Due to a lack of consensus on the issue of migration, member states cannot come to an agreement on a mandate to begin negotiations on the future partnership agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, EURACTIV.fr reports.
The disagreement among member states on the issue of migration in the future partnership agreement could postpone the start of negotiations, originally scheduled for 1 June.
No negotiating mandate was put forward, following two meetings last week on the question of the future Cotonou Agreement.
The agreement, which was signed in 2000, governs trade and political relations but also cooperation between the EU and 79 ACP countries. The current agreement expires in 2020 and will have to be replaced with a new partnership agreement.
European governments had to agree on a negotiating mandate for the new Cotonou Agreement in May so that negotiations could begin at the meeting of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers, in Lomé (Togo) on 31 May.
There could be changes to the timetable. Though there are discussions on strengthening the migration chapter of the agreement, Hungary opposed the negotiating mandate put forward at the meeting between European Foreign Ministers on 22 May. The second meeting on 24 May saw no changes with “several member states opposing the compromise text that would have lifted Hungary’s opposition,” said an EU source to Euractiv. The Hungarian delegation made no comment on the subject.
Divergences on the migration issue could delay the start of formal negotiations between Europe and the ACP countries, but time is running short for the Commission since the Cotonou agreement provides for the launch of these negotiations by August 2018. “It cannot be ruled out that the Cotonou Agreement will be void 2020 without a new framework being negotiated,” stated an EU source.
To make progress, member states needed to come to an agreement during a meeting on May 25, before a Council of Foreign Ministers scheduled for 28 May. But the migrant crisis has exacerbated differences on the position of migration in the framework of the future partnership agreement, particularly on the chapter regarding readmission of illegal migrants who are nationals of ACP states.
However, aside from the migration issue, the final definition of the negotiating mandate has made some progress. The issue of establishing a legally binding agreement, like the Cotonou Agreement is currently under discussion between member states, however, some countries have long called for a more flexible framework. The duration of the future agreement has also been decided, and should be 20 years + 5.
In a common position defended by France and Germany, a number of points on the economic dimension with the African continent have now been established such as the emphasis given to investment and the private sector, as well as better protection of investors’ rights.