Hungary continues to block the European mandate to begin negotiations with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, to the great displeasure of MEPs.
Negotiations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries on the next Cotonou Agreement are at a standstill. At the occasion of the adoption of the negotiating mandate on 14 June, MEPs called on member states to adopt the mandate to formally begin negotiations with ACP countries.
“Member States have to decide unanimously on the negotiating mandate. This is why Hungary has blocked the mandate because of a disagreement on the issue of migration,” said the French MEP Mireille d’Ornano of the EFDD group in the European Parliament.
The clock is ticking
The Cotonou Agreement, which was established in 2000, governs trade and political relations as well as supports cooperation between the EU and 79 ACP countries. This partnership is due to expire in 2020 and will have to be replaced with a new cooperation agreement.
European governments had to agree on a mandate to begin negotiations for the future Cotonou Agreement in May, so that negotiations could begin at the meeting of ministers of the EU and ACP countries on 31 May, in Lomé, Togo.
However, Hungary has refused to validate the negotiating mandate as it is opposed to the Commission’s stance on migration. Since this refusal the clock has been ticking as the formal launch of these negotiations should take place by August 2018, at the latest.
“There has been agreement on the negotiation mandate, except for one point,” said Monika Panayotova, who represented the Bulgarian presidency during the debate in plenary on 13 June. “The presidency will continue to strive to obtain a Council vote so that negotiations can begin as planned.”
However, the Bulgarian presidency has little time to finalise negotiations, as it must hand the rotating presidency over to Austria on 1 July.
In the resolution adopted by the European Parliament, MEPs support the principle of a future binding agreement between the EU and ACP countries and reiterate that the primary objective of the partnership is to eliminate poverty.
MEPs also regret “the Commission’s very unbalanced proposal on migration which places a strong emphasis on the return and readmission of migrants, and which includes an extremely limited provision on legal migration”
The question of trade relations between the EU and ACP countries, and particularly Africa was the subject of many criticisms during the debate.
“It was a complete failure in terms of trade policy,” added the Italian MEP, Piernicola Pedicini (EFDD).
In fact, according to the resolution, half of the ACP countries are still amongst the least developed countries in the world, and the 79 countries combined account for less than 5% of global trade and around 2% of global GDP.