The ACP States – Traditional Partners of the EU

Market in Burkina Faso. Copyright: EUTraditionally, cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP states) has been a focus of European development policy. There are now 79 ACP states in total. Since 1975, partnership agreements have been signed between the EU and these states. In a total of four Lomé Agreements (named after the capital of Togo, where the first agreement was signed), the EC and its member states have agreed on extensive cooperation with the ACP states.

The Lomé Agreements

The cornerstones of the four Lomé Agreements include the exemption from customs duties for imports from ACP states to the EC, the establishment of funds to stabilise the export earnings of ACP states should there be a drop in world market prices or poor harvests, and close industrial and agricultural cooperation. The commercial advantages of exporting raw materials and agricultural produce from ACP states to the EC meant that manufacturing industry scarcely developed in these states. And this preferential treatment also fell foul of the principles of free world trade. The World Trade Organization's (WTO) waiver was extended until the end of 2007 for the last time. Cooperation had to be reformed.

The Cotonou Agreement

In 2000, a follow-on agreement was signed in Cotonou, Benin. It was revised for the first time in 2005. The single most important goal of the Cotonou Agreement is to fight poverty. This is to take the form of far-reaching economic, trade-policy and financial cooperation with partner countries.

Good governance was also laid down as a fundamental and integral part of the Agreement. Cooperation can be suspended should a partner country violate human rights, fundamental democratic principles or the rule of law, or should it be guilty of serious corruption. Since the Agreement was revised, the same applies should a partner country be found to be involved in spreading weapons of mass destruction.

Civil society organisations and private-sector entities are to be involved to a greater extent in development cooperation. They can also apply directly for EU funds to finance their own development projects.

Under the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement, the trade preferences hitherto granted unilaterally by the EU to ACP states are to be replaced by new regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by 2008. This should put trade between the EU and the ACP states on a footing that conforms with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). At the same time trading relations are to be radically reoriented in order to raise the exports of ACP states and to forge ahead with the integration of these states into the world market. The Economic Partnership Agreements are not classical trade agreements, since for the first time they link development- and trade-policy provisions. While the EU has undertaken to grant customs- and quota-free access to its markets (with transitional periods for sugar and rice), the ACP states will be required to open their own markets to the EU on a significantly lesser scale and with longer transitional periods. The EPAs are to encourage the regional integration of the ACP states and put in place a more enabling environment for greater regional and international trade. Parallel to this, the EU and its member states will be providing trade-related development cooperation (Aid for Trade).

With the exception of the Caribbean region, no Economic Partnership Agreement had been finally negotiated by the end of 2007. Because of this, so-called interim agreements have been concluded with the ACP states which faced a serious deterioration in their terms of trade because the expiry of the system of preferences under the Cotonou Agreement. These agreements focus on the crucial aspect of trade in commodities under WTO regulations, but also contain the firm declaration of intent to continue negotiating regional Economic Partnership Agreements and to conclude these as of 2008.

Financing cooperation

Cooperation with the ACP states is financed through the European Development Fund (EDF), which has existed since the European Community was first founded, and to which EU members contribute voluntarily. The geographical focus of EU cooperation with ACP states is sub-Saharan Africa. All 48 states in the region are signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, and together they receive about 80 per cent of assistance.

For the period from 2003 to 2007, a total of 13.8 billion euros was available for ACP states under the ninth EDF. The German share amounted to 23.36 per cent of this sum. The European Investment Bank also provided 1.7 billion euros to be used as loans to promote economic development.

For the tenth EDF, which is to run from 2008 to 2013, the EU member states have agreed on total funding of 22.682 billion euros, of which Germany will contribute 20.5 per cent. This reduction in the German share is a result of the accession of the twelve new EU member states, which will in future also contribute to the EDF.

The agreement with South Africa

Since 1998, South Africa, too, has belonged to the group of ACP states, although it is not signatory to the commercial and financial provisions of the Lomé Agreement and the Cotonou Agreement. The EU does not consider South Africa a developing country in the strictest sense. It has thus entered into a separate agreement on trade, development and cooperation with South Africa. The EU is promoting the programme for reconstruction and development of the new democratic government of South Africa. The country's social, economic and political structures are to be reformed, and the injustices of the past must be overcome. For the period 2000 – 2006, funds totalling 885.5 million euros were earmarked for this purpose. EU funding for South Africa is now delivered through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), and for the period 2007 – 2013 will amount to around 980 million euros.

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