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European Commission - The Cotonou Agreement

What does this change for the EU-Africa Partnership?


The revised Cotonou Agreement reflects the recent and considerable developments of the Africa-EU cooperation. The African Union is recognised as a major partner of cooperation and the potential for cooperation and regional integration activities at continental level is multiplied. Although the global architecture of the financial instruments relevant to Pan-African issues and the existing bridging clauses between the EDF, the ENPI and the DCI remain unchanged, the conditions for cooperation with non-ACP developing countries are clarified. Consequently, the added-value of cooperation at continental level to peace and stability, economic development and the management of sustainable development challenges may give rise to activities and programmes to address the major challenges of the African continent such as the MDGs, the mitigation and adaptation to climate change and peace and security issues.

1. The AU as a major actor of the fight against poverty

The revision of the Cotonou Agreement provides for the recognition of the African Union and the cooperation at continental level.

1.1. The AU as a cooperation partner

A strong recognition of the role of the African Union:

  • The African Union is introduced as an actor of cooperation in Art 6 CA, on an equal footing with the ACP States, other ACP regional organisations and non-State actors;
  • The revised fundamental principles in Art.2 CA provide that "a particular emphasis shall be placed on regional integration, including at continental level" which gives an important role to the AU in regional integration and cooperation ;
  • Specific reference is made into the revised Agreement to the involvement of the African Union in the political dialogue, which scope is extended by the revised provisions in Article 8 CA to the promotion of effective multilateralism, issues pertaining to regional and continental integration, the aid effectiveness agenda and non-discrimination.

1.2. A key role for the AU in new challenges

A key responsibility is established for the African Union in Art.11 as regards peace building and conflict resolution and in tackling new or expanding security threats. The AU is consequently fully entitled in the framework of ACP-EU cooperation to conduct an extensive type of activities as outlined in Art 11(2) including support for balancing political, economic, social and cultural opportunities, strengthening the democratic legitimacy and effectiveness of governance and developing early warning systems and peace building mechanisms to contribute to the prevention of conflicts.

1.3. A reinforced regional cooperation with a continental dimension

The scope of regional cooperation, including inter-regional, has been amended in Art. 28, to encompass:

  • peace building and conflict prevention;
  • economic development; and
  • sustainable development challenges.

Increased cooperation with non-ACP developing countries was an objective of the second revision. Article 28(3) provides that regional cooperation shall also support inter-regional and intra-ACP cooperation, "under the conditions set out in Article 58", such as involving "a) one or several ACP regional organisations, including at continental level" and "c) non-ACP developing countries". This will be instrumental in fostering cooperation at continental level in Africa.

Accordingly, new objectives and activities can be envisaged and Art.29 has been amended to support the new objectives of this extended scope.

  • In the area of stability, peace and conflict prevention:
    • The promotion and development of regional political dialogue and security-related policies and initiatives;
    • The promotion of regional initiatives and policies on security related issues;
  • In the area of regional economic cooperation:
    • Infrastructures, particularly transport and communication and safety thereof and services, including the development of regional opportunities in the area of Information and Communication Technologies;
  • In the area of sustainable development:
    • Food security and the management of natural resources and adaptation to climate change.

Finally, in this extended scope, a new article 30 is introduced to support capacity building, of regional integration organisations and organisations set up by ACP States and those with ACP participation that promote regional cooperation and integration. This includes all types of organisations and therefore a continental organisation such the African Union.


2. The themes of the Joint Africa/EU Strategy and its Action Plan in the revised Cotonou Partnership Agreement

The implementation of the Joint Africa/EU Strategy and of its Action Plan will be further facilitated and encouraged by the introduction and/or strengthening of the following areas of cooperation:

  • Trade, Regional Integration and Infrastructures: in line with the high-level priority given by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy to regional and continental integration, the related provisions of Cotonou have been updated, strengthened and extended (see 1.3 above)
  • Millennium Development Goals: the revised preamble and Article 19 call for "a concerted effort to accelerate progress towards attaining the Millennium Developing Goals", and Article 1 explicitly highlights the MDGs as an objective of the cooperation.
  • Climate Change: additional new reference is being made to this issue throughout the text of the new Agreement Art.1, 8, 11, 20, 29, 72; but in particular a new paragraph in the preamble and a new Article 32 a) has been introduced to express the concerns that are related to the consequences of global warming and to give up to date guidance for cooperation in the area.
  • Migration, mobility and employment: a joint declaration was agreed to strengthen and deepen dialogue and cooperation in the area, building on the three pillars of a comprehensive and balanced approach to migration: migration and development, legal and illegal migration.


