The ACP-EU partnership agreement

The "Partnership Agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part and the European Community and its Member States of the other part" was signed on 23 June 2000 in Cotonou, Bénin – hence the name " ACP-EC Partnership Agreement" or "Cotonou Agreement". It was concluded for a twenty-year period from March 2000 to February 2020, and entered into force in April 2003. It was for the first time revised in June 2005, with the revision entering into force on 1 July 2008. A second revision of the Agreement was agreed on 11th March 2010.

The content of the "Cotonou Agreement"

The Cotonou Agreement is a global agreement, introducing important changes and ambitious objectives while preserving the 'acquis' of 25 years of ACP-EC cooperation.

Compared to preceding agreements and conventions shaping EC's development cooperation, the Cotonou Agreement represents further progress in a number of aspects. It is designed to establish a comprehensive partnership, based on three complementary pillars:

  • development cooperation,
  • economic and trade cooperation, and
  • the political dimension.

The objectives of the Cotonou Agreement

The partnership is centred on the objective of reducing and eventually eradicating poverty consistent with the objectives of sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy (Art. 1 of Cotonou Agreement).

The fundamental principles of the Cotonou Agreement

  • equality of the partners and ownership of the development strategies;
  • participation (central governments as the main partners, partnership open to different kinds of other actors)
  • pivotal role of dialogue and the fulfilment of mutual obligations
  • differentiation and regionalisation

The actors of the Cotonou Agreement

  • The actors of cooperation are:
  • States (authorities and/or organisations of states at local, national and regional level);
  • Non-state actors (private sector; economic and social partners, including trade union organisations, civil society in all its forms according to national characteristics).

The implementation of the Cotonou Agreement

The European Development Fund (EDF) is the main instrument for providing Community assistance for development cooperation under the Cotonou Agreement. The EDF is funded by the EU Member State on the basis of specific contribution keys. Each EDF is concluded for a multi-annual period.
The 10th EDF covers the period from 2008 to 2013 and has been allocated € 22.7 billion; it was established between the EU Member States by Internal Agreement. In comparison to the 9th EDF which covered the period 2000 to 2007, the initial amount available has increased by almost 65 % (the 9th EDF was initially allocated € 13.8 billion for 2000-2007).
The cooperation with the ACP States funded from the EDF is complemented by development cooperation funded from the EC budget, through budgetary instruments - the Development Cooperation Instrument, the Instrument for Stability, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the European Humanitarian Aid Instrument.

Revision clause:

The Cotonou Agreement provides for a revision clause which foresees that the agreement is adapted every five years till 2020.
In accordance with Article 95 of the Cotonou Agreement, the main reasons for the Second Revision of the Cotonou Agreement are:

  • to preserve the relevance and the outstanding character of the Partnership between ACP and EU countries;
  • to adapt the Agreement to recent major changes in international and ACP-EC relations;
  • to further develop several themes that are essential for both parties:
  • the political dimension, institutional issues and sector specific policy issues;
  • economic cooperation, regional integration and trade;
  • development finance cooperation, including humanitarian and emergency assistance and new development advances in aid programming and management.

The contracting parties and the "ACP Group of States"

The Cotonou Agreement established a unique partnership between the ACP States on the one hand, and the European Community and its Member States on the other hand.

The notion of "ACP States" goes back to the "ACP Group of States", formally established in 1975 with the Georgetown Agreement , which was initially signed by 46 African, Caribbean and Pacific states. Today, the ACP Group of States counts 79 countries, 78 of them signatories of the Cotonou-Agreement (with Cuba being the exception). S outh Africa is a contracting party of the Cotonou Agreement, but not all the provisions apply to the cooperation between South Africa and the EC (see protocol 3 of the Cotonou Agreement).

The ACP Group of States has its own institutions and decision making processes. It relates with the European Community through the joint institutions of the Cotonou Agreement.

The second revision of the Cotonou Agreement – 11th March 2010

The second revision of the Cotonou Agreement adapts the partnership to changes which have taken place over the last decade, in particular:

  • The growing importance of regional integration in ACP countries and in ACP-EU cooperation is reflected. Its role in fostering cooperation and peace and security, in promoting growth and in tackling cross-border challenges is emphasized. In Africa, the continental dimension is also recognized, and the African Union becomes a partner of the EU-ACP relationship.

  • Security and fragility : no development can take place without a secure environment. The new agreement highlights the interdependence between security and development and tackles security threats jointly. Attention is paid to peace building and conflict prevention. A comprehensive approach combining diplomacy, security and development cooperation is developed for situations of State fragility.

  • For the first time, the EU and the ACP recognize the global challenge of climate change as a major subject for their partnership. The parties commit to raising the profile of climate change in their development cooperation, and to support ACP efforts in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

  • The trade chapter of the Agreement reflects the new trade relationship and the expiry of preferences at the end of 2007. It reaffirms the role of the Economic Partnership Agreements to boost economic development and integration into the world economy. The revised Agreement highlights the challenges ACP countries are facing to integrate better into the world economy, in particular the effects of preference erosion. It therefore underlines the importance of trade adaptation strategies and aid for trade.

  • More actors in the partnership: the EU has been promoting a broad and inclusive partnership with ACP partners. The new agreement clearly recognizes the role of national parliaments, local authorities, civil society and private sector.

  • More impact, more value for money: This second revision is instrumental in putting in practice the internationally agreed aid effectiveness principles, in particular donor coordination. It will also untie EU aid to the ACP countries to reduce transaction costs. For the first time, the role of other EU policies for the development of ACP countries is recognized and the EU commits to enhance the coherence of those policies to this end.