European Scrutiny Committee Contents

1 The Cotonou Agreement


Second Revision of the Cotonou Agreement — Agreed Consolidated Text

Legal base
Document originated19 March 2010
Deposited in Parliament30 March 2010
DepartmentInternational Development
Basis of considerationEM of 31 March 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilTo be determined
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionFor debate in the European Committee


1.1 The "Partnership Agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part and the European Community and its Member States of the other part" was signed on 23 June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin. The ACP-EC Partnership Agreement" or "Cotonou Agreement", was concluded for a twenty-year period from March 2000 to February 2020, and entered into force in April 2003. It was for the first time revised in June 2005, with the revision entering into force on 1 July 2008.[1]

1.2 According to the Commission, compared to preceding development cooperation agreements and conventions, the Cotonou Agreement is designed to establish a comprehensive partnership, based on three complementary pillars:

—  development cooperation;

—  economic and trade cooperation; and

—  the political dimension.

1.3 The partnership is centred on the objective of reducing and eventually eradicating poverty consistent with the objectives of sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy. Its fundamental principles are:

—  equality of the partners and ownership of the development strategies;

—  participation (central governments as the main partners, partnership open to different kinds of other actors);

—  pivotal role of dialogue and the fulfilment of mutual obligations; and

—  differentiation and regionalisation.

1.4 The European Development Fund (EDF) is the main instrument for providing Community assistance for development cooperation under the Cotonou Agreement. The EDF is funded by the EU Member States on the basis of specific contribution keys. Each EDF is concluded for a multi-annual period. The 10th EDF covers the period from 2008 to 2013 and has been allocated €22.7 billion (by comparison, the 9th EDF was initially allocated €13.8 billion for 2000-2007).

1.5 The Cotonou Agreement provides for a revision clause every five years till 2020. The Commission says that the main reasons for the Second Revision are:

—  to preserve the relevance and the outstanding character of the Partnership between ACP and EU countries;

—  to adapt the Agreement to recent major changes in international and ACP-EC relations;

—  to further develop several themes that are essential for both parties;

—  the political dimension, institutional issues and sector specific policy issues;

—  economic cooperation, regional integration and trade; and

—  development finance cooperation, including humanitarian and emergency assistance and new development advances in aid programming and management.

1.6 The Commission says that the Second Revision adapts the partnership to changes which have taken place over the last decade, in particular:

  • "The growing importance of regional integration in ACP countries and in ACP-EU cooperation is reflected. Its role in fostering cooperation and peace and security, in promoting growth and in tackling cross-border challenges is emphasized. In Africa, the continental dimension is also recognized, and the African Union becomes a partner of the EU-ACP relationship;
  • "Security and fragility: no development can take place without a secure environment. The new agreement highlights the interdependence between security and development and tackles security threats jointly. Attention is paid to peace building and conflict prevention. A comprehensive approach combining diplomacy, security and development cooperation is developed for situations of State fragility;
  • "Our ACP partners face major challenges if they are to meet the Millennium Development Goals — food security, HIV-AIDS and sustainability of fisheries. The importance of each of these areas for sustainable development, growth and poverty reduction is underlined, and joint approaches for our cooperation are now agreed;
  • "For the first time, the EU and the ACP recognize the global challenge of climate change as a major subject for their partnership. The parties commit to raising the profile of climate change in their development cooperation, and to support ACP efforts in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change;
  • "The trade chapter of the Agreement reflects the new trade relationship and the expiry of preferences at the end of 2007. It reaffirms the role of the Economic Partnership Agreements to boost economic development and integration into the world economy. The revised Agreement highlights the challenges ACP countries are facing to integrate better into the world economy, in particular the effects of preference erosion. It therefore underlines the importance of trade adaptation strategies and aid for trade;
  • "More actors in the partnership: the EU has been promoting a broad and inclusive partnership with ACP partners. The new agreement clearly recognizes the role of national parliaments, local authorities, civil society and private sector; and
  • "More impact, more value for money: This second revision is instrumental in putting in practice the internationally agreed aid effectiveness principles, in particular donor coordination. It will also untie EU aid to the ACP countries to reduce transaction costs. For the first time, the role of other EU policies for the development of ACP countries is recognized and the EU commits to enhance the coherence of those policies to this end."[2]

1.7 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 31 March 2010, the then Minister of State at the Department for International Development (Mr Gareth Thomas) says that negotiations on the Second Revision, started on 29 May 2009 and were concluded at an extraordinary Joint Ministerial meeting in Brussels on 19 March, at which the EU negotiator, Commissioner Piebalgs, and the Gabonese Minister Bunduku-Latha as the ACP representative, initialled the revised Agreement, with amendments as detailed in the document attached to it. He explains that negotiations over the year have taken place in three thematic groups:

i)  Political Dimension, institutional issues and sector specific policies;

ii)  Economic Co-operation, regional integration and trade; and

iii)  Development finance cooperation and related issues.

