ACP-EU relations after 2020: The end of an era

Briefing 16-12-2016

One of the main building blocks of EU external relations, the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP), is set to expire in 2020. Due to EU institutional evolution and changes in the global balance of powers, a renewal 'as is' of the agreement is not an option. There is a need to streamline ACP-EU relations, with new EU strategies in the regions concerned, and to adapt to the ACP countries' new ambitions. The issue of financing is also on the table. Stakeholders have started discussions, focusing on the overlaps with other frameworks and the assets that should be kept or reformed. The main challenge for the EU is to keep its leverage in the region while remaining faithful to the values the EU Treaties promote. The EU's new relationship with the ACP countries will have to be consistent with recent strategic changes in its foreign policy, such as the EU global strategy. Formal negotiations between the parties need to start in August 2018 at the latest. Further to a joint evaluation, the European Commission and the High Representative have put forward their preferred option: an umbrella agreement with tailored regional partnerships. To date, other stakeholders have not yet taken formal positions, but some discernible patterns are emerging. This briefing develops and updates an 'At a glance' note of September 2016.