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Summary: April 1, 2003: The Cotonou Agreement enters into force today (Brussels)
The trade, aid and political Agreement signed in Cotonou, Benin in June 2000 between the 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States and the EU enters fully into force today. The partnership sets ambitious goals for the next 20 years centred on the reduction of poverty, the prevention of violent conflicts and improved governance. It aims at making ACP-EU development co-operation more efficient and acknowledges mutual responsibilities. Poul Nielson, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: “The delay in ratification of the Agreement should not cause us to forget the ambitious goals we set ourselves. At a time of conflict and division in the world, we should celebrate the objectives we share in the Cotonou Agreement and the commitment made by over 90 countries, half the countries in the world, to work together to achieve them. In terms of North-South solidarity, this is the biggest show in town.”
The successor to the Lomé Conventions, the Cotonou Agreement has been partly implemented on a provisional basis since August 2000. One important dimension - the financial implementation provisions - had to be delayed pending ratification by the fifteen EU Member States. This is now done. The Cotonou philosophy, based on a more effective political dimension and a higher degree of flexibility in the provision of aid in order to reward performance and results, can now be fully implemented.
The Agreement is built on three interrelated components: political dialogue, trade and investment, and development co-operation. The result is a comprehensive partnership with a long-term perspective of 20 years. It offers the opportunity to give concrete effect to the Millennium Development Goals and the targets agreed in Johannesburg and Monterrey. The Agreement also explicitly addresses corruption, establishes a framework for dealing with the problem of migration, and ensures the consultation of civil society on the reforms and policies to be supported by the EU.
The Cotonou Agreement is worth €13.5 billion for the coming five years to which can be added the uncommitted balances worth €2.5 billion from previous European Development Funds, thus amounting to a total of €16 billion. For the programming of these resources 74 Country and Regional Strategy Papers and Indicative Programmes have been approved and are ready for implementation. In accordance with the principle of ownership, these strategy documents were prepared at the level of countries and regions, in co-operation between the partner countries and the Commission, and after consultation of EU-Member States, other donors and non-state actors.
The strengthening of political dialogue is also a key part of the Cotonou Agreement. It has been calibrated so that it can be better suited to the situations in different countries. It is also a means to avoid the suspension of co-operation when important difficulties arise. Political dialogue can also offer the prospect of finding a way for such punitive measures to be phased out. To tackle such matters, dialogue has to be serious and questions such as human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance have to be addressed. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to resolve serious breaches of the basic principles of this kind. In all cases, the EU aims at limiting the impact of sanctions on the population and at maintaining, as far as possible, support for poverty reduction.
The participatory approach established under Cotonou offers new hope for better integrating social and economic concerns and for more democracy. Those provisions have already led to a number of initiatives. Non State actors were consulted on nearly all the Country Strategy Papers elaborated until now and specific funding has been earmarked for civil society in two thirds of them for a total amount of €170 million over the next five years.
Cotonou foresees Economic Partnership Agreements that will set up an entirely new framework for trade and investment flows between the EU and the ACP. The negotiations were launched in September 2002. The Commission is convinced that trade and regional integration can make an important contribution to poverty reduction, sustainable growth and beneficial integration into the world economy.
On the financial side, progress is being made in the administration of the European Development Fund. The Commission created the EuropeAid Co-operation Office 2 years ago and started an ambitious programme of decentralisation of responsibility to Delegations. This will ensure that operational decisions are taken in the country, improving both efficiency and effectiveness. Moreover flexibility is provided by the new provisions of the Agreement (annual and mid-term reviews, resources for unforeseen needs), which can allow for (re) allocation of resources where needed. The Commission recognises that to improve aid management it needs to work closely with partner countries. The priority given in Cotonou to capacity building will be reflected in support for their capacity to better manage their own finances and to manage donor funds.
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