Questions and answers: Reaching a political deal at chief negotiators' level on the EU's new Partnership Agreement with members of the OACPS

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Thursday, December 3 2020.

What is the African-Caribbean-Pacific/EU partnership and what is it about?

The ACP-EU partnership is one of the oldest and most comprehensive frameworks for cooperation between the EU and third countries. It unites over 1.5 billion people stretched over four continents. More specifically, the partnership connects the EU with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Our collaboration is wide-ranging and based on the values and ambitions that bring the EU and ACP countries closer together. In the past years, the partnership has been focusing on the eradication of poverty and inclusive sustainable development in ACP countries. Our action revolves around three key areas: political dialogue, development cooperation and trade.

Why a new Partnership Agreement?

The current legal framework for the partnership, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, was signed in 2000. It was concluded for a twenty-year period, which is why negotiations on a new Partnership Agreement to succeed it (hence the “post-Cotonou” reference) started in September 2018. Initially due to expire on 29 February 2020, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement has been extended until 31 December 2020 to enable negotiations to run their course. A further extension is being proposed to allow appropriate time to complete all the procedures necessary for the signing, conclusion and entry into force of the new Agreement.

Beyond that, time had come to draw lessons from our cooperation and move forward to adapt the ACP-EU partnership to the new realities and aspirations. The world has greatly changed since the Cotonou Agreement was adopted almost two decades ago. And so have the EU and its partners. This meant redefining our objectives, while setting new ambitions to respond to the emerging needs and challenges. Negotiations have been conducted in line with the EU negotiating directives unanimously adopted by the Council in June 2018. Note that the ACP Group of States became an international organisation, the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) in April 2020.

What are the new priorities?

With this new chapter opening, our cooperation is set to be more political and geared to achieving greater ambitions at local, national, regional and international level. To bring this about, the new Agreement is based on six key priority areas to address the main challenges throughout the next decades. These are:

  • Human rights, democracy and governance
  • Peace and security
  • Human and social development
  • Environmental sustainability and climate change
  • Inclusive sustainable economic growth and development
  • Migration and mobility

In addition, there are specific regional priorities detailed below.

What are the main advantages of the new Agreement?

  • A new “3 in 1” structure to strengthen the EU's relations with each region, while keeping all the benefits of the OACPS-EU family. The Agreement is composed of a common foundation to all countries, which sets out the values and priorities, along with three regional protocols (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific), tailored to each region's needs and dynamics. This will allow for an unprecedented regional focus. The regional protocols will have their own specific governance to manage and steer the relations with the EU and different regions involved, including through joint parliamentary committees. There will also be an overarching joint OACPS-EU framework with a strong parliamentary involvement.
  • A more modern and political partnership. The new Agreement will put stronger emphasis on cooperating in international fora and on building alliances on the global scene. This is especially important given that together the EU and its Member States and members of the OACPS represent over half of the seats at the United Nations. This will provide an opportunity to be real actors of change, working together towards common goals, while strengthening multilateralism, in which we believe. With these new ambitions, we are clearly going beyond the traditional development dimension.
  • Global solutions to global challenges. The new Agreement will reinforce the OACPS-EU's capacity to act together on environmental and climate change challenges. This is also true for other issues of global dimension, such as migration and mobility, but also peace and security, where stronger cooperation is needed. The new Agreement will be a powerful tool to advance the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
  • A renewed focus on climate change and environmental sustainability across a number of areas, which reflects the EU and OACPS' commitment to better protecting people and the environment. Agreeing to large-ranging commitments, partners will play an important role in implementing the Paris Agreement.
  • Special attention to sustainable, inclusive growth and job creation, in particular investment and private sector development.

Partnership dialogue

The new Agreement will offer an important space for dialogue to address issues of common concern in all areas covered by the partnership, and beyond. Partnership dialogue will be among the key tools to deliver on joint interests.

What are the specific priorities towards Africa?

