- Beginning of ACP-EU cooperation
Cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) began in 1975 with the First Lomé Convention but the origin of this type of partnership dates back to the birth of Europe itself as an organised regional entity.
When the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, it created an avenue for cooperation with the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) of the six signatory countries: Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, i.e. essentially West and Central African countries with ties to France.
- Regime of Association and the Yaoundé Conventions
A “Regime of Association” was devised in 1957 and endowed with resources from the first European Development Fund (EDF). In 1963 and 1969, 18 African States and their six European counterparts signed the First and Second Yaoundé Conventions, supported by resources from the 2nd and 3rd EDF respectively. The agreements were geared mainly towards financial, technical and trade cooperation, primarily in the sectors of economic and social infrastructure.
The accession of the United Kingdom (UK) to the European Community (EC) in 1973 paved the way for the extension of the Europe-Africa cooperation to the Commonwealth countries, whether African, Caribbean, or Pacific. Later on, Spain’s accession also impacted the membership of the ACP Group.
The Georgetown Agreement, the OACPS’ fundamental charter, was signed in 1975 when the First Lomé Convention came into force. It articulated the rules for cooperation among the countries of three continents, the main link being shared aid from the EC.
- The Lomé Conventions
With the signature of the first Lomé Convention in 1975, the number of signatory countries rose to 46 on the ACP side and 9 on the European side. Lomé II was signed by 58 ACP States in 1980 and Lomé III by 65 ACP countries and 10 European States in 1985.
These three Conventions, each spanning a five-year period, were accompanied by the 4th, 5th and 6th EDFs. These were implemented until 1990, when Lomé IV was signed. During the negotiation of Lomé IV, world-changing events occurred that would rock Central and Eastern Europe, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall.
A notable achievement of ACP-EU cooperation is that it introduced a new type of relationship between rich and poor countries based on solidarity and partnership, an independent involvement in political arrangements to boost bilateral relations.
The Lomé conventions granted non-reciprocal trade preferences to ACP countries. They included many more innovations than the Yaoundé Conventions. For example, agricultural sectoral programmes first appeared in the Lomé Conventions. In addition, a compensatory mechanism was created under Stabex to offset losses in export earnings due to price fluctuations.
- From Lome I to Lome IV
Improvements were added from one convention to the next without causing any major disruptions. Lomé II saw the appearance of Sysmin, a mechanism similar to Stabex, but for mining products. The negotiation of that convention, signed in 1984, in the middle of a decade characterised by a quest for viability and efficiency, was marked by the calling into question of the effectiveness of aid. Emphasis was placed on food self-sufficiency for ACP countries.
The expression “political dialogue”, or policy dialogue, made its appearance in Lomé III, but political dialogue would only really be introduced in Lomé IV. Negotiated during the turmoil of 1989, that Convention enshrined respect for Human Rights as a fundamental clause.
In the meantime, the structural adjustment established by the Bretton Woods Institutions had been supported by Europe and was taken on board in Lomé IV. The major innovation of that Agreement still remains its duration. Signed for a 10-year period, it included two 5-year Financial Protocols and the 7th and 8th EDFs. Lomé IV was signed by 68 ACP countries and 12 EU Member-States.
The negotiation of the second financial protocol led to more changes than had been anticipated. The European public displayed a certain lack of interest in cooperation at the end of the Cold War. The clause on respect for Human Rights and democratic principles was by then an essential aspect of cooperation, and measures for the suspension of aid made their appearance.
- Review of Lomé IV
Lome IV bis, which was signed in 1995, saw the number of signatory countries move to 70 for the ACP and 15 on the EU side, and distinguished itself by the importance accorded to decentralised cooperation and the role of civil society.
Twenty years of ACP-EU cooperation and the consolidation of solidarity among ACP countries had forged a cohesive bond which made the breaking up of the ACP bloc or any weakening of the ACP entity unthinkable.
