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  • on 08.06.2015
  • at 04:49 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Frutuoso de Melo: “No Contradiction between EU-Africa Cooperation and Our Partnership with the ACP Countries” 0

“It is true that for Europe, strengthening the partnership with Africa is a priority. However, we see no contradiction with improving strategic cooperation between Europe and Africa while also having a partnership with the ACP countries”, Fernando Frutuoso de Melo (Director-General of EU International and Development Cooperation) told Afronline during the 40 years celebration of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States in Brussels.

On June 3rd/4th, the ACP celebrated its 40th anniversary with a focus on regional integration, cultural diversity and forging strategic partnerships for the future in order for the group to deliver on development goals in the post-2015 era. A stimulating two-day event was held at the headquarters of the Group under the theme “From Georgetown to Sipopo and beyond”. Since the signing of its founding document, the Georgetown Agreement, on 6 June, 1975 in the Guyanese capital, the ACP Group has grown to now include 79 member countries, including 48 from Sub-Saharan Africa, 16 from the Caribbean and 15 from the Pacific.

The group’s main objectives are sustainable development and poverty reduction within its member states, as well as their greater integration into the world’s economy. In 2000, the EU and ACP countries signed the Cotonou Agreement which expires in 2020, and discussions on its future have now begun in earnest and will be a top priority for the ACP and EU development focussed stakeholders throughout 2015. The long-standing partnership between the EU and the ACP countries covers trade relations, development cooperation and political dialogue. Within the long-standing partnership between the EU and the ACP countries, the European Union has contributed €31.5 billion to ACP countries, channelled through bilateral, regional and intra-ACP envelopes.

“Politically, the ACP brings together 79 countries, a very significant number and which represents, with the European Union, a majority in the United Nations”, said Frutuoso de Melo. “Over the years, we have done a lot of good things as well some things that have not worked and the defining feature of the ACP will continue to be the dialogue over both policy and development issues with the common values of solidarity, common interests as well the respect of human rights and of democracy”.

According to a recent report of ECDPM, “the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, has put the future of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement high on the agenda for 2015. Furthermore, in his hearing before the European Parliament, Mimica announced in November 2014 the launch of a broad consultation and dialogue process on this partnership stressing that “the question is not whether ACP countries are still important to the EU or not, but about how to best design our cooperation in the future”.

Speaking with Afronline, Frutuoso de Melo said that “the European Commission will consult with European citizens, planning to launch in October a “Green Paper” – i.e. a document with questions for European citizens, Member States and civil-society organisations so we can find out what they think” on the partnership between EU and ACP countries. “Based on their answers, we shall decide if we will propose a mandate to the negotiations and see how things evolve. But before anything else, we want to know the wishes of those we represent”.

“The ACP countries want to be a group and to stay together and we should respect this”, the DG of DEVCO said. This is despite the fact that according to some experts, the 3 regions no longer share as many common interests as during the signing of the Cotonou Agreement. In particular, the EU is today far more focused on Africa, while the Caribbean and the Pacific seem to be more interested in strengthening their strategic relationships with the United States on the one hand, and Australia/China on the other. « It is a true that for Europe the partnership with Africa is a priority”, Frutuoso de Melo recognises. “However, we see no contradiction with improving strategic cooperation between Europe and Africa while also having a partnership with the ACP countries”. Only the future will tell us if EU is ready to keep closed relations with ACPcountries.

by Joshua Massarenti (and Kevin Hind) – Afronline.org

Photo Credit: Flickr/Comité des Régions / Committee of the Regions

Click Here to read the ECDPM’s report entitled “The Future of ACP-EU Relations Post-2020”

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