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Caribbean and Pacific – EU partnership of equals?

By Elizabeth Morgan

Changes are coming to the European Union (EU) with its new Commission. I indicated in previous articles that the EU would be moving from the donor and recipient relationship to partnerships of equals. The Caribbean (ACP) Forum (CARIFORUM) seems to have a relationship with the EU built on mutual respect, dialogue, realistic expectations, and collaboration in achieving development goals. It would be interesting to know what other elements are to be included in a partnership of equals.

At the recently concluded UN General Assembly Summits week, demonstrating their partnership, the EU (still 28 countries) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States (79 countries) used the opportunity to issue a joint declaration on the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs).

The combined EU and ACP represent about 55 percent of the UN’s 193 members. The ACP and EU declared that  “At a time when the multilateral system is continuously put to the test, we underscore the need to be united in our determination to work together including through our ACP-EU partnership for the successful implementation of the SDGs by 2030”. The group emphasized the need to build partnerships, including at the national, regional and inter-regional levels, to implement the UN SDGs.

The SDGs, which include climate action, concerns of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and development financing, underpin the ACP/EU post-Cotonou negotiations. The EU and ACP now want to see their treaty relationship become a partnership not just in name only. The EU says that the new post-Cotonou agreement will be moving beyond the traditional development dimension.

New EU Commissioners

The new EU Commission will be geopolitical placing emphasis on building partnerships across the globe focused on delivering the UN SDGs.

The EU Parliament is now in the process of approving 27 new EU Commissioners. Besides the president-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, among the Commissioners-designate of particular interest to the ACP and CARIFORUM specifically are: Joseph Borrell (Spain) – High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security responsible for “A Stronger Europe in the World”; Phil Hogan (Ireland) – Trade; and Jutta Urpilainen (Finland) – International Partnerships.

International partnerships

I am assuming that the ACP and CARIFORUM have taken note of a key name change among the Commissioners-designate. Urpilainen is the Commissioner for International Partnerships, replacing Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. She will become the EU’s lead negotiator for the ACP/EU Post-Cotonou agreement.

The EU president-elect, in her mission letter to Urpilainen, informs her that “the partnerships of equals we build are essential for our future”. The European development model should be strategic and effective creating value for money and contributing to its wider political priorities. Top priorities will be a comprehensive Africa strategy; concluding an ambitious ACP/EU post-Cotonou agreement; and targetting external financing to the UN SDGs. High priority is placed on the EU’s neighbourhood, the countries not only in Africa but in Europe and the Middle East bordering the EU, as well as the United Kingdom after Brexit.

For CARIFORUM, the real question, for me, is what this new “partnership of equals” will really mean in a power context. Can the mainly Caribbean SIDS and highly indebted middle-income countries be considered as having equal political, economic and social status as the EU and its Member States? In trade and development, can an asymmetrical relationship between developing and developed countries be transformed into one of equals?

With the exit of the UK, as I have stated before, CARIFORUM needs to strengthen its relationship with the EU27, especially in trade under the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement.

The CARIFORUM ministerial council should meet in November and the ACP Summit will be held in Nairobi, Kenya in December. I hope there will be a further serious examination of this concept, “partnership of equals”, leading into and at these meetings.

Elizabeth Morgan, Specialist in International Trade Policy and International Politics




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