Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) has approved the conclusion of the Samoa Agreement, on the partnership between the EU and members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS).

With 13 votes in favour, one against, and four abstentions, on Tuesday MEPs on the Development Committee gave their consent to the EU’s conclusion of the so-called Samoa Agreement.

This landmark agreement succeeds the Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2000, and governs relations between the respective signatories. While the negotiations ended in December 2020, it was only finally signed in November 2023 following a blockage in the Council, and entered into force provisionally in January 2024.

Alongside the vote giving the Committee’s consent, MEPs also adopted – by 14 votes in favour, one against, and four abstentions – a draft report on the Agreement. In it, they call for its swift implementation, and its quick signature and ratification by all parties involved – as failure to sign means these countries will not be able to participate in its decision-making and political bodies.

The draft report highlights a number of areas for mutually beneficial collaboration under the Agreement, including tapping into the region’s unrealised renewable energy potential, on boosting free, fair and open trade between the signatories, and cooperating on building resilience in the face of natural disasters and climate change adaptation.

MEPs welcome the commitment within the Agreement to protect and promote human rights. They are, however, disappointed it fails to explicitly mention discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender, and call on all parties to the Agreement to end the discrimination and punishment, including the use of the death penalty, against LGBTI people.

They also reiterate the agreement’s importance as part of wider EU efforts to reinforce its status as a reliable ally in a challenging global geopolitical climate featuring competition from countries like China and Russia that is hampering EU visibility and influence.

Following Tuesday’s votes, Committee Chair and rapporteur Tomas Tobé (EPP, SV) said: “The Samoa Agreement marks the beginning of a new era between the EU and ACP countries. It has great potential to bring mutual benefits on crucial issues such as inclusive, sustainable economic growth and development, climate change, peace and security and migration. MEPs are clear they want the swift and comprehensive implementation of the Samoa Agreement, given the urgent need to strengthen multilateral cooperation amid growing geopolitical instability and unprecedented global challenges. It is now time to enter this new era of cooperation between the EU and ACP countries.”

Both the draft recommendation and draft report will be voted on at an upcoming plenary session by all MEPs, currently scheduled for the 10-11 April 2024 plenary session in Brussels.