Members of Parliaments from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific gathered in Brussels this week for the 47th session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, as well as joint intersessional meetings with Members of the European Parliament.
With less than one year to go before negotiations begin for a new partnership framework between the 79 members of the ACP Group of States and the European Union, one of the key issues of concern for the ACP is the state of preparations, including the shared principles and rationales that would guide the process.
Summarising discussions of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly from October 9-11, including an exchange of views with Brussels-based Ambassadors on Monday, the Secretary-General Dr. Patrick Gomes noted the call from representatives for a “radical departure” from the traditional relationship, marked by an “imbalance” between the two blocs in terms of economic might and levels of technology and capacity.
Members urged consolidated efforts to achieve a level of sustainable development whereby ACP developing countries are able to progress from being dependent exporters of raw materials, to being able to add value to their own products.
“The underpinnings of the entire process for a post-Cotonou Agreement rests on the fundamental aim of achieving the structural transformation of ACP economies,” said Dr. Gomes, referring to the current ACP-EU partnership framework known as the “Cotonou Agreement” – a comprehensive and legally binding treaty that governs trade, development cooperation and political dialogue between EU and ACP countries. The agreement was signed in 2000 in Cotonou, Benin, for a period of 20 years.
“Transforming economic structures and investment strategies is essential to achieve healthy and productive lives by the great majority in our societies and not only for a few… This means productive resources must enable jobs, particularly for youth, women and girls; investments must give equitable returns to workers by living wages that improve the quality of life of families; and education and health care must become available, at reasonable or no costs,” he added.
These aims, in line with the globally endorsed 2030 Development Agenda, are captured in the policy framework document adopted by the ACP Council of Ministers in May 2017 entitled “Towards the ACP we want.” It cites three pillars that would steer the work of the ACP Group in the future, including: (i) Trade, Investments, Industrialisation and Services; (ii) Development Cooperation, Technology, Science and Innovation/Research and (iii) Political Dialogue and Advocacy.
According to the document, which was shared and discussed by Members of Parliament, a Central Negotiating Group at both ministerial and ambassadorial levels will be set up to lead talks with the EU side, supported by Technical Negotiating Teams focussing on the strategic pillars. Negotiations are set to start by August 2018, for a renewed ACP-EU partnership framework to replace the current one expiring in 2020.
Following the meetings of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly from 9th to 11th October, members took part in joint meetings with European counterparts from 11th to 13th October. These intersessional meetings of the Bureau and Standing Committees of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) are in preparation for the upcoming 34th session of the JPA to be held in Haiti, tentatively scheduled for 13th to 20th December 2017.