EU Parliament Elections and EPAs: not just business as usual
The EU-ACP Cotonou Partnership Agreement (hereafter Cotonou) was signed in 2000 for a period of 20 years, with revisions allowed every five years. Such a regular update is needed to keep the Agreement relevant in a rapidly changing international and ACP-EU context. Cotonou is now quickly approaching its second revision, due to take place in 2010. Both the ACP and the EU started preparations in the first half of 2008. The European Commission established an inter-service Task Force, with discussions between EU member states on the European draft negotiating mandate scheduled for the last quarter of 2008. The ACP have also started their own internal reflections on the revision and asked a group of ambassadors to lead this process with the ACP Secretariat.
The October 2008 ACP Heads of State meeting in Accra has also put the revision of Cotonou on the agenda. In advance of the 2010 revision, both the ACP and the EU have to notify each other of the issues for the agenda before the end of February 2009. The formal ACP-EU negotiations on the revision will take place between March 2009 and the beginning of 2010.
This is the reason why the new European Parliament can make the difference. The EU civil society cohalition Partnership for a Change called the EU candidates to make the difference. CSOs believe that the new Cotonou agreement should:
- Foster a more reciprocal and sustained political dialogue (Article 8) and strengthen governance provisions to better respect the spirit of the partnership.
- Better reflect trends towards increased regionalisation and pan-African development. Revision should seek to ensure that the roles ascribed to these new bodies are adjusted to fit those of the existing ACP-EU institutions
- Strengthen national ACP Parliaments to make the Cotonou processes more democratic, boosting their capacity - and the capacity of other key institutions - to help them play an active role in the dialogue, programming, implementation, monitoring, review and control of the Agreement.
- Establish a mechanism to strengthen monitoring, review, and enforcement in Cotonou. The mechanism might take the form of an ombudsman type of service (as in EU institutions) or an independent inspection panel (along the lines of those in the World Bank or the African Development Bank).
- Exploit the opportunities on policy coherence provided by the Agreement which is currently hardly used. It provides for the ACP to “initiate” discussions and “request” consultation on matters of concern to the ACP Group or its member states relating to “the coherence of Community policies and their impact on the implementation of the Agreement.”
- Apply principles of the Paris Agenda in practice (ownership, alignment, etc) and follow-up closely on how financial allocations, particularly in the facilities funded from the intra-ACP envelope, are handled.