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Elizabeth Morgan | OACPS/EU – Post-Cotonou Agreement still in limbo

Elizabeth Morgan | OACPS/EU – Post-Cotonou Agreement still in limbo

The Gleaner | 12th April 2023

By Elizabeth Morgan

Wednesday, April 5, 2023 was the third anniversary of the establishment, as a full international organisation, of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

The secretary general of the organisation, H.E. Georges Rebelo Chikoti, made a statement to mark the day. The theme for the year will be ‘A resilient, engaging, and innovative OACPS’ and will be the subject of his annual state of the organisation address on founder’s day, June 6.

The secretary general pointed to three achievements of the organisation as: the conclusion and initialling by the negotiators of the Post-Cotonou Agreement with the EU; the successful convening of the 10th OACPS Summit in Luanda, Angola, in December 2022; and supporting Vanuatu in the successful adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on Climate Change. In my article of December 14, 2022, I addressed the outcomes of the 10th OACPS Summit.

Although the OACPS continues to have 79 members, with the Maldives joining, the loss of South Africa has been a blow to the organisation. It appears that Sri Lanka is considering joining.

Although highlighted as an achievement by SG Chikoti, the major challenge for the OACP is the signing of the OACPS/EU Post-Cotonou Agreement which was initialled in April 2021. It was scheduled to be signed at a ceremony in Samoa by 2022.

However, with EU member, Hungary, objecting to provisions on migration, the EU council has not been able to approve the text for signature. Assuming the EU presidency in January, Sweden had listed among its priorities getting full agreement within the region to enable signing of the Post-Cotonou Agreement. So far, from my reading, they have not been successful. Hungary has remained adamant that it will not approve the Post-Cotonou text without amendments to address its concerns. Hungary has also ignored appeals from the Joint OACPS/EU Parliamentary Assembly which met in March.

Adding to the uncertainties surrounding this agreement was a comment made by President Emmanuel Macron of France. It was reported in February that in response to a question posed to him at a press conference, he seemed open to shelving the Post-Cotonou Agreement. Macron was quoted as responding, “I share your point. I think that certain frameworks are a bit worn out today and so we must go beyond.”

In spite of the concerns which the president’s comments caused, the OACPS remains of the view that the Agreement needs to be signed. They believe that it was negotiated in good faith and was agreed by all at the time of initialling.

Nevertheless, recent reports show that Hungary has maintained its obstinate opposition.

Organisations, such as the Europe-based Centre for Africa/Europe Relations (ECDPM), have expressed concern about the future of the Post-Cotonou Agreement and whether the momentum has been lost and interest has been waning.

As informed previously, development support to the OACPS member states is no longer linked to the post-Cotonou Agreement. Some see this delinking of aid as diluting the significance of the Post-Cotonou Agreement.

In February, the Caribbean Policy Consortium, a body founded in 2020, hosted a webinar on CARICOM relations with the UK and EU. In my view, the discussion was disappointing as panellists did not recognise that relations between the Caribbean and the EU take place, not so much in the CARICOM context, but within the OACPS context as the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) which includes the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

The panellists also did not address directly the Post-Cotonou Agreement and its signing status and the question of a partnership of equals between the EU and the Caribbean countries. They also did not address the trade agreement between the UK and CARIFORM. While policy discussions are needed in the Caribbean on issues such as the relationship between the EU and Caribbean states, it does require demonstrated understanding of the institutional structures and the issues arising.

CARIFORUM’s chair is currently Antigua and Barbuda, and The Bahamas will assume the chair in July. The 116th OACPS Council of Ministers Meeting and the 46th Joint OACPS/EU Council Meeting, I understand, could be held in June. It is from these meetings that we will know whether any progress has been made towards signing the Post-Cotonou Agreement. Until then, I will keep watching the news for any significant developments.

 source: The Gleaner