Development Committee MEPs backed the second revision of the EU's Cotonou partnership agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific states in a vote on Tuesday (adopted unanimously with 24 votes), but voiced strong reservations about its lack of binding human rights clauses.
It urged the Commission to reflect on the provisions not fully included in the current revision, with a view to incorporating them in the next one, which is due to start in two years.
"By giving such a reserved consent, the European Parliament reaffirmed that what is happening to people in a third country, is as if it is happening to us and therefore we are giving the European Commission two years to learn from the deficiencies of the Agreement and rectify them", commented rapporteur Michael Cashman (S&D, UK), on the draft recommendation for a plenary vote in April.
In a January 2010 resolution, Parliament had recommended that the second revision of the Cotonou Agreement should strengthen "the principle of non-negotiable human rights clauses and sanctions for failure to respect such clauses, inter alia with regard to discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation and towards people living with HIV/AIDS".
However, the revised Agreement does largely follow Parliament's 2010 recommendations on the "enhancement of the role of national parliaments", recognition and involvement of non-state players, coherence among the institutions of the Economic Partnership Agreement and the need for a clearer focus on fisheries and aquaculture.
The revised Agreement also acknowledges that commitment to policy coherence for development is "a guiding principle of EU development cooperation", as MEPs described it in their 2010 resolution.
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, in 2000. The EU-ACP partnership now has 79 member states, 78 of which have signed the Cotonou Agreement (Cuba is the exception).
The Cotonou Agreement includes a revision clause which allows it to be adapted every five years until 2020. Negotiations to revise the agreement for the first time were launched in May 2004 and concluded in February 2005. The revised Agreement entered into force on 1 July 2008.
Procedure: non-legislative enactments, consent by Parliament