(CMC) – The Secretary General of the 79-member African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACPO) Group, Dr. Patrick I Gomes says he is optimistic that the outcome of the new ACP-European Union agreement “will be a treaty negotiated as a single undertaking serving the mutual interests of the parties”.
Gomes, speaking at the start of the first round of negotiations on a successor accord to the Cotonou Agreement said the grouping and the EU have over the decades “enjoyed fruitful, cordial and beneficial relations notwithstanding some differences in dealing with complex dossiers.
“The same will obtain as we pursue our negotiations for the new agreement,” the Guyanese born diplomat said.
The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the EU and the ACP that was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city. It entered into force in 2003 and was subsequently revised in 2005 and 2010.
It is regarded as the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the EU and in 2010, ACP-EU cooperation has been adapted to new challenges such as climate change, food security, regional integration, state fragility and aid effectiveness.
The fundamental principles of the Cotonou Agreement include equality of partners, global participation, dialogue and regionalisation. The agreement is re-examined every five years.
Gomes told the opening ceremony that the ACP Secretariat was looking forward to supporting the challenging task ahead “with the highest professional standards and a readiness to go the extra mile”.
He said all stakeholders are “deeply conscious of the deep historical significance of these negotiations and the millions whose lives we wished to be enriched by this undertaking.
”Its outcome will be a treaty negotiated as a single undertaking serving the mutual interests of the parties and built on equality, mutual respect, inclusiveness and service for today’s and future generations,” he added.
EU Director General Stefano Manservisi acknowledged the “long standing partnership” between the parties and that the vision for the future is to make the partnership “even more political than it is.
He said the parties have entered into the substantive part of the negotiations to create “a new strong framework between the African Caribbean and Pacifi8c and the European Union…that will serve us for the decade or decades ahead”
Manservisi said that the ambition is to go beyond Cotonou, noting that the existing partnership “allows us to exchange support and learn from each other at the bilateral and regional levels…
“And it is an alliance to make globalisation a force of good allowing us to tackle together some of the big challenges of our times,” he said making reference to issues like climate change derogation of resource and the base management of the oceans among others.
“Our future alliance should look forward not back we should not rest on our laurels but use past achievements to shape the future we have all agreed to pursue sustained development through UN agenda 2030 and to do so in a context of interdependency and shared responsibility as a joint undertaking for our common future,” he added.
Prior to the start of the talks, the chief negotiator for the ACP Group, Robert Dussey, said that the talks on a new agreement would only bear fruit if both parties take the road to prosperity together.
Dussey, who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of Togo, said the novelty of the envisaged agreement lies in its structure.
“The agreement will have a common basis applicable to all of the partnership members and three regional partnerships specific to Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
“The post-Cotonou agreement has to help to achieve sustainable development in the ACP countries. The right of ACP peoples to development, the SDGs, (Sustainable Development Goals) the Paris Agreement on climate change and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 must be at the heart of the future ACP-EU partnership agreement,” he said.