29th Jan 2023

EU pits developing countries against US

In a wide-ranging partnership agreement with the ACP (Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific) countries, known as the Cotonou Agreement, Brussels is pushing for a clause on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

It is also pushing for support for the International Criminal Court - something the EU supports but which the US has refused to sign up to.

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After almost one year's negotiations, the five-year review of the Cotonou Agreement is due to be completed today (23 February). However, ACP countries fear that the EU's demands will jeopardise their trade and development relations with Washington.

Signed in 2000 and valid until 2020, the agreement is the main legal document that binds the EU to its ACP partners covering trade and good governance. Its underlying objective is to fight poverty.

But adding the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) clause to the document as an "essential element," the violation of which could lead to the suspension of aid from the European Union, goes against that underlying objective, argue both ACP countries and NGOs.

In November 2003, the EU agreed that all external agreements made with the 25-nation bloc must include a clause against the manufacturing and stockpiling of WMDs.

"Weapons of mass destruction were not an issue or an imminent threat when Cotonou was first signed", said a senior diplomat from one of the ACP countries speaking to the EUobserver.

"The ACP agrees to its inclusion in the review but not as an essential element", the diplomat said.

"Elements of the (Cotonou Agreement) proposal are driven by Europe’s internal focus on security, and not by the fight against poverty", wrote Nathalie Legrand, lead on the Cotonou aid working group of CONCORD, a European organization of development NGOs.

"The requests of the ACP are seen as concessions to be made, while the demands of the EU are presented as non-negotiable", said Ms Legrand.

International Criminal Court

The EU is also demanding that the new Agreement, which culminates on Wednesday after negotiations began last May, include support for the International Criminal Court although not all ACP members are signatories to the Court.

"We agree to include the ICC in the document, but we do not want a strong position because some ACP members are concerned that doing so would affect their commitments with the US", the senior diplomat said.

The US has been a strong opponent of the ICC since its inception and refuses to sign on to it.

However, the ACP sees itself pushed into a corner by the EU.

"The ACP says that decisions should not be made unilaterally by the EU but by agreement. As it is, if the EU does not like an aspect, it can withdraw co-operation", the diplomat said.

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