the issue.