Post-Cotonou Agreement to tackle migration crisis

The EU may seek deals with ACP countries to return illegal migrants. [Kripos/NCIS]

The EU will renew the framework for relations with the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) by 2020. The bloc could demand closer cooperation in the return and readmission of illegal migrants. EURACTIV France reports.

Cooperation between the European Union and the ACP Group will reach a crossroads in 2020, when the Cotonou Agreement expires.

Established in 2000, the agreement governs relations between the EU and 79 partner countries.

Negotiations on a replacement framework have already begun. EU development ministers discussed the subject at a Council meeting in Brussels on Monday (28 November).

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“It is not the first time we have had this discussion. Along with the EU’s development ministers, we are preparing our position on the future framework for our partnership with the ACP countries,” the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini said after the Council. “We still have time, the Cotonou Agreement still has some years to run.”

But however much time is left, the negotiations are likely to go right to the wire. A negotiation mandate for the post-Cotonou cooperation framework was due to be delivered to the EU by June this year, but has yet to appear.

Negotiation mandate

“We hope to receive the green light to launch the official negotiations by 2017,” a European source said.

For now, EU member states have expressed their positions through a public consultation on the future of the Cotonou Agreement, launched by the European Commission. The results of the consultation revealed a number of diverging opinions between EU governments.

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Some EU members support a continuation of the current framework, which is binding on both parties, while others would like to see greater flexibility.

“To launch the negotiation mandate, we have to agree with the member states on the question of whether or not the agreement is binding,” a source noted.

Development Commissioner Neven Mimica supports the idea of a binding agreement.  “Any future framework for relations between the EU and the ACP countries will have to draw on the successes of the Cotonou Agreement, particularly its binding nature,” he stated at a debate in the European Parliament in October.

And migration?

The control of migration flows has become a central pillar of EU-ACP relations.  Article 13 of the Cotonou Agreement laid the foundations for cooperation on migration, but the new framework could strengthen this cooperation by establishing readmission agreements for migrants arriving illegally in the EU.

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In its communication published ahead of this week’s Council meeting, the Commission insisted on the need “to agree on mechanisms to improve return and readmission cooperation”.

“Migration and displacement will dominate the ACP-EU agenda. The new agreement will have to respond to this increasingly central issue,” Hungarian Christian Democrat MEP György Hölvényi (EPP) said at the October debate.

In 2000, the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) signed a 20-year partnership agreement known as the "Cotonou Agreement", with a clause enabling revisions every five years clause.

The three pillars of this partnership are political dialogue, development aid and trade cooperation.

One of the objectives is to guarantee respect for human rights, good governance and the rule of law in the partner countries.


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