Gomes welcomes new agreement
Port of Spain –Former secretary general of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, Dr Patrick I. Gomes says “very tough negotiations will be necessary depending on the priorities of countries and regions” as he welcomes Thursday’s signing of a new partnership agreement with the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and the European Union (EU).
The accord signed in Brussels marks the formal conclusion of the negotiations of the post Cotonou Agreement, setting the political, economic and sectorial cooperation framework for the next 20 years.
The Cotonou Agreement was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city. It entered into force in 2003 and was subsequently revised in 2005 and 2010.
It had been regarded as the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the EU. The fundamental principles of the Cotonou Agreement include equality of partners, global participation, dialogue and regionalisation. The agreement is re-examined every five years.
In a joint statement, the OACPS and the EU said that the new agreement will succeed the Cotonou Agreement once both sides complete their internal procedures for signature and conclusion, sets the scene for alliance-building and more coordinated actions on the world stage where the group’s impact can be significant to tackle some of the most acute global challenges.
Together, the EU and the members of the OACPS represent over 1.5 billion people and more than half of the seats at the United Nations.
Gomes, who stepped down as secretary general of the 79-member grouping in February this year, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the initialed text will now go to all the member states and can be treated as a public document to await a signing ceremony, possibly before the end of this year as the life of the Cotonou Agreement has been extended to December 31, 2021.
“After signing each country will follow their constitutional procedures to have the Agreement ratified and after all EU members and 2/3 of ACP have ratified the Agreement will enter into force.”
Gomes said that in structure and focus on strategic priorities, the new agreement differs from the current Cotonou one that was signed in 2000.
“This structure has a General Part – main body to which all signatories subscribe on the principles and provisions – but also three Regional Protocols -an African Regional Protocol, Caribbean and Pacific Regional Protocol,” he said, adding “it is meant to allow for common and also regional specificities in terms of priorities that that agreement will address.”
The former Guyanese-born diplomat said in the General Part, there are six strategic priorities dealing with human rights, democracy and governance; peace and security; human & social development; inclusive sustainable economic growth & development, environmental sustainability & climate change; and migration & mobility.
“As you might say Priorities 4 and 5 are dealing with the knitty-gritty of “development as political economy processes and planning” which were sort of heart of previous “trade & development cooperation” by ACP and EU but now a more political emphasis is given to a partnership between the Parties situated in the framework of the SDGs.
“Powerful attention is given to Rule of law, governance, peace and security for People-centred and Rights-based societies,” Gomes ssaid.
He said of course climate change looms large and the basic thrust is for the joint force and common positions by this trans-regional grouping of countries from continents.
He noted that Africa, Americas (Caribbean), Asia-Pacific and Europe will wield influence in multilateral arenas, once common interests and mutual benefits can be derived.
“This also explains the new shift for Regions in their own concerns to have room to implement what is more pressing. For instance, peace and security in Africa is vastly different that from that of the Caribbean or Pacific.”
Gomes said that the scope for parliamentarians from Europe and the OACPS will also be important as a Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly has been retained. Also recognised are civil society, non-government organisations and local authorities.
“Decision making will also make more room for Ambassadors of OACPS and European Commission senior officials to be a joint permanent managerial body answering to the Council of ministers from OACP or EU “and for us in the Caribbean this will be the CARIFORUM Council, usually of Foreign Ministers.
But Gomes notes that “there is no longer a European Development Fund (EDF) “but in the EU budget a provision has been made for a new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) from which development finance can be programmed.
“Here very tough negotiations will be necessary depending on the priorities of countries and regions. Fixed total allocations are still to be determined and this is expected by end of the year.,” Gomes told CMC. (CMC)