In the first years following the entry into force of the EEC Treaty, the European Community's development aid policy was more or less restricted to the association provided for in the fourth part of the Treaty and covering the former colonies of France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. After most of these countries were granted independence, a first Convention was signed in Yaoundé (Cameroon) on July 20, 1963 between the EEC and an association of 17 African countries and Madagascar. The enlargement of the Community in 1973 substantially boosted the ranks of the associated countries, drawing in the former British colonies. This prompted an overhaul of the content of the agreement.
The Convention signed in Lomé (Togo) on February 28, 1975 between the then nine Member States of the EEC and 46 States of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) signalled a fresh start for the common development aid policy. The fourth EEC-ACP Convention, also signed in Lomé on December 15, 1989, firmly cemented cooperation between the EC Member States and 70 ACP States, including the whole of sub-Saharan Africa and, in certain aspects, South Africa.
The fourth Lomé Convention expired on 29 February 2000. Its successor, the partnership agreement signed at Cotonou (Benin) on 23 June 2000, although it is still based on the acquis of the four Lomé Conventions, heralded a fundamental change in relations between the ACP States and the European Community/Union and its Member States [Agreement and Decision 2000/483 and Amending Agreement and Decision 2010/648]. The term of the new agreement is 20 years. The members of the ACP group of countries are 75, including six Pacific Island States and South Africa.
The partnership agreement combines substantial political dialogue between the partners with innovative forms of economic and commercial cooperation and new development cooperation mechanisms and strategies. Thus the agreement is supported by five interdependent pillars, namely the overall political dimension, encouragement of a participatory approach, a stronger bias towards the aim of reducing poverty, a new framework for economic and trade cooperation and reform of financial cooperation. The objective of good governance has been added to those of respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law as one of the essential elements of the partnership (Pillar I of the agreement). Under Article 11 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement "the parties shall pursue an active, comprehensive and integrated policy of peace-building and conflict prevention and resolution within the framework of the partnership".
The Cotonou Agreement also includes provisions on cooperation in trade-related areas leading each participating country to negotiate a trade agreement with the EU. The purpose of these agreements is to help developing countries integrate into the world economy, step up production and stimulate trade and investment in compliance with World Trade Organisation rules [see section 23.4]. Where finances are concerned, the various instruments have been regrouped and rationalised so that all resources available under the European Development Fund (EDF) are disbursed via two instruments: a financial package from which subsidies are granted and another from which risk capital and loans are provided to the private sector. Operations must focus on a specific sector (health, transport, etc.) and combine many different aspects of cooperation (economic, environmental, social, etc.) in order to ensure that aid is better targeted (Pillar V of the Agreement). Geographic cooperation with the ACP countries and regions in the context of the 10th EDF are founded on the basic principles and values reflected in the general provisions of the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement and take into account the development objectives and cooperation strategies set out in Title XX of the EC Treaty [Regulation 617/2007 and Regulation 215/2008, last amended by Regulation 370/2011].
The joint institutions for cooperation established by the former Lomé Conventions remain in force, namely:
- the Council of Ministers, consisting of members of the Council of the European Union, members of the European Commission and a member of the government of each ACP country, meets once a year to initiate political dialogue, adopt political guidelines and take decisions required for the implementation of the provisions of the Agreement [Decision 2005/297];
- the Committee of Ambassadors, made up of the permanent representative of each Member State for the European Union, a Commission representative and a head of mission for each ACP state, assists the Council of Ministers [Decision 2005/299];
- the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, made up of an equal number of representatives of Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the ACP States, may adopt resolutions and submit recommendations to the Council of Ministers.
The new system for programming the aid granted by the EU enhances the flexibility of the partnership and entrusts the ACP States with greater responsibility, particularly by establishing a system of rolling programming that eliminates the concept of non-programmable aid, i.e. aid programmed unilaterally by the EU. The ACP States now have greater responsibility for determining objectives, strategies and operations and for programme management and selection.
The programming process is centred on results. Financial assistance of a set amount is no longer an automatic right. Grants are allocated on the basis of an assessment of requirements and performances in accordance with criteria negotiated between the ACP countries and the EU. These criteria reflect the partnership's main objectives, such as progress in institutional reform, poverty reduction, etc.
The main instrument used for programming grants is the country support strategy (CSS). An CSS is drawn up for each ACP country by the Commission and the country in question. The CSS sets out general guidelines for using the aid and is supplemented by an indicative operational programme containing specific operations and a timetable for their implementation.