He says that the Commission has kept Member States informed of the progress of negotiations in these thematic groups through the ACP Council Working Group. He then outlines the main outcomes in each of these themes as follow:


  • "The revised text provides for greater synergies between the Cotonou Agreement and the EU/Africa Strategy, as well as other regional strategies. The African Union has now been included as a key interlocutor in peace and stability matters (Article 8, political dialogue and Article 11, conflict prevention). There is now a clearer explanation of the linkages between the EU/Africa, Cotonou and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) institutions (Articles 14 to 17). There is an explicit reference to the role of ACP National Parliaments in the Partnership so they can play a greater role (Article 4).
  • "There are slight amendments to Article 96 Annex VII to allow for an exchange of information with the ACP Secretariat. Article 96 provides for intense dialogue and appropriate measures against any state party that significantly fails to uphold the essential elements of the Agreement (human rights, democratic principles or the rule of law). Appropriate measures could be a reallocation, reduction or — in extreme cases — a suspension of development aid from the European Development Fund (EDF), until the situation improves. The EC resisted requests for further changes by the ACP that would have weakened the effectiveness of Article 96 or prolonged the process. The EC also defended the current language on the International Criminal Court (ICC), consistently turning down requests by the ACP to weaken the language or to introduce individual reservations to the agreement.
  • "The EC (with strong backing from the European Parliament) pushed for language on non-discrimination (Article 8.4) to include a specific reference to sexual orientation. This was strongly resisted by the ACP side, and a compromise was found on the basis of language in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
  • "There are important new references to climate change (Article 32), HIV/AIDS (Article 31a), a strengthening of the commitment to accelerate efforts to meet the MDGs (preamble and Article 1) and an acknowledgement of the security/development nexus (Article 11). An ACP request to hold high-level consultations on fisheries has been included (Article 23a), with a view to enhancing coherence between fisheries policies and development cooperation. The impact of the food crisis has been recognised through strengthened language on food security and promoting agriculture.
  • "Article 13 on migration includes an agreement for EU and ACP countries to accept the return and readmission of any citizen who is illegally present in the other region and provide appropriate identity documentation to facilitate this. The Commission's mandate was to restructure the Article in line with the Global Approach to Migration (the EU's strategy for third country engagement). In particular, the EC was mandated to strengthen the language on readmissions and 'operationalise' it through specific procedures, e.g. the issuing and accepting of travel documents. ACP countries resisted this addition on readmissions. As a compromise the attached Joint Declaration was negotiated, which commits the EU and the ACP to further negotiations on enhancing cooperation on migration, without affecting Article 13. A progress report will be made to the ACP-EU Council in June."


  • "The trade provisions were significantly updated to include EPAs and the expiry of the former WTO waiver. Articles 34-39 cover both technical and procedural necessities and set out principles around EPA implementation, consultation and regional cooperation. Aid for Trade is introduced as a concept (Article 35). The challenge of the erosion of preferential terms for the ACP has also been recognised (Article 37).
  • "The Articles on regional cooperation and integration have been strengthened in recognition of the increased regional differentiation within the ACP grouping and to ensure consistency with the 2008 Communication on Regional Integration (particularly Articles 20, 23, 29 and 30).
  • "Article 33 (taxation) has been revised to include a strong focus on support for domestic revenue-raising through enhanced tax administration. The Article also promotes the participation in international tax cooperation processes and compliance with international standards."


  • "The negotiations in this area have focused on improving the programming and implementation of aid. In particular a role for ACP national parliaments in programming has been included and further detail provided on 'Intra-ACP programming' to harmonise this with programming at the national and regional levels (Annex IV). Provisions have been introduced for greater flexibility to respond to 'unforeseen needs' at the regional level (in 'B envelopes' within the European Development Fund), as well as flexibility to increase allocations in response to crisis situations (in 'A and B envelopes').
  • "There is also a greater emphasis on humanitarian, emergency and post-emergency assistance financing under the multi annual financial framework (Article 72)."

