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Briefing Notes (series)

Civil society meetings in EU trade agreements: Recommendations and lessons for EPAs

Briefing Note 93

September 2016

Martens, D., Orbie, J., Putte, L. Van den, Williams, Y. 2016. Civil society meetings in EU trade agreements: Recommendations and lessons for EPAs. (Briefing Note 93). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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The conclusion, signing and ratification process of three new Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Eastern African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has reopened the debate on EPAs, including in the European Parliament.

Within the EU, it has increasingly been recognised that civil society should be involved in the discussion and monitoring of trade agreements, in particular when it comes to the sustainable development dimension. However, civil society provisions in the EPAs differ significantly from those in other recent trade agreements concluded by the EU, and in the case of the EU-SADC EPA they are non-existent. This is surprising since the EU-CARIFORUM EPA does have experience with civil society meetings and civil society organisations (CSOs) have strongly contested the African EPAs.

Key messages

  • EU trade agreements increasingly involve civil society to discuss and monitor sustainable development.
  • Evaluations of these civil society meetings vary widely from being mere talking shops to empowering platforms.
  • The new EPAs have weak or no provisions on civil society involvement and should be strengthened in this regard.
  • In order to maximise the full potential of these meetings, lessons can be drawn from the existing mechanisms.

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Economic recovery and transformationBriefing Notes (series)ACP Group of StatesCivil societyCotonou AgreementEconomic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)Africa

External authors

Deborah Martens

Jan Orbie

Lore Van den Putte

Yentyl Williams