Relations between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states are a particularly important aspect of the EU development cooperation policy and, more widely, of its external action.
From 1975 until 2000 these relations were governed by the regularly adapted and updated Lomé Convention. However, major upheavals on the international stage, socio-economic and political changes in the ACP countries, the spreading of poverty, resulting in instability and potential conflict, all highlighted the need for a re-thinking of cooperation.
The February 2000 expiration of the Lomé Convention provided an ideal opportunity for a thorough review of the future of ACP-EU relations. Against a background of an intensive public debate, based on a Commission Green paper (1996)* and a discussion paper**, negotiations started in September 1998 and were successfully concluded in early February 2000. The new ACP-EC agreement was signed on 23rd of June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin and was concluded for a twenty-year period from March 2000 to February 2020.
The Cotonou Agreement is a global and exemplary Agreement, introducing radical changes and ambitious objectives while preserving the 'acquis' of 25 years of ACP-EU cooperation. It is based on five interdependent pillars with the underlying objective of the fight against poverty: an enhanced political dimension, increased participation, a more strategic approach to cooperation focusing on poverty reduction, new economic and trade partnerships and improved financial cooperation.
The Cotonou Agreement provides for a revision clause which foresees that the Agreement is adapted every five years. In accordance with this clause, negotiations to revise the Agreement were launched in May 2004 and concluded on 23rd February 2005. The overriding objective of revision process was to enhance the effectiveness and quality of the ACP-EU partnership.
* COM(96)570 final of 20 November 1996 "Green Paper on relations between the European union and the ACP countries on the eve of the 21st century - challenges and options for a new partnership".
** COM(97)537 final of 29 October 1997 "Guidelines for the negotiation of new cooperation agreements with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries".