|Interview – Jeune Afrique|
African countries and the European Union reached an agreement for the successor to the Cotonou Agreement. As a key player in these discussions, the Togolese Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Dussey lifts the veil for Jeune Afrique over two years of intense negotiations, which have largely gone beyond the purely economic framework.
Chief negotiator of the member countries of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OEACP), Robert Dussey, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Togo, can breathe. On December 3, he announced jointly with European Union negotiator Jutta Urpilainen that he had reached a political agreement after more than two years of intense negotiations.
This step opens the protocol phase which will materialize in 2021 with the ratification and approval of the European Parliament. If the amount of European investments is not yet specified and if migration issues have divided, for the Togolese leader the new agreement is undoubtedly beneficial for the countries of the continent. He answered the questions of Jeune Afrique.
Jeune Afrique: The negotiations on the post-Cotonou framework, launched in September 2018, resulted in an agreement with the European Union. What are the main points of the new agreement?
Robert Dussey: This post-Cotonou agreement we have reached aims to forge a strengthened political partnership between the European Union and the EACP to achieve mutually beneficial results in areas of common interest.
It aims to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as general frameworks governing the partnership.
Cooperation is called to be more political and geared towards achieving greater ambitions at local, national, regional and international levels.
What are the new priorities of the agreement?
The common basis of the agreement defines the principles and values shared by all stakeholders and specifies the priority areas. It covers a field as vast as it is varied, ranging from trade facilitation to the fight against terrorism, cybercrime, youth, the civil service, etc.
The Africa, Caribbean and Pacific regions were each able to complete them, taking into account their priorities and specificities. This is also new.
What do you say to those who fear that Africa will always have the bottom line in these negotiations with the European Union?
I can assure you that the negotiations were conducted on an equal basis and with mutual respect. Africa is a winner insofar as its priorities – in line with its Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Agenda 2030 – have been taken into account overall.
The new partnership emphasizes trade cooperation and private sector development and agriculture as well as women’s health, education and empowerment, as well as peace and human rights issues. of security. It is up to Africa to know how to make the most of this agreement.
Several demands from European partners were raised, in particular regarding the recognition by ACP countries of rules on sexual orientation and gender identity …
These are difficult topics and their handling in the negotiating process was not easy. The OEACP had red lines not to cross and these difficult questions were one of them. Our countries have not understood the EU’s willingness to include the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity in a partnership agreement.
The spirit of compromise prevailed and both parties agreed to remove any specific reference to these topics, while referring, however, to Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Recognized by all parties, this declaration prohibits any discrimination based on sex, ethnic or social origin, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, disability, age or any other status.
What about the demands on the abolition of the death penalty or collaboration with the ICC?
On the abolition of the death penalty, the two parties agreed on the need to maintain dialogue on the issue, while calling for respect for established procedures and minimum standards agreed at the international level regarding the application of this penalty. .
With regard to international justice, OEACP and the European partner reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate with national, regional and international criminal justice systems, including the ICC, in accordance with the principle of complementarity.
The new agreement, once entered into force, will encourage, not oblige, parties to ratify and implement the Rome Statute and related instruments.
It is clear that the OEACP states and specifically those in Africa have not “surrendered” during these negotiations. The logic of the compromise made it possible to reach common positions on these issues and we can only welcome this.
Immigration was another major topic of these negotiations. What have African countries achieved on these issues?
This is a very sensitive issue for both the EACP and the EU. With regard to the negotiations on return, readmission and reintegration, the deadlock was on the question of the “unconditional” acceptance by the OEACP States of travel documents issued by the EU for the purpose of return. irregular migrants.
The ACP rejected this proposal. When a national of a third State finds himself in an irregular situation in the territory of another, the first should carry out checks according to the most appropriate and efficient identification procedures, with a view to establishing the nationality of the person concerned and issue the appropriate travel documents for return purposes.
It would not be an “unconditional” return as the EU has wished. Inheritance taxes and frozen accounts of deceased legal migrants are not included in the agreement because, according to the EU, this issue falls within the competence of its member states and could be settled through bilateral agreements.
As for economic migrants, in general, the parties undertake to develop legal channels for migration, including for labor migration, and other mobility mechanisms, taking into account national priorities and market needs. work.
The agreement provides for three strengthened regional partnerships, including one between the EU and Africa. Will the African Union now be the interlocutor of the European Union?
The main innovation of the new agreement lies in its form which favors the regional approach. Indeed, we have agreed that the post-Cotonou Agreement will be made up of a common foundation backed by three regional protocols.
However, it is about preserving the unity of the EACP and the strength of numbers it constitutes with the EU, while addressing the real and current challenges of the populations of each region. Also, the governance bodies provided for the Africa Protocol are the Joint Africa-EU Council of Ministers, the Joint Africa-EU Committee and the Joint Africa-EU Parliamentary Committee.
The agreement however recognizes the role of regional and continental organizations in the implementation of the Africa Protocol. The symphony of collaboration between the African Union and the OEACP will naturally fall into place.