- The Cotonou Agreement
Negotiation of the Cotonou Agreement was fraught with obstacles and took place in the midst of a period of global orthodoxy. The benefits and opportunities of the liberal economic system are undeniable but the constraints and lack of insight inherent in some economic policies imposed in different places have been counter-productive and resulted in the failure of the World Trade Organisation’s Ministerial Conference in Seattle, which enabled all involved to become more aware and to include a social agenda in economic adjustments.
In the wake of this transformation 77 ACP States signed the Cotonou Agreement on 13 June 2000. Cuba, candidate to the Agreement was, unfortunately, unable to sign. Nonetheless, the OACPS (known at the time as the ACP Group of States) decided to include Cuba, in the hope that the problems which prevented its accession to the ACP-EU partnership would be resolved in the near future.
The Cotonou Agreement, by its very existence, represents a significant success for the OACPS. It was forged from the Group’s determination to maintain its solidarity – a solidarity which certainly convinced the OACPS’ European partners. In addition, the Agreement, despite not meeting all the demands of the OACPS, took on board their fundamental concerns.
First of all by its duration – 20 years – sufficient time to enable ACP Member-States to get onto the road to development and, especially, to be integrated into the global market. Indeed, the Agreement envisaged the removal of non-reciprocal trade preferences granted to ACP countries, but only after a long transition period.
- Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA)
The ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) are supposed to be special trade agreements which, like the Cotonou Agreement that spawned them, aim mainly to ensure the development of ACP countries and their gradual integration into the global economy. They must be compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organisation. In addition to the gradual nature of any trade liberalisation among ACP countries, the EPAs must fulfill a second criterion, i.e. asymmetry, which means that they must take account of the difference in the levels of social and economic development between the EU and ACP countries. At the same time, the EU will assist ACP countries and businesses to implement the necessary structural and macro-economic reforms, by building their capacities so as to enable them to better cope with the challenges of competition and globalization.
This transitional phase of ACP-EU trade cooperation from 2000-2007 required the approval of the WTO, which was hard-won. In November 2001, the determination of the ACP countries, bolstered by the unstinting support of the European Union at the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference, enabled them to claim a decisive victory, perhaps for their future: they obtained a WTO waiver for the trade chapter of the Cotonou Agreement.
On that occasion, the ACP Group stood out as one of the emerging Groups from the developing world. It was firm but realistic, opting resolutely for free trade while remaining determined to protect its vital interests.
- Innovations of the Cotonou Agreement
Apart from its relatively long duration (20 years instead of 5 years as for Lomé I, II and III, and 10 for Lomé IV), the main innovations of the Cotonou Agreement derive from the fact that it incorporates civil society and the private sector as new actors on the political level. They will, therefore, no longer be mere beneficiaries of cooperation, but feature among the managers, insofar as permitted by the prerogatives of governments, which are solely responsible for determining the main development policies for their countries.
The major options within the Cotonou Agreement were not imposed on the ACP but constitute a deliberate choice and are part of the ongoing development of the Group´s member-countries, be it the choice of economic liberalisation or a stronger affirmation of political dialogue. This involves the democratization of ACP countries and the involvement of new actors in the implementation of cooperation.
Almost all ACP member-countries had already undergone a political renewal prior to the signing of the Cotonou Agreement, and although some countries are still experiencing problems like civil war, they are increasingly few in number. The rise in democracy is seen particularly in the progressive development of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, organ of cooperation between the European Parliament and parliaments of ACP countries, into a true Joint Parliamentary Assembly of democratically-elected parliamentarians, in keeping with the spirit and letter of the Cotonou Agreement.
- Government – civil society Partnership
The serious economic crisis at the end of the 80s and 90s which saw civil society in ACP countries playing an increasingly active role in the fight against poverty, gave rise, inter alia, to dialogue between social actors and governments. Governments felt the need to harness the dynamism of all sectors of the society primarily with a view to reducing and ultimately eradicating poverty. As a result, as soon as the Cotonou Agreement was signed, the ACP Group took steps to encourage the organisation and strengthening of civil society and the ACP private sector. An ACP Civil Society Forum and a Private Sector Forum were set up by the ACP Group. These sectors now serve as mechanisms for implementing cooperation.