Undergoing important changes, with a new economic outlook and the world's youngest population, Africa faces a number of challenges, including growing climatic pressures, both natural and man-made. With this in mind, the key issues to be addressed under the Africa-EU Protocol in the coming years are:

  • Inclusive, sustainable economic growth and development, with attention given to improving, human capital and skills, the investment climate, intellectual property, the blue economy and the extractive industries and processing.
  • Human and social development, with now greater emphasis on addressing inequalities and social cohesion, and highlighting the need for decent work. Further advancement of women and children's rights, cultural values and knowledge, and assistance to people with disabilities are also amongst the priorities.
  • Environment and natural resource management, focusing on improved land management, retention and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems, improved ocean governance and emphasis on the circular economy.
  • Peace and security, as a central issue to ensure other mutual priorities flourish. Regional and multilateral cooperation are at the centre of the partnership in this area with commitments to work together on the peaceful resolution of conflicts and to tackle organised crime, terrorism, violent extremism and the growing threat of cybercrime.
  • Human rights, democracy and governance, particularly gender equality, rule of law, justice and financial governance.
  • Migration and mobility is a key issue, with greater emphasis than in the past. Our balanced, comprehensive and coherent approach takes into account legal migration and mobility, diaspora and remittances, but also the need to tackle irregular migration, the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking in line with international law, including international human rights law.

What is the link between the new Partnership Agreement, the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs and the proposed Comprehensive Strategy with Africa?

All these initiatives go hand in hand. The new Partnership Agreement is the legal framework for sub-Saharan Africa-EU relations, while the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs and the Joint Communication Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa are political and economic strategies. They are crucial elements to deliver on the African Union-European Union Abidjan Summit Declaration.

The Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs aims to bring our continents closer together by promoting a substantial increase in private investment from both Europeans and Africans, helping improve the business environment, boosting trade and job creation, while supporting education and skills that will benefit European and African people alike. It will therefore contribute to the economic agenda of the Africa protocol in the new Agreement with the African members of the OACPS.

The Joint Communication Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa is our basis on which joint priorities with African partners will be developed at the next AU-EU summit. EU and African partners will take action to implement the then-agreed priorities, while bolstering EU-Africa relations.

What are the specific priorities towards the Caribbean region?

The coming years will be crucial for the Caribbean region to prevent, anticipate and adapt to the effects of climate change, which strongly affect its land and populations. An equally important challenge will be to reap the benefits from the sustainable use of ocean and marine resources, also known as the “blue economy,” to realise the region's growth potential and reduce inequalities.

The Caribbean-EU Protocol aims at delivering tangible results in key areas of common interest, such as:

  • Fighting against the devastating effects of climate change, by ensuring an adequate response to environmental challenges and strengthening disaster management, with a special attention to the specific conditions of vulnerable small island states.
  • Advancing economic transformation and diversification, through trade, investment, private sector development and sustainable industrialization, focusing on key sectors such as the blue economy and connectivity, as well as new sources of growth.
  • Promoting comprehensive citizen security strategies, while advancing human rights, gender equality, justice and governance, including financial governance, and consolidating paramount democratic achievements.
  • Increasing investment in human and social development, by addressing growing inequalities, promoting social cohesion and harnessing people-to-people contacts, to ensure that nobody is left behind.

Besides recognising and promoting regional integration and cooperation, the Protocol pays special attention to Haiti as the only least developed country in the Caribbean, with a view to addressing the structural weaknesses of the country.

In the years to come, partners will also work towards strengthening the links between the Caribbean region and the Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU.

What are the specific priorities towards the Pacific region?

Sustainable development of the blue economy is of paramount importance for the Pacific region, which is composed of a large number of islands and varied marine ecosystems. Safeguarding them and their biodiversity is as important for the economy as for the people living in the area. In particular as the region is vulnerable to natural disasters.

Under the Pacific-EU Protocol, the EU and the Pacific members of the OACPS will work together to protect the oceans and seas from various threats including climate change, ocean acidification and coral bleaching, over-exploitation, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Other key priorities include:

  • Improving environmental and climate resilience, while pursuing the sustainable management of natural resources
  • Building democratic, peaceful and rights-based societies and making progress in gender equality and financial governance
  • Bolstering investment and private sector development for sustainable economic growth
  • Strengthening ocean governance and the conservation and sustainable management of living marine resources
  • Investing in human and social development, with special attention to the promotion of youth and to women's and girls' economic, social and political empowerment

Sensitive to the serious threat posed by climate change and the significant risk incurred by small island developing states, the EU and OACPS' Pacific countries reaffirm their objective to each achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Furthermore, efforts will be made towards strengthening the links between the Pacific region and the Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU.

