The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly is an advisory body made up equally of representatives from the EU and ACP countries. The Assembly promotes democratic processes and facilitates a better understanding between the peoples of the EU and those of the ACP countries. Issues related to development and the ACP-EU partnership, including economic partnership agreements, will also be discussed. The EU and the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) have governed their relations since 1975 through a series of partnership agreements. The most recent is the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, which expires in 2020. Although formal negotiations on a new partnership will not begin until 2018, the future of the ACP-EU partnership has been the subject of intense discussion for several years. The Council gives the Commission a mandate to negotiate these agreements and must sign the final agreement as soon as it is concluded. Our cooperation with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) has been around for a long time and has deepened over time, as evidenced by the successive ACP-EU partnership agreements signed in the years following the first Lomé Convention (1975). The deadline for signing the EPAs, December 31, 2007, was dramatic. Only the Caribbean region concluded negotiations for a full EPA before the deadline expired.
A number of other countries – including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Ghana and Côte d`Ivoire – have signed bilateral interim EPAs solely for goods to ensure continued exports. Others, such as Senegal, swore that they would not sign until “development problems” were taken seriously. Negotiations then continued to review the interim EPAs, which appeared to contain many problematic provisions; and reach regional agreements. To put pressure on the negotiations, the EU has set a new deadline: ACP countries (least developed countries) that have signed or signed EPAs (intermediates) but have not ratified these agreements or have begun to implement them before 1 January 2014 will lose their preferential access to the EU. As a result of this threat, regional EPAs were signed in West, East and South Africa in the summer of 2014. However, the European Commission has warned the three regions against withdrawing preferential market access if these regional EPAs are not ratified within two years. In the summer of 2016, the European Commission presented, on 1 October 2016, the legal instruments to deal with this threat. All destination countries (Ghana, Côte d`Ivoire, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Kenya) visited and “ratified”. The EU has negotiated a series of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the 79 ACP countries. These agreements aim to create a common trade and development partnership, supported by development aid. In 1969, the agreements reached in the first Yaounde agreement were renewed by the second Yaounde agreement, which lasted until 1975.
As part of the Cotonou Agreement, the parties agreed to negotiate a separate set of free trade agreements between the EU and the participating ACP countries, tailored to six groups of countries (West, East and Southern Africa, Central Africa, SADC, Caribbean and Pacific). For the EU, EPAs will be comprehensive free trade agreements, peppered with rhetoric on `development` and `regional integration`. For the EU, the liberalisation of trade in goods, but also the liberalisation of services, investment and public procurement, as well as the strengthening of intellectual property rights, competition rules, etc.