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(CMC) – The European Union and the 79-member African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group have ended the first round of negotiations to modernise their relations.
An ACP statement said that the first series of talks “led to broad convergence on the structure of the future agreement and the strategic priorities”.
The EU’s chief negotiator, who is also the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said “we welcome the progress made so far.
“There is still a great deal of work ahead, given our ambitions and the scope of what we want to achieve together. We are looking forward to stepping up the pace to embark on a new path with the negotiation of tailor-made EU-Africa, EU-Caribbean and EU-Pacific pillars early next year. “
The ACP Council of Ministers met earlier this week and while they “appreciated the substantive progress made in the talks observed that the coming stage of process is more daunting and would require a greater degree of flexibility and convergence from both sides”.
The ACP Chief Negotiator and Chair of the Ministerial Central Negotiating Group, Professor Robert Dussey, said he is pleased with the achievements recorded in a short span of time since the start of the negotiations.
“The positive spirit exhibited by the two sides is greatly encouraging and extremely useful in reaching a meaningful outcome in the next round.”
The ACP said that as of January, talks will intensify and that the second round of technical negotiations is expected to take place over a three-month period.
“Throughout that time, EU and ACP countries will start drafting the agreement around agreed priorities,” the ACP added.
The ACP and the EU are re-negotiating the Cotonou Agreement that governs their relations and is due to expire in 2020.
Political negotiations on a new ACP-EU Partnership were launched in New York on 28 September, although the renewal process started earlier.
The ACP said that since mid-October, the technical work, organised in five specific sessions, mainly focused on the so-called common foundation at EU-ACP level.
“This contains the values and principles that bring the EU and ACP countries together. It also indicates the strategic priority areas that the two sides intend to prospectively work on together. In the future agreement, on top of the foundation there will be three action-oriented regional pillars to focus on each region’s specific needs.
“Through the future partnership, EU and ACP countries will seek closer political cooperation on the world stage. Together, they represent more than half of all UN member countries and unite over 1.5 billion people,” the ACP said.