So far, there has not been any re­gional or na­tional de­bate in­volv­ing the pri­vate sec­tor, academia or other parts of civil so­ci­ety on the rel­e­vance of the ACP, the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with Europe, or how best to en­gage in fu­ture with ei­ther at strate­gic or

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

AThe treaty, which ex­pires in 2020, pro­vides a frame­work for Europe’s de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion, po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and eco­nomic re­la­tions with 79 na­tions in Africa, the Caribbean and Pa­cific (the ACP) which largely were for­mer colonies.

Signed in 2000 and re­vised in 2010, the present agree­ment now em­braces is­sues such as co-oper­a­tion on se­cu­rity, cli­mate change and re­gional in­te­gra­tion. Ini­tially the treaty de­tailed trade re­la­tions, but fol­low­ing the end of pref­er­ence such pro­vi­sions are now con­tained in re­gion-spe­cific eco­nomic part­ner­ship agree­ments such as the EU-Car­i­fo­rum EPA.

The new agree­ment, how­ever, is likely to be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent, and to this end the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion (EC) has be­gun draft­ing a ne­go­ti­at­ing man­date. Europe’s mem­ber states say that the Cotonou Con­ven­tion’s suc­ces­sor must bet­ter re­late to the EU’s over­all ex­ter­nal re­la­tions pol­icy and ap­proach to de­vel­op­ment co-oper­a­tion. Many also see greater fu­ture rel­e­vance in an ap­proach that places po­lit­i­cal em­pha­sis on the re­gions of the ACP.

Put bluntly, some Euro­pean gov­ern­ments now doubt the rel­e­vance of a con­fig­u­ra­tion linked to the his­toric legacy of a few EU states, rather than to the mul­ti­po­lar mul­ti­fac­eted world in which Europe op­er­ates. Con­se­quently, they ques­tion an ar­range­ment that bears lit­tle re­la­tion­ship to the EU’s strate­gic in­ter­ests, through a group­ing which they be­lieve has not de­liv­ered on its ob­jec­tives.

They suggest there are bet­ter so­lu­tions. That is, ones that have ge­o­graphic co­her­ence, em­pha­sise out­comes, might ad­di­tion­ally in­volve states that are ge­o­graph­i­cally prox­i­mate to each ACP re­gion, and which en­able Europe to di­rectly en­gage part­ners in civil so­ci­ety in­clud­ing the pri­vate sec­tor. They also be­lieve that a new agree­ment must take ac­count of what the world might look like be­tween 2020 and 2040, the likely pe­riod any new ACP re­la­tion­ship with Europe will cover.

It is a view that has led of­fi­cials in the EC to con­sider an ap­proach that could see Europe pro­pose a suc­ces­sor ar­range­ment that has, be­neath an over­ar­ch­ing ACP-EU le­gal frame­work and ad­min­is­tra­tive ar­range­ments, re­gional part­ner­ship agree­ments that are open to other states to join.

Against this back­ground, the in­flu­en­tial Maas­tricht and Brussels based Euro­pean Cen­tre for De­vel­op­ment Pol­icy Man­age­ment (ECDPM) has pro­duced a pa­per, ‘ACP-EU re­la­tions be­yond 2020: En­gag­ing the fu­ture or per­pet­u­at­ing the past?’ which ques­tions how this might work in prac­tice. In it, the or­gan­i­sa­tion, which has for long played an in­flu­en­tial role in the ACP-EU re­la­tion­ship in ed­u­cat­ing with­out tak­ing sides, asks sev­eral dif­fi­cult ques­tions which, it sug­gests, both ACP and EU mem­ber states might ad­dress be­fore pro­ceed­ing fur­ther.

Its au­thors point to in­her­ent con­tra­dic­tions in the ap­proach that both the EU and the ACP gov­ern­ments are be­ing drawn to­wards. This they suggest in­volves, on the one hand mod­ernising the re­la­tion­ship by deep­en­ing po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions and mu­tual in­ter­est with each of the re­gions of the ACP; while on the other, fall­ing back or­gan­i­sa­tion­ally on an over­ar­ch­ing ACP-EU frame­work,

They also ar­gue that by pre­serv­ing an over­ar­ch­ing ACP frame­work, in­sti­tu­tions and rules, Europe would be per­pet­u­at­ing an in­sti­tu­tion “whose rel­e­vance, le­git­i­macy, ef­fec­tive­ness and sus­tain­abil­ity have been se­ri­ously chal­lenged by the prac­tice of the past decade”. They suggest too that the EC’s think­ing would re­in­force the pri­macy of “a highly cen­tralised, statist frame­work for in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion” which they ar­gue is now at odds with present multi-lay­ered multi-ac­tor ap­proaches to in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion.

What ECDPM pro­poses is the de­vel­op­ment of a re­gion­ally driven bot­tom up man­date, in­volv­ing a much wider group be­yond the small cir­cle of of­fi­cials and diplo­mats presently in­volved in ACP dis­cus­sions. This will not be easy in the Caribbean, not least be­cause with some im­por­tant ex­cep­tions, the voice of Caribbean civil so­ci­ety and its in­sti­tu­tions is at its weak­est for decades.

So far, there has not been any re­gional or na­tional de­bate in­volv­ing the pri­vate sec­tor, academia or other parts of civil so­ci­ety on the rel­e­vance of the ACP, the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with Europe, or how best to en­gage in fu­ture with ei­ther at strate­gic or prac­ti­cal level. Which is to say noth­ing about how a fu­ture EU re­la­tion­ship might re­late to the chang­ing com­mer­cial and po­lit­i­cal bal­ance in a re­gion in which new part­ners, in­clud­ing China and Rus­sia, are seek­ing a long-term eco­nomic role, or what it might mean for the re­di­rect­ion of na­tional and re­gional re­sources.

The an­swers to such ques­tions are not just of sig­nif­i­cance to Europe, but could also pro­vide guid­ance to those in and around the Caribbean basin as to how over the next twenty years the An­glo­phone part of the re­gion in par­tic­u­lar, in­tends co­or­di­nat­ing po­si­tions with na­tions that are ge­o­graph­i­cally prox­i­mate.

For many in the Caribbean, the re­la­tion­ship with the ACP re­lates to shared his­tory, par­tic­u­larly, but not ex­clu­sively, with Africa. It runs from slav­ery through in­de­pen­dence, and on to post-colo­nial and sub­se­quent trade ar­range­ments with Europe. This has sus­tained, al­beit at times with dif­fi­culty, a sin­gle re­sponse to Europe and more re­cently, prac­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion in mul­ti­lat­eral fora on wider pol­icy is­sues such as cli­mate change and trade is­sues.

The need to re­new the re­gion’s re­la­tion­ship with Europe after 2020 of­fers a unique op­por­tu­nity to con­sider whether there is a case for re­bal­anc­ing the re­la­tion­ship in ways in which geography and neigh­bours come to play a greater role in the Caribbean’s fu­ture. This does not mean aban­don­ing the ACP, but dis­cussing mech­a­nisms and al­ter­na­tive ap­proaches bet­ter re­lated to twenty first cen­tury eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity.

This may there­fore be the mo­ment to be­gin to ques­tion whether Car­i­fo­rum’s over­all re­la­tion­ship with Europe might be bet­ter man­aged from the re­gion through al­ter­na­tive in­sti­tu­tions im­bued with new think­ing, within a much looser ACP con­text. Pre­vi­ous col­umns can be found at www.caribbean­coun­cil.org

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