Twenty-five years of cooperation have demonstrated that, albeit enabling developing countries to survive, aid cannot create development. Trade, by contrast, is a determining factor of development. The Cotonou Agreement promotes the strengthening of real economic partnership through new trade agreements, among other things. The Group has been making tremendous efforts to attract foreign investment and has been trying, therefore, to establish a favourable legal, economic and political environment to achieve that objective.
- ACP Summits
The Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government is the supreme organ of the OACPS. ACP Member States meet to define the OACPS’ general policy orientation. The Head of State or Government of the host-country presides over the Summit, which is organised by a Bureau comprising the President-in-Office, the outgoing President and the incoming President (if already designated).
- 1st ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Libreville, Gabon, November 1997
Changes on the world scene at the end of the 80s, which saw the end of ideological bipolarisation, the economic problems of that era, and other factors prompted ACP Heads of State and Government to meet, for the first time, in Libreville, Gabon, in November 1997. At that first Summit, they laid down the guidelines for strengthening the OACPS by assigning more specific roles to the ACP organs and reforming the General Secretariat by transforming it to an executive institution. The OACPS also extended consultations among its member-countries to various fora such as the United Nations Organisation.
- 2nd ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, November 1999
The 2nd ACP Summit, “On the road to the 3rd millennium” was the opportunity for the ACP Heads of State and Government to redefine the broad thrust of ACP cooperation for the new millennium. The Summit gave more precise directives for intra-ACP cooperation and broadened the scope of the Group which, while maintaining its privileged partnership with the European Union, needed to develop a dialogue with other blocs and make its voice heard in the new economic and geopolitical context. The affirmation of the ACP Group’s presence at the Ministerial Conferences of the World Trade Organisation, for example, (Doha, November 2001, and Cancun, September 2003) is the logical consequence of the Summit directives and their subsequent implementation.
Santo Domingo Declaration
- 3rd ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Nadi, Fiji, July 2002
The main theme of the 3rd Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government was “ACP Solidarity in a globalised world”. It established guidelines in view of the negotiation of future ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements, with a view to positioning the OACPS in the current economic and geopolitical context.
- 4th ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Maputo, Mozambique, June 2004
“Together shaping our Future”
- 5th ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Khartoum, Sudan, December 2006
At the 5th Summit, OACPS leaders committed to take all measures, including participatory development approach and especially within the Group, consistent with the theme of the Summit, “United for Peace, Solidarity and Sustainable Development”, to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development, peace and stability for their communities.
- 6th ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Accra, Ghana, October 2008
At the 6th ACP Summit, themed “Promoting human security and development”, leaders pledged to collaborate to promote human security and development in order to attain the ultimate goal of poverty eradication among their people and to foster sustainable development.
- 7th ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Sipopo, Equatorial Guinea, December 2012
At this Summit, themed, ‘The ACP Group in a Changing World: Challenges and Opportunities’, the OACPS committed to intensified South-South cooperation, while calling for more development-friendly relations with European partners. The Sipopo Declaration addressed broad areas of peace, security and good governance; development finance; international trade; energy, climate change and sustainable development; and the future outlook of the ACP Group as an international institution.
- 8th ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, May to June 2016
Leaders, at the 8th Summit, themed, “Repositioning the ACP Group to respond to the challenges of sustainable development”, made pronouncements on the areas of peace and stability, culture, gender equity, sustainable economic development, trade, and climate change as well as issues of development finance and global governance.
Port Moresby Declaration
- 9th ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Nairobi, Kenya, December 2019
At the 9th ACP Summit, themed “A Transformed ACP Committed to Multilateralism”, the revised Georgetown Agreement was approved by the ACP Council and endorsed by the Heads of State. A key outcome of the revised Georgetown Agreement was the change of name from the ‘African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States’ to the ‘Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States’.
Nairobi Nguvu Ya Pamoja Declaration