For Better for Worse... Challenges for ACP-EU Relations in 2009



The year 2009 is set to bring major changes in the context in which the European Union (EU) conducts its international affairs, and these changes will inevitably affect Europe’s relations with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP).

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    Institutional change 2009

    The most visible institutional change in 2009 will be the appointment of a new set of European Commissioners.

    Even with a longer serving EU President, the system of six-monthly rotating ‘presidencies’ is intended to remain at the lower levels. Thus, the Czech Republic and then Sweden will preside over ministerial and official meetings for six months each in 2009. In the development sector, the main themes for the period are carried over from 2008: implementation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES); follow-up to the Accra Agenda for Action on aid effectiveness; policy coherence for development and promotion of cross-cutting efforts in development programmes.

    At the end of 2008, ACP leaders and governments were very concerned by the turmoil in the global economy. Clearly the ongoing crisis will affect North-South relations, the question is how rapidly and radically the EU is prepared to respond with adapted policies.


    In the face of the crisis, global leaders are calling for major reforms. Follow-up is expected to the November 2008 G20 meeting, dubbed ‘Bretton Woods 2’, intended to kick start reform of the international financial architecture.

    In addition to the growing need for reforms to global governance there is a new urgency to step up North-South cooperation to address global problems.

    Even with the operational structure and dialogue modalities agreed, much remains to be done to make the JAES an inclusive Africa-Europe platform for cooperation instead of a limited Commission-to-Commission exercise.

    There is danger that current global challenges may prompt the EU to become less ‘enlightened’ as a global actor, more preoccupied with short-term economic and national political concerns and less willing to promote global solidarity.

    Governance trends

    Several processes will impact on regional integration in the ACP in 2009. The EPAs will probably amplify existing differences within and between African RECs. At the same time the emergence of the AU as a strong political actor and as a coordinator of African member states in the eight JAES partnership areas will encourage differentiation within the broader ACP. Both these tendencies will shape the 2009 launch of the revision of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) in 2010, to some extent determining the future of the ACP Group beyond that date.

    Relevance of aid

    While much of 2008 was spent preparing for the Accra High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness and then mulling over the immediate results, 2009 will be a year to maintain momentum and deliver on the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA). The purpose of the AAA is not to replace the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, but rather to broaden and deepen the implementation thereof.

    Commitments made in the AAA to develop dialogue between donors and partner countries in 2009 and start formulating guidelines on issues such as the international cross-country division of labour will hence be followed closely by all involved stakeholders.

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