Cotonou Partnership Agreement
 ACP-EU Relations in a Changing World


Monday, December 18, 2006

Cotonou Agreement – Now for the main course

Maastricht, 18 December. EuropeAid's Gary Quince today informed participants at the ECDPM Seminar on "The Cotonou Partnership Agreement: What role in a changing world?", that the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) will soon acquire its 104th and 105th partners (when Bulgaria and Romania join the EU). This makes it one of the longest-lasting international development partnerships as well as one of the largest. For many of its partners, it is "centre stage."

Looking at progress with the CPA, he argued that we have, so far, only had the first course of our Cotonou dinner – the main course is still to come.

Still he could draw some conclusions.

Regarding political dialogue, both sides have been learning how to take this forward. In the beginning, this tended to focus on problem situations, now this dialogue is "very much part of the partnership" and is quite normal. It gives the EU a more coherent voice at the country level and it has helped to blow away some 'no go' areas. The problem is not with the dialogue; the problem is when there is 'no dialogue'. As a work in progress, this dialogue still needs to be broadened to include parliaments and onn-state actors.

The negotiating phase on new trade relations will soon come to an end with EPAs due to start in January 2008. Naturally, there is some reluctance to move away from an established regime. However, as Quince remarked, in historic terms, the trade preferences "have not worked" and need to be replaced.

There have also been many improvements in the management and disbursement of EU aid - the single biggest change is the devolution of powers to delegations leading to more decisions taken in the field, improved quality of decisions, and speeded up decision making. Other indicators of progress identified by Quince include:

  • More money passing through EuropeAid, more quickly;
  • Increasing attention also to "disbursing with quality";
  • Less conditionality, more budget support;
  • Four approved EU regional strategies – Africa, Caribbean, Pacific, South Africa. The idea is not to split up the ACP. Instead, these are important because they represent a single EU-wide strategy for the EC and its member states (rather than approaches by the Commission and each member state);
  • Simplification and harmonization of instruments and procedures started, but still a work in progress;
  • "Still a long way to go" to involve non-state actors and local governments in our work;
  • NAOs still have many challenges and difficulties fulfilling their responsibilities. Need to really strengthen their capacities for them to really be "co-pilots on the plane" so to speak.
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