On the initiative of the European NGO Confederation for Relief and Development (CONCORD) and the European Union Civil Society Committee on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (EU CS Committee on the JAES), a delegation of African civil society took part in advocacy meetings with the institutions of the European Union (EU) and the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) group in Brussels on July 16th and 17th, 2019.
The African civil society delegation was composed by the Platform of Actors of Civil Society in Benin (PASCiB), the Platform “Cotonou’s Thursdays” of Cameroon and the West African Observatory on Migrations. These advocacy meetings in Brussels are part of ongoing negotiations to shape the future agreement that will replace the Cotonou Agreement, scheduled to end on February 29th, 2020.
The Cotonou Agreement, signed on June 23rd, 2000, following the four (4) Lome Conventions, lays the groundwork for the development partnership between the European Union and the 79 member countries of the ACP Group. To perpetuate this strategic partnership of development between the European Union and the ACP countries, negotiations were launched on September 28th, 2018 to elaborate the new agreement called “Post-Cotonou Agreement”. Despite the current evidence that no agreement will be possible between the two sides by the end of February 2020, it appeared necessary for the Euro-African civil society to start a series of advocacy for its positions to be taken into account.
We must remember the very active role played by civil society since the signing of the Cotonou Agreement to ensure the participation of community actors and NGOs in the political dialogue between the European Union and the ACP countries. This active role of civil society was marked by mobilizations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and readmission agreements for irregular migrants, which were key points of the Cotonou Agreement. On the strength of the actions undertaken until then, it was necessary for the associations and NGOs to work to guarantee and reinforce a better consideration of the civil society in the Post-Cotonou Agreement.
From the discussions held during these two days of advocacy meetings with officials of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Directorate-General of Development and Cooperation of the European Commission (DG DEVCO), the Directorate General of Trade of the European Commission (DG Trade),with the ambassadors and the secretariat of the ACP Group, It appears that the spirit of the Cotonou Agreement concerning the participation of civil society actors will remain in the future agreement. The dialogue with the various parties also revealed that the negotiations on the common core of the post-Cotonou Agreement were going well enough. It remains to be discussed at this level according to our interlocutors on chapters concerning migration and sustainable economic growth. In addition, the parties informed us of the start of negotiations in September on the EU-Africa Regional Protocol, which will be one of the three pillars annexed to the common basis of the post-Cotonou Agreement.
The frankness and quality of the discussions held with representatives of both the ACP Group and the European Union have been hailed by Euro-African civil society actors who are committed to staying abreast of developments of negotiations while continuing to send their possible contributions. Finally, the Euro-African civil society asked the both parties, as far as possible, to hold together an extended consultation meeting to facilitate the expression of the views of a wide range of associations and NGOs in this crucial process for future relations between the European Union and the ACP.
Done at Brussels on July 17th, 2019
For the West African Observatory on Migrations
The Permanent Secretary