Amb Olivier Nduhungirehe, the Minister of State in charge of the East African Community, on Thursday, said countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific (ACP) seek a strengthened political and economic partnership with the European Union (EU) to make both parties more effective.
Addressing the just-concluded 38th session of the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly in Kigali, Nduhungirehe said the 79 ACP countries “look forward to strengthening and deepening” their partnership with Europe, when the on-going negotiations of the new partnership to replace the Cotonou Agreement are concluded.
The Cotonou Agreement is the framework for the EU’s relations with the 79 ACP countries.
Signed in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city, in 2000, the agreement whose fundamental principles include equality of partners, global participation, and dialogue is due to expire by end February next year when a new agreement is supposed to be finalised and approved.
He said: “The principal objective that the ACP Group of States has set out for itself in these negotiations is to reach an agreement that will contribute to the attainment of sustainable development in all ACP countries.”
“The provisions of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are our compass. We seek a strengthened and deepened political and economic partnership with the European Union, and together we can become more effective global players.”
Nduhungirehe explained that during the negotiations, ACP countries are pursuing a single agreement, which shall be legally binding, fair and balanced.
The regional protocols that the ACP Council of Ministers agreed to in December 2018 will be part and parcel of that one agreement, he noted.
“We are committed to continuing to negotiate through a single negotiating framework and a single undertaking, based on equality, mutual respect and inclusiveness.”
ACP delegates last week reiterated calls for a partnership of equals regarding making their group, more credible and more forceful as regards Africa’s interests.
The political negotiations launched at the end of September 2018 are making headway.
The chief negotiators will meet again next month.
Very soon, once the new Commission has taken office, Jutta Urpilainen from Finland, the Commissioner for International partnerships, is expected to represent the EU and take the negotiations forward.
Key strategic moment
Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs who was representing the Council of the European Union – the EU institution where ministers from the 28 EU countries sit – observed that “we are at a very important transition in our partnership at the time when we negotiate the future framework of our relationship.”
According to Haavisto, this is a key strategic moment to define the basis for further developing common priorities and for an ever-closer relationship that will address the key challenges of each region.
For Finland, he said, the Paris Climate agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are the foundation for all “our international cooperation and we are pleased” that the new partnership agreement will seek to advance sustainable and inclusive development, based on the implementation of these commitments as the overarching frameworks guiding the partnership.
Haavisto said: “The negotiations of the regional partnerships attached as protocols to the main agreement are in full swing, providing an opportunity to focus on the specific issues and concerns of each region.
“We are pleased that the regional organisations from the ACP regions are ready to support their central negotiators in the preparations of the regional protocols.”
The EU bloc has agreed with the ACP group that transitional measures to extend the application of the Cotonou Agreement as of March 2020 “will be necessary” to ensure the legal and political continuity of the partnership until the entry into force of the new Agreement.
He added: “Our strong and enduring partnership with the African continent is, of course, one of the main priorities for Europe in the context of Post-Cotonou.”
“We must ensure coherence with our continental partnership with the African Union and political steering of the AU-EU summits. We, therefore, believe it is important that the African Union continues to be associated with the negotiations of the Africa Partnership under post-Cotonou.”
The next EU-AU ministerial meeting set to be held in Kigali, in early 2020, Haavisto said, will be an important milestone in view of the next AU-EU summit.
The ongoing negotiations are between 79 ACP countries and 28 EU member states.
Formal negotiations on a new partnership agreement between governments started in October 2018.