In April 2021, the EU and the Organization of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) concluded a new agreement, putting an end to months of negotiations to frame the Post-Cotonou era. This new treaty is setting the political, economic and cooperation framework between Africa and the EU for the twenty years to come. While certain aspects of the Lomé Convention (1975) and Cotonou Agreement (2000) remain in this new treaty, its structure and content have been significantly revised.
The new accord is regional by nature, including distinct protocols for Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific regions. Regionalized treaties offer more power to each of the three regions, enabling Africa’s weight in the European Union’s external ties to be much more noticeable. In addition, since 2000, new challenges –such as increased migration flows, climate change, and terrorism – have emerged as priorities in the EU-ACP relationship, while the EU’s preferential trade treatment for ACP states has become obsolete. With the end of the European Development Fund (EDF), aid is not at the centre of the partnership anymore.
The economic and political rise of middle-income countries has altered the balance in the field of development cooperation. In this context and over the years, it looks like the ACP-EU collaboration has steadily developed from a preferential arrangement to a mutually beneficial alliance based on shared interests. Is this agreement opening up ways for a more balanced relationship, giving the African continent more weight to build a new narrative in its relationship to Europe?