Cotonou agreement: Dear European Union, You had one job to do, and even in that, you failed miserably. It is a documented fact that the European Union has generally adopted American foreign policy positions on a variety of issues, particularly in regard to counterterrorism, human rights and global trade. The EU and the US have frequently worked together on diplomatic initiatives, and the EU has also enacted economic sanctions against nations that the US has targeted.
But finally, after a long time, the EU had developed a policy which had received neither American support nor acknowledgement. It was US independent, but not to be.
In the Catanou Agreement, which was established at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the EU swore an oath to give developing nations a voice in the global economy. But the agreement had always been precariously balanced. Now that the agreement has been formally buried by French President Macron, it has made sure that the EU remains a US lackey – forever.
Macron has pushed the Cotonou agreement down a cliff. At a press conference discussing the Post-Cotonou Agreement between the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), French President Emmanuel Macron indicated a willingness to consider moving on from the agreement.
Reportedly, the French President has acknowledged the challenges associated with the agreement, which has not yet been signed due in part to Hungary’s objections and South Africa’s recent departure from OACPS.
For Macron, the framework is utterly outdated, and there needs to be a revitalization of north-south relations. He has also promoted a global financing summit in Paris, indicating that France is pressing on new things rather than old shabby agreements.
The ‘Shabby’ Cotonou agreement
To understand the agreement, let’s rewind back to the 2000s. In the millennium year, the Cotonou Agreement was originally signed signalling a major partnership between the EU and 79 ACP countries, aimed at promoting sustainable development, reducing poverty and integrating the ACP countries into the global economy.
It covered a wide range of issues, including trade, development cooperation, political dialogue and human rights. Though, the pledges by European Union were never fulfilled.
As a result, the EU came up with an entirely new Post-Cotonou Agreement. This new agreement was a more updated framework that takes into account new challenges and developments, such as climate change, digitalization, and migration.
It aimed to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and emphasized the need for greater cooperation and partnership between the EU and the ACP countries. Given that Hungary’s blockade had alarmed the ACP countries, Macron was scheduled to discuss the future of the post-Cotonou.
Macron, though, nabbed them all off guard. The 187-page Post-Cotonou agreement covered a wide range of topics, including connectivity, human rights, statistics, and “inclusive and pluralistic societies,” but unlike its predecessor, it has no bearing on how the European Commission distributes its foreign aid.
As a result, Hungary refused to sign the text that the commission and OACPS had finalized because it was deemed to be too lenient towards legal immigration.
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Now on Death Watch
The agreement had anyways been least mentioned by Europe over the last two decades. There were no negotiations, no value-addition, no ratifications for all these years and the agreement was already on its deathbed.
But, for ACP nations including African, Caribbean, and even Pacific nations, this agreement was a global opportunity. It was a promise that could have changed their fortunes.
For Europe, it was a chance to keep the 79 nations under its shadow. But, stupidity has no face.
Oil, gas, minerals and agricultural land are among the abundant natural resources that several ACP countries are recognized for. For instance, African nations like Angola, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have large mineral and oil reserves, and other nations like Ghana and the Ivory Coast are big producers of cocoa and other agricultural goods.
These are same nations on which the European Union is trying every debauchment tactic to somehow grab a chunk of their natural resources.
Some Caribbean nations, like Trinidad and Tobago, have large oil and gas reserves, while others, like Jamaica and Barbados, have few natural resources and mainly rely on tourism and services. It’s surprising to know that the EU is eager to deal with ACP individuals indirectly rather than dealing via the Cotonou agreement.
In some cases, individual EU member states may have pursued their own interests at the expense of the ACP countries. The biggest example is France itself. Despite being part of the Cotonou agreements, France has shown minimal interest in using it for development and trade purposes. Instead, France has always opted for going singlehandedly while dealing with Africa. France controlled the Sahel for years and didn’t even allow other European nations to have control of the belt. It shows the selfishness of the European countries as they have chosen to deal with these ACP nations individually rather than using the Cotonou agreement
Some ACP nations in the Pacific are well known for their fishing resources, while others have access to mineral and energy resources. For instance, Papua New Guinea produces a substantial amount of gold. The story here is the same, they get individual deals rather than going through Cotonou.
Many ACP countries face challenges in effectively managing and benefiting from these resources. Some of the challenges include limited infrastructure, weak governance and corruption, conflict, and environmental degradation. Europe could have easily agreed upon helping them in development and using their resources. Rather, it missed the chance and gave it to nations like Russia, China and even India to play.
If the Cotonou and Post-Cotonou were followed with full devotion, today Europe wouldn’t have landed in trouble with the energy and resource crisis.
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Following US blindly
This deal may have been Europe’s best chance to break with US foreign policy, but for Europe, its love for the US always stands in the way.
The European Union (EU) has occasionally come under fire for appearing to follow or adopt American foreign policy agendas, sometimes at the expense of European interests or principles. The biggest illustration is the hunt for energy in Europe as a result of sanctions that were imposed as a result of US activities.
The fact today remains that despite all of the hiatus done by the USA in the name of war, the US is still safe. But, the EU is facing the brunt of a catastrophic war. Its energy supplies have been damaged, its weapon stockpile has been depleted and most importantly, its economy is in shamble.
But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Another example is Iran Nuclear Deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), often known as the Iran nuclear deal, was negotiated with assistance from the EU, but the US withdrew from it in 2018. The US reimposed sanctions on Iran in spite of resistance from the EU, and this had a severe effect on European companies that had made investments in Iran.
EU could have gone with its own JCPOA rather than being part of the USA one. But that did that happen.
As a part of the NATO alliance, the US has long pushed for European nations to raise their defence spending. Irrespective of their nations’ economies being in shambles, most of them simply obliged. But, alas, who has the guts to challenge the grandmaster of the west? None.
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The fact is that most of the European Union members are US lackeys and it’s pretty saddening. The Cotonou Agreement provided the European Union (EU) with a rare chance to expand its relations with ACP countries and project its might on the international stage. But by ignoring the ACP countries, the EU has wasted this chance and allowed itself to be used as a pawn in American foreign policy.
While the EU has long aimed to lead the world in advancing human rights, sustainable development, and poverty reduction, this goal of helping these ACP nations cannot be achieved without solid alliances with underdeveloped countries.
It is time for the EU to adopt a principled stance, renew its commitment to the ACP countries, and chart a course for collaboration that puts the interests of both parties ahead of American dictates.
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