Pacific calls for equitable and transformative relations with the EU
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As African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries prepare to re-negotiate their relationship with the European Union (EU), we civil society organisations and people from the Pacific are calling for any future relationship to support our nations to determine and define our own development.
For too long the relationship between the EU and the ACP has been defined by aid in exchange for EU access to the raw materials and markets of its former colonies. For almost twenty years the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) has failed to deliver on its promises of aid and development. Instead, under the Cotonou agreement, the EU unleashed the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA), demanding that any market access for the Pacific into the EU had to be reciprocated.
What followed has been years of power politics and negotiations, peaking in 2007 when Fiji and Papua New Guinea, effectively under duress, signed up to the interim-EPAs (iEPAs) to ensure that their key industries of sugar and tinned fish were still able to access European markets. Samoa's graduation from LDC status has also meant that it needs to sign up to the iEPAs to maintain market access to the EU. Ongoing negotiations have failed to conclude a comprehensive EPA, largely on account of the Pacific's unwillingness to see trade negotiations undermine their ability to manage their fisheries, however the EU's predatory agenda remains the same. The Pacific has shown we can reject a bad deal, and we must maintain that strength in the coming negotiations.
Despite the acrimonious nature of the EPA negotiations, it appears that the EU is attempting to resurrect and extend the failed paradigm and agenda of the current CPA into the future relationship between ACP countries and the EU. The EU negotiating mandate continues to push for enhanced access and protection for European investors as well as undisturbed access to the natural resources in ACP countries - including for the Pacific fisheries and seabed minerals under the EU's blue economy agenda.
The EU has also given itself the prerogative of deciding the configuration of the ACP that it would prefer for the new agreement. Further the EU wants to use the Post-Cotonou agreement to bind the ACP into compulsory coordination and joint positioning in international organisations and meetings, including at the WTO where the EU’s agenda has been detrimental to the development aspirations of island countries such as the Pacific.
Supporting previous calls by ACP civil society organisations, we call on Pacific Island governments to:
- Deliver on their long-standing obligation to our peoples of a vision and agenda for the inclusive, equitable and gender-sensitive transformation of our economies;
- A Post-Cotonou outcome that supports self-determined national and regional imperatives, built primarily on their human and natural (including marine) resources, and in a manner that best equips our societies to meet the challenges of our times. Only this can serve as a meaningful frame of reference for future engagement with the EU (and other third-party countries).
- Establish a structured mechanism to enable timely, effective and sustained participation by citizens and other stakeholders in the processes towards a post-Cotonou framework.
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