Speech by Commissioner Urpilainen at the initialling ceremony of the EU/Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Partnership Agreement - 15/04/2021

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Your excellences Head of States and Prime Ministers,

Mesdames et Messieurs les Ministres,

Dear Robert,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me welcome all negotiating team members, representatives from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Member States, EU Member States representatives, and all those following remotely this initialing ceremony.

Your presence, live from four continents, is proof that today’s achievement is a collective one. 

This ceremony marks the conclusion of negotiations on a successor to the Cotonou Agreement.

Today we celebrate the end of a rich two-and-a-half year long journey: together, we succeeded in our efforts!

This is the renewal of a long-standing relationship based on dialogue and common values.

When I was born, the Lomé Convention had just been signed, connecting at the time 9 European Member States and 46 countries from Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific.

Dear Robert,

I am proud to initial today this Partnership Agreement which modernises and deepens the partnership between the EU and the 79 members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

This Agreement is a turning point that will make our relationship more political and fit for the future. It goes beyond its predecessor, the Cotonou Agreement, in various fields.

It sets clearly our vision: to build peaceful societies and a world that leaves no one behind.

How? By putting human rights, gender equality, democracy and good governance at the core of our partnership.

By improving people’s life and preserving the environment. 

But also by fostering economic opportunities for all through sustainable growth, job creation, investments and private sector development.

All this while addressing complex issues such as security and migration.

This is what our open, value-and-people-based partnership is about: moving forward together, through dialogue. 

Dear friends,

Through this Agreement we will strengthen the EU bilateral relations with each of the three regions – Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific.

I am content about this strengthened regional focus through dedicated regional protocols, each of them with their own tailor-made governance arrangements.

This will deepen our bonds with every one of you, without altering in any way the family spirit and its benefits. 

Encompassing 1.5 billion people on 4 continents, this agreement is also a call to raise our international profile as a group.

We must rally together to advance common objectives on the world scene.

To act as a force for fighting climate change.

To protect biodiversity, forests and the oceans, together. 

In this spirit, we will all strive to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, the overarching frameworks guiding our partnership.

Our new Agreement also recognises how important parliaments, local authorities, civil society organisations and the private sector, including youth and women, are in shaping a better future.

Active engagement in partnership dialogue will be key for our success.

Dear friends,

There is still a path ahead of us until the Agreement can come into force. 

We hope to meet again soon for the signature of the Agreement.

To do so, the approval process on all sides will have to run its course. 

A final word to express my sincere gratitude and congratulations to all the negotiating staff - on the EU side especially Director General Koen Doens, Domenico Rosa, Alex Baum, Rigo Belpaire and their dedicated team.

This is truly a shared success and we can all be proud of that! Thank you!