African, Caribbean and Pacific countries: Expectations for a future relationship with the EU
Relations between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are longstanding. The unique political and economic partnership of 79 developing countries and the 28-member European Union has become a widely renowned collaborative project between countries of the global South and the largest trading bloc of the Western world.
From 1975, with the first Lomé Convention which was a legally binding agreement of trade, development assistance and political engagements, the four decades of cooperation have reached a stage of renewal and transformation. The current ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (CPA), which was signed in 2000 in Cotonou, Benin, was concluded for a twenty-year period and will expire in February 2020. The 107 countries from North-South have now started negotiations on a successor Agreement by February 2020.
The vision and values of the ACP Group
The Vision of the ACP Group adopted in its policy framework document Towards the ACP we want is “to become the leading transcontinental organisation working in solidarity to improve the living standards of our peoples through South-South and North-South Cooperation” and its Mission is “to accelerate the political, economic and social advancement of our peoples through good governance, poverty eradication, promotion of trade, sustainable development and equitable integration into the world economy.”
The core values that underpin our vision and mission are Solidarity; Peace & Security; Good Governance; the Rule of Law; Social Justice and Unity in Diversity. With Europe, one can speak of shared values. No doubt there will be differences arising from how an issue is perceived in its meaning and consequences for human rights, respect for freedom of expression and the rule of law. Sustaining these will rest the common values of human dignity, equality and mutual respect for each other.
The main principle and objective for ACP countries
The guiding principle for the negotiations is the pursuit of a single Agreement which shall be legally binding, fair and balanced. The Agreement should maintain and build on the acquis of the Cotonou Agreement through a single negotiating framework and single undertaking, based on equality and mutual respect, inclusiveness and ownership of the development process by the Parties, as well as political and economic dialogue.
Our main objective is the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty consistent with and beyond the objectives of sustainable development along with the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy.
Three Strategic Thematic Pillars
To achieve those objectives, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries have placed the core of their substantive concerns on three strategic Pillars that build on the areas of: trade that is now conceptualized as integrally linked to investment, industrialization and services; development cooperation in which the focus will be assistance and programmes for science, technology, research and innovation; and political dialogue and advocacy.
In our opinion this is the essential prerequisite for radically new economic and social relations between developed and developing economies without which development will not take place. In fact, the rapid spread of globalization and the creation of a new international division of labour created excessive inequalities between the small minority of those who hold the wealth of the world and the great mass of middle class service employees, working class and the large number of unemployed persons, mainly youth and women.
The text of the future Agreement should not lose sight of the central concern of the sustainable and inclusive (equitable) development of our societies. This entails the eradication of poverty in the manner in which SDG 1 speaks of ending poverty in all its forms, everywhere.
The potential to join forces between the ACP Group of 79 countries and the 28 member states of the EU (prior to the UK’s withdrawal) must also be mobilised at the global level to advance a rules-based world order by critically calling for reforms in the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), for instance while ensuring that the Doha Development Agenda is concluded.
In the ACP Group, there has always been a very beneficial participation by Non-state actors in our programmes. This enriching experience must certainly be built upon to deepen the quality of faith-based organisations in joining forces to address the mammoth challenges for a global order in which, for example, “access to justice” (SDG 16) and other SDGs are effectively integrated into the unique ACP-EU Partnership beyond 2020.
Patrick I. Gomes
The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Social Centre.