Brussels 26 November 2015/ ACP: The ACP Council of Ministers concluded its 102nd session on 25th November 2015 with a renewed commitment to ensuring the success of the upcoming 8th Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government in 2016, which will be a pivotal point for the organisation, as it undergoes a review and reorientation process to position itself as a more effective global player.

Council approved the offer from Papua New Guinea to host the 8th Summit in its capital city Port Moresby from 30 May – 1 June 2016 under the theme: “Repositioning the ACP Group to respond to the challenges of Sustainable Development”. The Summit is expected to pronounce a clear direction on the future of the ACP Group as an organisation, in terms of how it delivers on the sustainable development goals of its Member States and populations, as well as the future partnership between the ACP countries and the European Union. The Summit will also consider recommendations for organisational reforms, informed by the report of the ACP Eminent Persons Group chaired by former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, which is due in early 2016, and that of the Ambassadorial Working Group on Future Perspectives, which was approved by Council in December 2014.

Along with the endorsing of the preparations for the 8th Summit, the ACP Council of Ministers passed 13 decisions, four resolutions and two declarations on other key matters, including the following:

2016 Budget for ACP Secretariat

The ACP Council of Ministers passed a budget for the Secretariat for 2016, amounting to EUR 15,896,103, representing a nominal increase of 3.2% from the previous year. This is aimed at ensuring adequate support for the Secretary General and Secretariat to carry out its mandate, in spite of the economic constraints faced by the Member Countries. Under this budget, contributions from internal taxes will increase by 10.4%, contributions from the European Commission will increase by 0.8%, while Member State contributions will decrease in total by 8.5%.

Climate Change Declaration

The ACP Council of Ministers reaffirmed that the adverse impact of climate change threatens the very survival of the 79 ACP countries, and poses immediate and long term significant risks to their sustainable development efforts. In the lead up to the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21), the ACP Council of Ministers declared that the new agreement to be adopted at the conference must be a legally binding agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, while urging developed countries to take the lead in further reducing greenhouse gas emissions to support efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees below pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The Council emphasised the need to scale up climate finance, and highlighted other issues of concern in an ACP Issues Paper which was endorsed to support Member States in their negotiations at the COP21 conference.

ACP Agriculture Commodity Trade

A resolution passed by the ACP Council of Ministers welcomed the European Commission’s indication that no further tariff liberalisation will be granted to EU trade partners who are direct competitors of ACP countries on the banana market. It also welcomed the indication that the special safeguard clause set out in EU Market Access Regulation 1528/07 and in the Economic Partnership Agreements cannot be used to discriminate against imports of ACP sugar, but only as an indicator of possible market disturbance. At the same time they urged the European Commission to refrain from a direct intervention in sugar market supply arrangements, as well as an ongoing public debate which might encourage buyers to hold back unnecessarily.

Trade matters and ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements

The ACP Council of Ministers passed a resolution reiterating that the conclusion and implementation of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) between the ACP regions and the EU must be balanced, with a view to speeding up sustainable and inclusive development of ACP countries. The Council reaffirmed the need for additional EU resources, set up in special EPA Funds, while also increasing aid for trade financing. To date, the Caribbean region (CARIFORUM) is the only one currently implementing a full EPA with the EU, while the Southern African Development Community EPA Group, the East Africa Community, and West Africa have completed negotiations for full EPAs, to be signed and ratified by October 2016. At the same time, several other countries are already implementing interim EPAs at the bilateral level. The ACP Council thus called on the EU to speed up EPA negotiations with the remaining regions.

Council also endorsed the Declaration by the ACP Trade Ministers on the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 December, which calls on WTO member countries to affirm their commitment to the Doha Development Agenda, in particular on the core areas in the negotiations that are important to developing countries.

Cuba-USA relations

The ACP Council of Ministers passed a declaration that expressed solidarity with the Government and people of Cuba in its struggle against the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba. The Council welcomed the decision by the United States Government to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, while also calling on the international community to continue its support for the immediate and unconditional lifting of sanctions imposed on Cuba. The Council called for the unconditional repeal of unilateral and unjustified economic embargoes placed against other ACP countries, which harms the innocent, poor and vulnerable populations of these countries.

Full texts of Resolutions, Declarations and relevant Decisions

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