An annual review is provided for in order to adjust the country support strategy (CSS), the operational programme or the resources allocated. Halfway through and at the end of the period of application of the financial protocol, the annual review will also include an assessment of the cooperation strategy, which would either confirm the thrust of the CSS or suggest appropriate adjustments. The volume of resources allocated to the country concerned may be adjusted as a result. Provision is made for local actors to be involved in the annual review in accordance with the principle of decentralisation.
In cases of fluctuation of export revenues, instead of the Stabex and Sysmin instruments of the previous Conventions, the new system of rolling and flexible programming (FLEX system) makes it possible to ensure additional support via the funds allocated within the framework of the CSS and the operational programmes (Annex II to the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement). Additional support in this area is needed because of the ACP States' vulnerability resulting from a high degree of dependence on export revenues in the agricultural or mining sectors in ACP States.
Pillar I of the Cotonou Agreement is a global political dimension, which concerns all of the Agreement's objectives and operations and represents global commitments on the part of the ACP countries in the following domains:
- political dialogue;
- peace-building policies, conflict prevention and resolution based, in particular, on regional initiatives and aiming, inter alia, to ensure that financial resources are not diverted from development objectives [Common position 2005/304];
- respect for human rights and democratic principles based on the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance under the responsibility of the country in question;
- good governance aiming to prevent and to punish corruption.
Pillar II of the Agreement is the promotion of participatory approaches, including a substantial role for non-State actors in the design and implementation of development strategies and programmes, for example the private sector, economic and social partnerships and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Further, the participation of these actors depends on certain criteria relating to management and form of organisation.
Pillar III consists in development strategies and priority for poverty reduction. The integrated approach of the partnership stresses three key areas for cooperation, always taking into account the major objective of poverty reduction:
- economic development focusing on: investment and private sector development (for example, enhancing export activities); macroeconomic and structural reforms and policies (for example, liberalising trade regimes); sectoral policies (for example, developing the industrial, trade and tourism sectors).
- social and human development including: social sectoral policies (for example, improving education, health and nutrition systems, and integrating population issues into strategies); youth issues (for example, protecting the rights of children and youth, particularly girls); cultural development (for example, recognising, preserving and promoting the value of cultural traditions and heritage).
- regional cooperation and integration aiming in particular to: accelerate diversification of the economies of ACP States; promote and expand inter and intra-ACP trade and with third countries, which equally benefits the least developed countries (LDC) among the ACP States; implement sectoral reform policies at regional level.
- thematic and cross-cutting issues concerning: gender equality; sustainable management of the environment; institutional development and capacity building. The question of integrating sustainable management of the environment covers several subjects, for example tropical forests, water resources, desertification, the use of renewable energy sources, etc.
Pillar IV of Cotonou is the establishment of a framework for economic and trade cooperation, in order to bring it into line with WTO rules and to enable the ACP States to play a full part in international trade, notably through:
- the negotiation of new trading arrangements with a view to liberalising trade between the two parties, putting an end to the system of non-reciprocal trade preferences from which the ACP countries currently benefit. Nonetheless, the current system will remain in force for a preparatory period, up to 2008 (the date envisaged for the entry into force of the new arrangements) with a transitional period of at least 12 years. The Union's policy will take account of these countries' social and economic constraints in two ways: one, through social and human development policies (fight against poverty) and, two through cooperation and enhancing the capacities of ACP States in international bodies.
- Trade cooperation is not restricted to traditional trading activities; it also affects other trade-related areas such as the protection of intellectual property rights, trade and labour standards, etc.
- An improvement in the EC's trade regime for all of the least developed countries (39 of which are part of the ACP group) is envisaged. Since 2005, LDC exporters benefit from duty free access for essentially all of their products on the EC market.
Pillar V concerns financial cooperation aiming at the rationalisation of cooperation instruments, especially of the European Development Fund (EDF), the main instrument for European assistance to the ACP States. All EDF resources will be channelled through two instruments:
- grants. These total EUR 11.3 billion under the ninth EDF, EUR 1.3 billion of which is set aside for regional programmes. They are administered jointly by the Commission and the ACP States. Each country should receive a lump sum.
- risk capital and private sector loans. This new instrument, allotted EUR 2.2 billion from the ninth EDF, is administered by the European Investment Bank. The Bank may provide loans, equity and quasi-capital assistance. It may also be able to provide guarantees in support of domestic and foreign private investment.
Article 96 of the Agreement lays down the possibility of taking appropriate measures in cases of violation by one of the parties of the requirements of essential elements of the Agreement, namely respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law. The Agreement provides for a consultation procedure to resolve the situation by establishing the necessary measures. However, in the absence of an acceptable solution, appropriate measures may be taken, including suspension of the Agreement, although this is the last resort.