How will the Agreement contribute to protecting Human Rights?

Human rights are at the heart of the EU's relations with partner countries and the EU's Partnership with members of the OACPS is no exception. The new Agreement will clearly reaffirm the EU and OCAPS' joint determination to protect, promote, and fulfil human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democratic principles, and to strengthen the rule of law and good governance, in compliance with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international law. Once in force, the new Agreement will:

  • Strengthened commitments in relation to gender equality, among others ensuring girls' and women's equal access to opportunities and full participation in all spheres of life, on an equal footing with boys and men.
  • Better protect youth and children's rights and ensure that their needs are recognised.
  • Foster dialogue on death penalty, while ensuring adherence to due process and internationally agreed minimum standards where capital punishment is still applied.

In addition to upholding the principle of equality and non-discrimination on any grounds including sex, ethnic or social origin, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, disability, age or other status, the new Agreement will bind the EU and the OCAPS to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and all forms of violence.

The new Agreement will also promote the recognition and advancement of the right of indigenous peoples, in line with the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

How will the Agreement contribute to peace and security?

Partners acknowledge that peace, stability and security, including human security and resilience, are critical for sustainable development and prosperity. Through the new Agreement, the EU and the members of the OACPS shall pursue a comprehensive and integrated approach to conflict and crises and address their root causes. Partners will cooperate to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and address all serious crimes of concern to the international community. Together, the EU and members of the OACPS shall tackle a large number of issues, including maritime security, new or expanding security threats, such as terrorism and its financing, violent extremism and related factors, organised crime, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, piracy and trafficking in persons, drugs, arms and other illicit goods, cybercrime and threats to cybersecurity.

Partners recognise the importance of a functioning International Criminal Court and reiterate their commitment to fully cooperate with various criminal justice mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court. The Agreement will also facilitate cooperation on law enforcement.

How will the Agreement contribute to human development and social protection?

To help provide fair opportunities for all, the Agreement includes comprehensive commitments to sustainable development inspired by the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Partners recognise the importance of addressing inequalities and the new demographic opportunities and challenges. Special attention will be paid to women and girls, youth, children, and the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. The Agreement covers various areas, from improving social protection systems and services such as education and health services, access to water and sanitation, to working towards food security, improved nutrition and enhanced social cohesion. It also recognises the link between culture and sustainable development and the need to promote active participation of women and young people across various spheres of society. Promoting equal access to employment and decent work for all will be key as human development goes hand in hand with economic development.

With the new Agreement, partners shall undertake actions towards gender equality and women's economic empowerment, while respecting sexual and reproductive health and rights. All partners will commit to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and their review conferences' outcome. Each region will be responsible for their implementation, in light of the commitments taken in their respective relevant regional policy frameworks.

How will the Agreement contribute to sustainable economic growth and development and help increase trade between the EU and the members of the OACPS?

Partners will work together to help bring about the necessary conditions for structural economic transformation, to build, and support the transition towards, greener economies. With the new Agreement, the EU and the members of the OACPS shall take appropriate measures to generate decent jobs for all and socio-economically empower marginalised groups, women and youth.

The new Agreement contains important commitments, including on:

  • mobilising sustainable and responsible investments, while establishing a conducive investment climate and reaffirming the importance of the necessary legal certainty promoting economic growth and transformation, as well as entrepreneurship
  • cooperating on science, technology, innovation, research, trade and industrialisation
  • working towards developing knowledge societies and developing infrastructure connectivity, digitals tools and advance digitalisation
  • improving competitiveness, while intensifying efforts in technical and vocational education/training
  • promoting public-private dialogue and engaging with all relevant stakeholders

To improve and support the trade and business environment, partners will work to address barriers to trade, including on non-tariff measures, and to reduce trade costs. Framework provisions on standards, competition policy and intellectual property rights have been updated to today's realities, and a new joint commitment to transparent, competitive and predictable government procurement systems added. These additions will foster increased and sustainable trade, while better supporting partners involved. In addition, the new Agreement has strong social, environmental and climate conscious dimensions. It notably emphasizes the importance of integrating sustainable development in trade cooperation, while ensuring respect for human rights and core labour standards.

