"How effectively does the Cotonou Partnership Agreement address the perceived weaknesses of the EU's development policy?"

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Julia Mueller

PO(566): Europe and the World        

Jackie Gower

“How effectively does the Cotonou Partnership Agreement address the perceived weaknesses of the EU’s development policy?”

Development and trade. These have been the two focal points of policies towards the African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP) as expressed in the four Lome Treaties and subsequently also in the new Cotonou Agreement of 2000. Although all these policies are fundamentally designed to reduce poverty, increase intra regional trade and enable the European Union to gain preferential access into new developing markets, the methods and conditions of achieving these aims have changed significantly over the last fifteen years. In the 1980s and 1990s, political and economic conditionality became an important imperative when negotiating eligibility for any economic or developmental EU aid programmes. Although the emphasis of the Cotonou policy remains the same, one is able to identify various structural modifications made to the paper itself. It is therefore evident that previous weaknesses of developmental policies have been addressed. However, whether or not these modifications have increased the rate of developmental progress in the region can only be discerned by comparing current economic and political actualities in these states with their historical positions under the Lome Treaties. Furthermore, theoretical implications of the political tone of Cotonou must also be examined when determining how viable the practical application of these changes is. A positive verdict on the relative success of Cotonou is contingent on the outcome of such an analysis in conjunction with the dictates of international law and the consequences of globalisation. Interestingly, to truly assess the value of Cotonou, one must also consider the range of other developmental policies being simultaneously launched by the EU.

To understand the extent to which EU/ACP policy has progressed since the 1960s, an overview of the policies preceding Cotonou seems necessary. Over the past twenty years, the number of ACP members has grown significantly. Since 2000, members make up a staggering 71 in total (48 African states, fifteen Caribbean and eight Pacific states). Originally, the ACP group consisted only of European ex-colonies and dependent territories as secured under the Treaty of Rome (not including those of the UK) to ensure special trade relations with the EU. Eventually, France pressured the EU to commit to a clause under the Maastricht Treaty that guaranteed that ‘special’ developmental policies would be extended to ACP countries only.

        “France continued to ensure that EU policy towards the ACP received some level of priority-insisting, for instance, that a clause be inserted in the Maastricht Treaty committing the Union to support for the ACP states irrespective of claims from other developing countries.” (Smith184)

In 1964 and 1971, official links with these territories became institutionalised under the Yaounde Conventions and in 1973 the first Lome Convention was established to address developmental and trade issues in this area. In 1973, the UK also joined the European Community and the policies extended to include UK former colonies and dependencies. 1979, 1984 and 1989 saw the development of the second, third and fourth Lome Treaties, the former both lasting for five years, the latter for ten. Then, in 2000 the Cotonou Agreement was finalised in Benin, which has been set out to last for twenty years with revisions of policy designated every five years. Structural changes to these agreements occurred throughout most of the policy revisions, however, the most significant alterations took place during the Lome Conventions and subsequent emergence of the Cotonou.

        “..Lome was clearly superior to its predecessor, the Yaounde Convention and it symbolized a watershed in post-colonial relations with the developing world. Lome not only removed reciprocity, it expanded the scope of relations beyond the historical aspect of trade. Equality and stability replaced dependency as the defining characteristics.” (Holland 40)

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Although Holland points out that the Lome Conventions took a different approach, the statement that they substantially minimised dependency on external investment is rather contentious. Economic and political criteria coming onto the agenda in the early 1980s in spite of an initial explicit non-interventionary approach came as a surprise to policy makers of the Yaounde Conventions. The economic criteria consisted of WTO compatibility with trade schemes, structural adjustment, including fiscal balances (reducing public sector subsidies), debt sustainability and poverty reduction targets. If these criteria did not seem ambitious enough considering the lack of stable institutions in many of the ...

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