Cotonou Partnership Agreement
 ACP-EU Relations in a Changing World


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Putting the political dimension into practice

Background papers by Jan Vanheukelom et al. and by Wolfram Vetter for the ECDPM seminar on the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement look into political issues, including peace and security, governance, political dialogue and the opening to non-state actors.

The introduction of the political dimensions was heralded as one of the most important innovations of the Cotonou Agreement. The new Partnership was to have a strong political foundation that was to be sustained by an on-going political dialogue.

The 'Political Dimension', to which a whole section (Part 1 Title II) was devoted early on in the text of the Agreement, sought to ensure that the relationship between the partners would evolve into a mature political relationship which was to be in effect the third pillar of the partnership: aid, trade and the political dimension.

It is difficult to get a full picture of how much Article 8 (which provides the foundation stone for the whole section of the agreement) has in fact been used over the past 6 years, the form it has generally taken or indeed the scope it has had because there is no systematic public reporting on its use.

The form and content of policy dialogue has also grown in other ways that were less expected. For instance political dialogue has progressed rapidly at the continental level and become a core element of the growing relationship between the AU and the EU.

Initially, the Cotonou Agreement defined governance in a rather narrow, technocratic way, regarding it primarily as referring to the efficient and transparent management of resources by public institutions. Over time, however, the EC perspective on governance has evolved into a holistic, overarching concept, embracing broader state-civil society relations, human rights and democratization, the rule of law as well as public sector reform and decentralisation. In a few years, it has moved to the top of the ACP-EU agenda.

Taking up peace and security elements in policies and programmes has enabled the EU to give more comprehensive responses to complex demands, especially in Africa where it works closely with the African Union. The recent elections in DR Congo demonstrate what can be achieved when the EU makes a comprehensive use of its instruments: the Commission financed infrastructure, organised election observation, supported the police and military forces, and provided troops in support of the UN peace keepers.

Since 2000 migration has certainly become the object of ‘in-depth dialogue’, as the CPA envisaged, but this dialogue has not always been easy.

Political dialogue has been complemented by the introduction of non-state actors (NSAs) as actors in the partnership. The Cotonou Agreement raised high expectations in the NGO world in both Europe and in the ACP countries.


According to Jan Vanheukelom et al:

"The Political Dimension of Cotonou has certainly proven to be a valuable and timely innovation that has provided a framework for a number of very important debates in the six years that have elapsed since the Agreement was signed.

"Five years of political dialogue within the CPA have demonstrated that this dimension of the partnership has widened and deepened. A broader range of partners has been involved, including non-signatories to the Agreement such as the African Union, and also, as envisaged, non-state actors."

"The growth of the African Union has provided the EU with a viable interlocutor with whom the EU can engage in region-to-region political dialogue in a way that the ACP Group could not do."

"The initial concerns that Article 8 would be used in a purely restrictive way
have proved to be unfounded."

According to Vetter:

"The political dialogue and the opening to non-state actors produce a strong and effective link between the EU's CFSP and its development policies."

From the EU perspective, the provisions of Cotonou's political dimension have complemented and reinforced the common foreign and security policy.

"The implementation of the political dimension of the Cotonou Agreement has not necessarily strengthened the ACP structures."

"The question therefore is if the ACP framework can continue to provide a strong structure for a relationship that integrates and further develops the aspirations of the Cotonou Agreement."

Read the background papers by Jan Vanheukelom et al., and by Wolfram Vetter

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