The Government's view

1.8 The then Minister (Mr Gareth Thomas) begins by welcoming the Commission's regular communication with the Council and its request for further guidance on the more challenging areas of the negotiations. He notes that the UK has been actively involved in the process and believes that the revised Agreement represents a good outcome and meets the overall EU aims as agreed at the outset. He continues his comments as follows:

"We welcome the clear references throughout the negotiations to the Accra Agenda for Action, the Monterrey aid commitments, the Paris aid effectiveness principles and the need for all parties to make a concerted effort to achieve the MDGs. The inclusion of new text reflecting the serious global challenge of climate change reinforces the importance which the EU places on tackling climate change and addressing its impact in developing countries. The approach is fully in line with that of the UK: integrating climate change into development strategies, focusing on mitigation for development purposes, and supporting adaptation measures.

"We welcome the revised Article 33 on taxation. The UK believes that taxation has a key role to play in mobilising domestic resources for development and reducing reliance on external aid. The Agreement promotes the participation in international tax cooperation processes and compliance with international standards which is very much in tune with the G20 tax transparency initiative taken at the London Summit in March 2009. In this context, a number of ACP countries, particularly Caribbean countries with significant financial sectors, are concluding tax information exchange agreements with G20 and OECD countries. The UK is keen to encourage this process. The Article on taxation should also facilitate a wider range of ACP countries participating in and benefiting from international tax transparency.

"The UK welcomes the commitment in the Joint Declaration on migration to continue dialogue to enhance cooperation in this area. We supported the EC in not reopening Article 13 at the end of negotiations, particularly as it risked reopening agreed provisions on legal migration and delaying a wider agreement on Cotonou without a clear opportunity to make progress on readmissions. The lack of immediate resolution on this issue will not adversely affect the UK, as we maintain bilateral readmission agreements with many ACP countries that are not directly dependent on Cotonou.

"As highlighted in the letter from Caroline Flint[3] of May 2009, the potential of the 2005 changes to Article 96 are yet to be realised. We are therefore pleased that no significant changes have been made to this Article and we will continue work to improve its effectiveness. The UK is particularly pleased to see the reference to the ICC remain clear and undiminished in Article 8.

"We welcome the updated language on trade and the inclusion of new text to reflect EPAs. The UK successfully intervened on preference erosion to ensure that the resulting text reflected a balance between the real development challenges involved and the EU's freedom to negotiate trade agreements with third parties.

"The UK welcomes the modifications to the programming sections of the revised Agreement, in particular the streamlining of the Intra-ACP programming and the increased flexibility of the 'B-envelope' allocation. The latter will ensure that the EC is better placed to respond to global shocks such as the financial crisis, for which it had to develop a specific response mechanism (the Vulnerability-Flex) due to the limited flexibility of allocations under the current Agreement."

1.9 On the question of consultation, the then Minister notes both the UK contribution to the negotiations and that, in the preparation of his Explanatory Memorandum, he has been in consultation with a number of other Ministries, including HM Treasury, the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

1.10 With regard to the financial implications, the then Minister says that the revised agreement does not commit the EU to any further funding after the current European Development Fund 10 (EDF10) which expires in 2013. Discussions on ACP funding post-EDF10 will take place alongside the broader discussions for the Financial Perspectives (2014 — 2020). However, the Commission will use the revised Agreement to influence its programming for ACP countries up until 2015 when this Agreement will next be considered for revision.

1.11 Finally, looking ahead, the then Minister explains that, in order for the amended Agreement to be adopted, the Commission must now propose, for Council adoption, the Decisions authorising the signature and conclusion of the amended Agreement (which he notes will be deposited for scrutiny); and says that it is hoped that these Decisions will be approved in June — probably at the 21 June Environment Council as an "A Point", (i.e. without substantive discussion) — with the final Agreement being signed on behalf of the EU at the ACP-EU Ministerial Council on 23-25 June.


1.12 We are grateful to the then Minister for his clear exposition of this important Revision of the keystone in the EU's relationship with the ACP countries. Even though it has by now been signed, we note that there has always been widespread interest in the House in development cooperation issues, and consider that a debate in the European Committee will provide a new Minister and government with an opportunity to outline some of its own thinking, and a new House the opportunity to debate some of these issues.

1.13 We so recommend.

1   The Commission says that the notion of "ACP States" goes back to the "ACP Group of States", formally established in 1975 with the Georgetown Agreement , which was initially signed by 46 African, Caribbean and Pacific states. Today, the ACP Group of States counts 79 countries , 78 of them signatories of the Cotonou-Agreement (with Cuba being the exception). South Africa is a contracting party of the Cotonou Agreement, but not all the provisions apply to the cooperation between South Africa and the EC.  Back

2   See for further information on the Cotonou Agreement. Back

3   The then Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Back

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