Credibility of OACPS relations with EU hangs in the balance


By Pita Ligaiula in Luanda, Angola

The post-Cotonou deal between the European Union and the 79-member of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) is at risk and remains unratified, 20 months after been concluded by the EU and ACP negotiators.

After several years of negotiations and delays, the pact was initialled in April 2021 by EU Commissioner for International Partnerships and EU chief negotiator, Jutta Urpilainen and her ACP counterpart Robert Dussey.

Solomon Islands Foreign Minister, Jeremiah Malele during his intervention at the preparatory meeting of the OACPS Council of Ministers in Luanda, Angola ahead of the 10th Summit of Head of State and Government Friday, raised concerns about the delay of the signing.

“The credibility of our partnership with the European Union hangs in the balance, if the signing does not take place,” said Manele.

Manele also thanked the OACPS member states for the support given to Solomon Islands as Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) over the years.

The successor to the 2000 Cotonou Agreement promises greater political dialogue and development cooperation, though it will not change trading arrangements between the EU and ACP, which will continue to be based on the regional economic partnership agreements and the Anything But Arms (EBA) agreement.

It also includes chapters on security and migration, one of the most controversial issues throughout the talks, including new commitments from the ACP countries on return and re-admission of failed economic migrants, and new text on agreeing “circular migration” and legal pathways into Europe.

However, EU member Hungary, which had urged the European Commission to demand tougher commitments on return and readmission of migrants throughout the negotiating process, continues to block attempts by the EU executive to ratify the agreement.

The European Parliament has repeated its demands that EU states break the deadlock and finalise the agreement.

The special relation that the OACPS share with the European Union, governed by Cotonou Partnership Agreement to be soon replaced with the new SAMOA Agreement.

A confirmation on the signing of the Samoa Agreement is expected in the next two days. The signing by June next year in Apia will last for a period of 20 years, that embraces Pacific objectives with the European Union.

Last month, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna during his address to the OACPS Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels said their collective journey will encounter unforeseen challenges, but they should not detract from their set objectives.

“The test of this agreement, however, will be its implementation. We need to be proactive in our efforts to ensure that the Samoa Agreement is effectively implemented with the right set of institutional and financial arrangements.

“It is imperative that we work together to implement this agreement, but in order to do so:

– We need to better understand OACPS plans to operationalise the Samoa Agreement,

– We need to know the level of involvement the OACPS will have in implementing the three Regional Protocols, and

– We need to better understand the level of connectivity the OACPS will have with regional organisations like our Pacific Island Forum Secretariat,” said Puna in a recent statement.

OACPS is an international Organisation established by the Georgetown Agreement in 1975 and revised in 2020. It is composed of 79 Member States, 48 from Africa, 16 from the Caribbean and 15 from the Pacific.