The Cotonou Partnerhip Agreement is the legal framework for cooperation between the EU and its 28 Member States and 79 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The Cotonou Agreement was signed in June 2000 for a period of 20 years. It is the most recent of a series of agreements concluded between the EU and the ACP since the Georgetown agreement in 1975. The Cotonou agreement has been put into force on April 1, 2003, following a ratification process by the respective national Parliaments. It will expire on February 29, 2020. According to art. 95 the parties have to enter in negotiations on a successor agreement by August 31, 2018.
During the last four decades the ACP-EU cooperation developed a strong relationship for mutual benefit. In financial terms, between 1975 and 2013 the ACP side has received more than 78 billions of development aid through the European Development Fund (EDF). In addition, the EU has established a contractual development partnership for channeling EU funds to the world poorest countries who together account for 18.5% of the global population.
Notwithstanding the success of the EU-ACP relations in the past, the rapidly changing global context with emerging powers and new alliances has put some pressure on the EU-ACP-partnership. Moreover, whereas the EU has faced its biggest financial and economic crisis since its establishment, some ACP countries have managed to achieve higher economic growth and transcend a position of vulnerability. Due to the growing diversity inside the ACP group, the establishment of a common view vis-à-vis the EU has become the real task for the partnership, and vice-versa.
Also, the evolution process within the EU demands the reassessment of the partnership. Under the Lisbon treaty the EU has established new responsibilities in foreign policy and strengthened its capacity to act as a global actor. Given ACP’s continued focus on sovereignty as the leading principle of the partnership, the basis for an enhanced cooperation with the EU remains limited. There is a risk of divergences in strategic interests between the EU and the ACP group. One recent example concerns the difficult negotiations of the Economic Partnership (EPAs). The question remains how to stimulate trade relations between the EU and the ACP group and what kind of lessons can be learned from the EPA process. It is high time for the parties to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, as the deadline for the installment of a WTO-compatible solution will phase out by October this year.
From the EU perspective, the ACP-EU relations under Cotonou need a re-assessment. However, it is not only the EU who demands structural changes. Also, inside the ACP group, there is the growing wish to go beyond the traditional ties and develop stronger relationship with Non-EU countries. In particular China and Brazil has started to do business with ACP countries. It is worth mentioning that China is today one of the main trading partners and largest investors e.g. in Africa.
Some experts see the EU-ACP relationship at crossroads. Different opinions exist how to move the EU-ACP partnership beyond 2020. Whereas some see the partnership as a relic from the past, which cannot cope with global trends such as migration, energy and climate change, others stress the experience of more than forty years of development cooperation as a solid basis for moving on together. However, given the dynamics of other actors such as the African Union or the existence of regional organizations such as the CARIFORUM, there is the need to point out the added value of the partnership. What are common interests of EU and the ACP in the globalized world? Which institutional reforms are indispensable in order to meet the global challenges after 2020?
To shed new light on these issues the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung will organize a workshop with stakeholders from the EU and the ACP group, as well as experts from think tanks and KAS partner organizations.