What will happen to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)?

The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are stand-alone international agreements. They remain valid and the new Agreement will ensure the link to the EPAs, especially insofar as general principles are concerned and its drive for inclusive, sustainable economic growth and development.

How will the Agreement contribute to protecting the environment?

The EU and OCAPS partners aim at mainstreaming environmental sustainability, the fight against climate change and environmentally sustainable growth into all their policies, plans and investments. The new Agreement gives partner the means to better work together towards achieving the goals set in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. In particular, partners are committed to meeting the overall goal of limiting global warming to below two degrees.

Beyond that, the new Agreement clearly highlights the urgency to act together to prevent climate change, to address its impacts and to cooperate in an urgent and coordinated manner at the international, regional, inter-regional and national levels, to strengthen the global response. This also goes for seas and oceans, as the EU and the members of the OACPS will work towards strengthening ocean governance, while addressing the increasing pressures they, and their ecosystems, face.

How will the two sides cooperate on migration and mobility issues?

Migration is a global phenomenon that requires global solutions. Partners are committed to a balanced, coherent and comprehensive approach, guided by the principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility. The new Agreement addresses migration and mobility in all of its facets and dimensions, as partners recognise the need for enhanced cooperation to ensure effective management of migration.

Building on article 13 of the Cotonou Agreement, the new commitments balance the need to fully respect international law, with the equally important necessity of respecting the dignity and human rights of all refugees and migrants.

In line with the EU's new Pact for Migration and Asylum, the Agreement sets outs commitments from partners, recognising that migration and mobility can have positive impacts when well managed and the need to address the negative impacts and root causes of irregular migration. This implies working with partners in various areas from peace and security, human rights, to poverty eradication and education to provide opportunities and support partners in developing effective migration management capacity.

Improving cooperation on return and readmission of irregular migrants is a crucial element of the new Agreement and the comprehensive approach to migration management. It will be accompanied by an Annex with operational provisions on return and readmission.

The partnership connects a large number of people and partners, how will the Agreement encourage their involvement?

The EU and the members of the OACPS recognise the important role of various partners in pluralistic and inclusive societies. The new Agreement aims at promoting a multi-stakeholder approach, enabling the active engagement of a wide variety of actors in partnership dialogue and cooperation processes, including parliaments, local authorities, civil society and the private sector.

There are several references in both the foundation and regional protocols to ensure that relevant actors and organisations will be informed, consulted and involved, when appropriate.

In addition, the new Agreement promotes the active participation of young people in society, including in the development, implementation, and follow-up of policies affecting them.

How much will money from the EU will underpin the Agreement?

Financial support will be provided by the EU, where relevant, using its applicable spending instruments.For the 2021-2027 period and under the proposed Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific states will be financed under the EU budget and through the proposed Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, best known as NDICI. The details will have to wait for the adoption of the MFF and NDICI, which are still under discussion.

The post-Cotonou Agreement will be concluded for an initial period of 20 years. Therefore it will fall under the scope of various spending instruments over this period.

When will the new Agreement enter into force and how long will it last?

The new Partnership Agreement will be concluded for an initial period of 20 years.

To enter into force, it must be concluded or ratified by a minimum selection and number of Parties. Signature, provisional application, and conclusion of the Agreement will require the approval by the Council.

For this to happen, the Commission will first have to adopt proposals for Council Decisions on the signature, provisional application and conclusion of the Agreement. The proposals will be transmitted to the Council in early 2021, together with the negotiated text translated into all EU languages.

The Council will decide on the conclusion only after having received the European Parliament's consent, as indicated in Article 218 (6) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

The Agreement will also be subject to approval and ratification on the OACPS side, according to their internal procedures.

In the meantime, will the Cotonou Agreement be further extended?

To allow appropriate time to carry out the process required for the new Agreement to be approved and come into effect, the EU proposes to further extend the application of the Cotonou Agreement until 30 November 2021, unless the new Agreement enters into force or is provisionally applied before that date. This will be confirmed by the joint ACP-EU Committee of Ambassadors in December 2020.


Relevant EU dossiers