The EU has negotiated a series of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the 79 ACP countries. These agreements aim to create a common trade and development partnership, supported by development aid. The EU and the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) have governed their relations since 1975 through a series of partnership agreements. The most recent is the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, which expires in 2020. Although formal negotiations on a new partnership will not begin until 2018, the future of the ACP-EU partnership has been the subject of intense discussion for several years. Our cooperation with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) has been around for a long time and has deepened over time, as evidenced by the successive ACP-EU partnership agreements signed in the years following the first Lomé Convention (1975). Relations between the European Union (EU) and the ACP Group changed considerably during the 1990s. Historical links, which were the main features of previous agreements, had been eroded and the importance of ACP countries to the EU was reduced. With the completion of the Single Market programme in 1992 and the end of the Cold War, the EU had turned to development issues that were “closer to the homeland”, namely in Central and Eastern Europe. Although relations between the EU and the ACP countries have continued, they have been marked by the changing political situation of its time. The wave of democratization that affected many developing countries after the end of the Cold War has led to a politicization of development cooperation hitherto unknown.
In addition, the continued absence of the expected economic benefits of Lomé, the continuing incompatibility with the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) /World Trade Organization (WTO) and the complexity of the Lomé agreements led to the development of a new agreement in Cotonou, the capital of Benin. The deadline for signing the EPAs, December 31, 2007, was dramatic. Only the Caribbean region concluded negotiations for a full EPA before the deadline expired. A number of other countries – including Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Ghana and Côte d`Ivoire – have signed bilateral interim EPAs solely for goods to ensure continued exports. Others, such as Senegal, swore that they would not sign until “development problems” were taken seriously. Negotiations then continued to review the interim EPAs, which appeared to contain many problematic provisions; and reach regional agreements. To put pressure on the negotiations, the EU has set a new deadline: ACP countries (least developed countries) that have signed or signed EPAs (intermediates) but have not ratified these agreements or have begun to implement them before 1 January 2014 will lose their preferential access to the EU. As a result of this threat, regional EPAs were signed in West, East and South Africa in the summer of 2014.
However, the European Commission has warned the three regions against withdrawing preferential market access if these regional EPAs are not ratified within two years. In the summer of 2016, the European Commission presented, on 1 October 2016, the legal instruments to deal with this threat. All destination countries (Ghana, Côte d`Ivoire, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Kenya) visited and “ratified”. The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly is an advisory body made up equally of representatives from the EU and ACP countries.