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ACP-EU COUNCIL : FLEXIBLE PROCEDURE FOR SOUTH SUDAN TO JOIN COTONOU.

Ministers from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and from the European Union decided to use a flexible procedure to enable the future state of South Sudan to become a party to the Cotonou Agreement, at the 36th ACP-EU Council, on 31 May in Brussels. The parties also held heated discussions on the negotiations for economic partnership agreements (EPAs).

The Cotonou Agreement sets the framework for relations between the EU and the countries of the ACP group.

"The ministers decided to use a light procedure to enable South Sudan to become a party to the Cotonou Agreement," said Hungary's Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi on behalf of the EU Presidency. In practical terms, the procedure will not require approval by all the ACP-EU ministers, not scheduled to meet again until next year. The ministers gave a committee of ambassadors based in Brussels a mandate to adopt the decision by written procedure, once South Sudan has officially become independent (9 July). The future state will thus be eligible for assistance under the 10th European Development Fund.

On the economic partnership agreements, "Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht participated in a very heated discussion," said Martonyi. The negotiation of these agreements began in 2002; they aim to set up free trade areas between the EU and six ACP regions: Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (EMCCA), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), the Caribbean and the Pacific. They should have been signed in 2008 but the negotiations were brought to conclusion successfully only with the Caribbean countries (2009).

Many ACP states are basically seeking a longer transition period for market liberalisation and compensation for lost revenues as the result of the abolition of customs duties. They are also opposed to the inclusion of a non-implementation clause in the event of failure to respect democratic principles. For the Commission, the EU showed flexibility and cannot fly in the face of World Trade Organisation rules. Given the ongoing difficulties, the EU executive is expected to review its strategies by the end of the year.

The ministers also decided to adopt practical measures to enhance cooperation on migration policy (visas, fund transfer and readmission) by the end of the year.

EPA objectives

The economic partnership agreements (EPAs) are meant to adapt EU-ACP trade relations to WTO rules, given the incompatibility of the non-reciprocal trade preferences granted to the ACP states since the Lome Convention (1975). The agreements entail gradual opening of ACP markets (phased-in reduction of customs duties over a period of ten to 15 years) and direct opening of the EU market (except for rice and sugar).

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Title Annotation:African, Caribbean and Pacific; European Union
Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Jun 6, 2011
Words:446
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