Documents considered by the Committee on 8th December 2010 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

18 Equatorial Guinea and the Cotonou Agreement



COM(10) 619

Draft Council Decision on the position to be adopted by the European Union within the ACP-EC Council of Ministers concerning the status of Equatorial Guinea in relation to the revised ACP-EC Partnership Agreement

Legal baseArticle 217 and 218(9) TFEU; unanimity
Document originated5 November 2010
Deposited in Parliament10 November 2010
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 3 June 2009
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (31447) —: HC 428-i (2010-11), chapter 1 (8 September 2010)
To be discussed in CouncilJanuary 2011
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared; but relevant to the proposed debate on the latest revision of the Cotonou Agreement (decision reported on 8 September 2010)


18.1 Equatorial Guinea is the fourth largest Sub-Saharan African oil producer but the vast majority of its people remain impoverished. The 2009 United Nations Human Development Report showed that, of all the countries listed, Equatorial Guinea had the largest gap between its per capita GDP ranking and its Human Development Index ranking, in which it stood in 118th place out of 182 countries.

18.2 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 24 November 2010, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) says that Equatorial Guinea remains a country of concern for human rights abuses for not only the UK but also the UN and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. He notes that in December 2009 the Equatorial Guinea government accepted a visit from the UN Rapporteur and agreed to undertake a Universal Periodic Review for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and that, in the report, the government acknowledged that despite some progress it is aware that much still remains to be done and expressed its firm political will to continue developing the process of improving human rights, with the assistance of international co-operation. He then says:

    "However, in August this year, the government executed 5 citizens who were allegedly kidnapped from Burkino Faso. There are doubts about the trial. The 5 were executed within hours of the sentence being handed down. There are also serious allegations of torture and arbitrary arrest.

18.3 On the Economy, the Minister goes on to say that oil and gas continue to dominate and gas resources will continue well after oil depletion (which peaked in 2008 at 475,000 barrels per day equivalent and is now about 400,000 bpd), which is likely to decline but where exploration opportunities will remain.

18.4 In general, the Minister says:

    "there are constraints over lack of human capacity, weakness of institutions and the way decisions are taken — i.e. only by the President. Where there are problems for foreign companies, this is often traced back to members of the President's family who head those institutions. But there is evidence of development taking place, e.g. ports, roads, hospitals, and there are capacity building initiatives with a range of donors."

The draft Council Decision

18.5 The document calls for a decision by Member States in response to Equatorial Guinea's application for accession to the Cotonou Agreement and its request for observer status until such time as its accession documentation has been received and approved by the Council.

18.6 The Cotonou Agreement is the main instrument for development co-operation between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the EU and its Member States, through the European Development Fund (EDF). It is revised every five years to keep pace with changing global priorities and ACP-EU relations.

18.7 The Minister explains that Equatorial Guinea was a signatory to the Agreement at its inception in 2000. However, due to concerns that acceding to the 2005 revised Agreement would imply commitment to join the International Criminal Court, Equatorial Guinea was reluctant to ratify fully the revised Agreement that came into force in 2005 — the Equatorial Guinea Parliament stating that there were legal reasons preventing the government from ratifying without a reservation on this article. The EU was unwilling to accept a ratification with reservations, and so Equatorial Guinea missed the deadline of 30 June 2009 for ratifying the 2005 revised Cotonou Agreement.

18.8 Now, however, the Minister says, it seems that this issue may now be resolved as the Equatorial Guinea Foreign Minister has again, in May this year, submitted an application for accession to the revised Agreement.

The Government's view

18.9 The Minister notes that there is no direct UK representation in the country: the British High Commission in Yaoundé, Cameroon, has responsibility for diplomatic relations, with the consequence that direct dialogue with the Equatorial Guinean government is infrequent. Thus, the Minister says, he has not yet had sight of the documentation to review their case for accession, which they have until 30 April 2011 to submit. However, he feels that binding Equatorial Guinea into a relationship with EU could help advance governance objectives. He says that he has a number of concerns about Equatorial Guinea: poor human rights; no planning for political succession; poor distribution of mineral wealth: but:

    "the Government appear to have made some efforts to move forward in areas of human rights and governance, although its record remains questionable. Constructive engagement with Equatorial Guinea might therefore be appropriate to ensure that these efforts are increased and, indeed, expanded. We would of course expect that if Equatorial Guinea were successful then there should be careful monitoring of any EDF funding it receives, to ensure funds are used for the benefit of its citizens. For example, strict monitoring of funds given directly to the government for development, with full accountability of disbursement and activities. On balance, we would agree to let Equatorial Guinea submit its application for accession and be granted observer status."

18.10 With regard to the Financial Implications, the Minister says:

    "Development funding to all ACP countries is provided through the European Development Fund. The 10th EDF (2008-13) is a total of €22.82 billion with a UK contribution of 14.82%. Countries that are signatories to the Cotonou agreement are able to make use of these funds. The European Commission is currently looking at how Equatorial Guinea will enter the current programming cycle should it become party to the agreement, from these existing funds. The Commission uses a complex formula of needs and performance measures to determine indicative amounts for each ACP state at the start of the EDF cycle. Should Equatorial Guinea have signed the first revision of the Cotonou accord, the Commission had estimated that the indicative budget available for development programming would have been 17.2 million Euros over six years under the 10th EDF. Equatorial Guinea has not received any funding from the Community budget since 2004. Negotiations on the size of the next EDF and the UK contribution will take place alongside the current EU Budget and will not be affected by the accession of Equatorial Guinea."

18.11 The Minister expects the Decision to be agreed at Council in January 2011, and that Equatorial Guinea will deposit their accession documents in March/April 2011.


18.12 From what the Minister says, Equatorial Guinea is not fundamentally different from some present ACP members, and it may well be that it would be better for the EU to have at least notionally greater influence over its development via its accession to the Cotonou Agreement than to leave matters as they are. But that is to get ahead of the present situation: it is now for the Equatorial Government to submit its application for accession, presumably without any further reservations. In the meantime, we agree that there is nothing to be lost by granting the request for observer status, and we clear the document.

18.13 However, it raises the sort of issues that are central to the political component of the Cotonou Agreement, the latest revision of which we recommended should be debated in the European Committee.[85] We accordingly consider that this Council Decision is relevant to that debate.

85   See headnote: (31447) -: HC 428-i (2010-11), chapter 1 (8 September 2010). Back

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