3. A strengthened eligibility for financing of regional cooperation activities

The revised Cotonou Agreement reflects the growing Africa-EU cooperation. It reinforces eligibility of the African Union and consolidates cooperation at continental level. It widens the scope of regional cooperation thereby extending the possibilities of Africa-EU cooperation at continental level.  

3.1. Solid grounds for AU eligibility

The second revision of the Cotonou Agreement offered an opportunity to better recognise the African Union in the ACP-EU cooperation. Eligibility of the African Union to financing is now based on stronger grounds: Art. 58 establishes the eligibility for financial support of "regional or inter-State bodies to which one or more ACP States belong, including the African Union".

3.2. Towards an increased cooperation with non-ACP developing countries

In order to encourage cooperation with non-ACP developing countries and to facilitate the coordination between different instruments, which is particularly relevant at continental level, the conditions for participation of non-ACP States in regional integration activities have been clarified. Art.58(2) provides that developing countries that are not part of the ACP Group are also eligible, under three conditions:

  • "where they participate in a joint initiative or regional organisation with ACP States"
  • "subject to the agreement of the ACP State or ACP States concerned"
  • "in conformity with Art 6 of Annex IV"

So as to facilitate the development and financing of pan-African approaches, the principles of reciprocity and proportionality are introduced. Art.6 (4) of Annex IV has been amended to precise the conditions for the participation of non-ACP States in regional programmes. It now sets three cumulative conditions to the participation of non-ACP developing countries to regional programmes:

  • The centre of gravity of the projects and programmes funded remains in an ACP country;
  • Equivalent provisions exist in the framework of the Community's financial instruments;
  • The principle of proportionality is respected;

In concrete terms, the participation of non-ACP States into Pan-African programmes and activities still has to be financed from the non-EDF relevant EC instruments. To ensure the coherence and effectiveness of Community assistance, the DCI (Art. 36 and Art 31 Regulation (EC) 1905/2006) and the ENPI (Art. 27 and, Art. 21 Regulation (EC) 1638/2006) provides for cooperation between countries, regions and territories eligible under the DCI, ENPI and EDF, on the basis of reciprocity and proportionality principles applicable to establish reciprocal access with third countries. The reciprocity and proportionality principles are to be adapted to allow the countries, territories and regions concerned to take part in global, regional or cross-border programmes and projects.  

3.3. Financing and managing programmes at Intra-ACP level

It was a clear objective of the second revision of the Cotonou Agreement that financing for the Pan-African issues shall be provided as an option in the Intra-ACP envelope.

Intra-ACP cooperation is now defined in article 12 of Annex IV. It is a supra regional cooperation that aims to address the shared challenges of ACP States through operations that transcend the concept of geographical location and benefit many or all ACP States. This clearly applies to the Pan-African issues. The subsidiarity and complementarity principles are guiding the determination of the appropriate level of programming (Art 12(2) of Annex IV) so that the Intra-ACP level should be envisaged when a regional action proves impossible or less effective, so as to provide added value in comparison to the operations carried out with other cooperation instruments.

As regards eligibility and requests for financing, the African Union is specifically referred to as an international organisation in Art 12b b) ii) of Annex IV. It may submit its requests for Intra-ACP financing subject to prior approval by the ACP Committee of Ambassadors.

The new Art 35 of Annex IV provides that in the case of Intra-ACP programmes, the Committee of Ambassadors shall designate an Intra-ACP Authorising Officer. The AU can consequently act as an Authorising Officer in a decentralised management mode of programmes and projects.


Last update: 17/02/2012 | Top