The EU and its Member States have longstanding relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (or 'ACP'). The current agreement with our ACP partners, the Cotonou Agreement, runs from 2000 until 2020. It has a huge geographic scope - no less than 78 countries adhere to it - and it is wide ranging, covering many policy areas.

In a nutshell, these can be summarised under three main pillars: (i) political cooperation, (ii) development cooperation, and (iii) economic and trade cooperation. This gives an idea of the magnitude and importance of such an agreement, which frames our daily actions on the ground in cooperation with our ACP partners. Although 2020 still seems far away, it's vital that we properly prepare and reflect between ourselves now on the sort of partnership we would like to have after that date.

 

Feedback from recent public consultation

We first launched the joint consultation paper[1] that suggested a number of possible priorities and questions as regards the performance of the current agreement and possible ways forward. As a next step we have now carried out a broad stakeholders' consultation, which allowed us to get feedback from actors from various policy areas.

 

The consultation came to a close at the end of December 2015 and I would like to thank all who participated; their feedback will help us to shape our partnership in future. Most submissions were received from public authorities, followed by civil society organisations, associations and think tanks, as well as a limited number from the private sector.

I am happy that I can share with you today the main outcomes of the public consultation. This feedback from the public is one of the critical inputs for me to understand what works well and what needs improvement, and feeds into the thinking on possible ways forward.  You can find a more elaborate summary report available on http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/node/102806.  

 

On the past performance of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, respondents generally see a positive contribution to human and social development, including poverty reduction, but opinions seem divided on the contribution towards sustainable and inclusive economic development.

 

Responses concerning the work on trade and particularly on peace and security were over-all positive. In other areas, respondents are critical of the effectiveness of the Cotonou Agreement, especially with regard to private sector development and Foreign Direct Investment, migration, the democratic governance related mechanisms and the joint work on global challenges.

 

Looking forward, respondents largely agree that we pursue EU interests in a future framework which replaces the Cotonou Agreement. The main priority put forward is the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. A number of key concerns are identified under global challenges, notably climate change, poverty reduction, inequalities, migration and peace and security. Private sector development, improved business environment and business promotion are also seen as priorities in the framework of sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

 

Looking at key aspects on how a future relationship should be organised, the main trends are as follows:

  • The majority of replies underline that the legally-binding nature of the agreement has been instrumental to its implementation.
  • A consensus appears about the need to take into account the evolved regional partnerships at continental (African Union) and regional (Regional Economic Communities) level.
  • There are diverging views about their respective roles, about how to ensure synergies and proper coordination, and how to organise the relationship with the ACP Group. Nevertheless, many respondents agree that the framework for engagement with the Group should be more focused and lighter.
  • The general view is that the agreement can be adapted to deliver on global public goods. The recent EU ACP cooperation has been crucial to reach the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is cited as an example to be replicated.
  • There is a very large majority in favour of a stronger role of civil society and private sector involvement.

 

Of course, our ACP partners are also reflecting on the future objectives and ambitions of the Group on their side, which will be finalised at their upcoming ACP summit in May.

 

I'm pleased to say that the discussion is ongoing, and progressing well.  I will provide more feedback as we move along the road to a new partnership. It's clear that we will have to carefully listen and take into account the ambitions of our partners, in order to shape a partnership based on common interest, which is fit for the future and brings more prosperity to all.

 

 

[1] Towards a new partnership between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries after 2020 (JOIN(2015) 33 final)

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