Hon. Joseph Hyacinthe Owona Kono, President of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly
Hon. Members of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly
Ambassadors of ACP States
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the ACP Group, I want to express a warm welcome to all of you distinguished parliamentarians to the 51st Session of the Parliamentary Assembly and certainly welcome you back to your house. Allow me to also say how delighted I am to have this opportunity to address your meeting this morning.
Mr. President, Hon Members,
We are meeting at a critical juncture in the history of our organisation as we are bracing ourselves for the negotiation with the EU on a Successor Agreement to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. You will recall that in my last address to you in June, I was indeed proud to present to you the ACP Negotiating Mandate that had just been adopted in Lome, Togo.
Today, I come to you once again to update you on the negotiation processes.
Mr. President, Hon. Members,
As you are aware, the Agreement provides for the parties to commence negotiations for a new agreement 18 months before the expiry of the current agreement. The two parties, ACP and EU, have taken appropriate measures to comply with their obligations under Article 95 (4) of the Agreement by exchange of mandates in July.
In preparation for the commencement of the Negotiations, the Ambassadors through the Ambassadorial Central Negotiating Group have continued their work which included preparing guidelines of the Work of the Central Negotiating Group and the Technical Negotiating Teams. This was followed by preparations of negotiating briefs by the Technical Negotiating Teams that will provide clear and precise directives to ACP lead negotiators.
On the 23rd of September 2018, the Chair of the Ministerial CNG, H. E. Professor Robert DUSSEY, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of the Republic of Togo, convened a meeting, in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The chair convened this meeting to take stock of the ACP preparatory process and for Ministers to provide guidance to the Ambassadors for further action.
Ministers provided guidance on issues key for the preparation of the ACP-EU Negotiations, these included areas such as timelines and sequencing, structure of the Agreement, venue for Negotiations, cross-cutting issues and oversight role of Ministers during the negotiation process.
On the 28th September 2018, the two parties, the ACP and the EU formally launched active negotiations for a new partnership agreement in NewYork in the margins of the UNGA, a significant place at the heart of multilaterism. Both chief negotiators expressed clearly the beginning of a new partnership that will genuinely contribute to the sustainable development of ACP Countries.
Mr. President, Hon. Members,
The task ahead remains critical, one that calls for courageous leadership, constructive dialogue and collective approach. I am happy to indicate that the Committee of Ambassadors has embarked on serious work on the negotiations and next week shall mark the first round of negotiations. As we embark on this process, we aspire to have an inclusive process that involves the active engagement and consultation with this August Assembly.
On the 29 August 2018, I and some ACP Member States attended a briefing with Members of the European Parliament together with the European Commission and the European External Action Services (EEAS) to discuss both ACP and EU adopted Negotiating Mandates. The meeting acknowledged the differences in the two mandates. Where the ACP calls for a stronger parliamentary dimension the EU calls for a regional approach. In our exchanges the EU stated that it remained open to further engagement with the Members of Parliament on the need to maintain a parliamentary dimension as proposed by the ACP mandate.
This will require a strong case with compelling arguments.
On the 30th of August 2018, the Chair of the Central Negotiating Group with Secretariat support undertook an outreach mission to Uganda where we also interacted with the Chair of the ACP Parliamentary Working Group on Post Cotonou Hon. Jacob Oulanyah – Deputy Speaker & eminent Parliamentarian. This interaction was not only encouraging but insightful with concrete proposals of how the Assembly sees itself in the Successor Agreement. I am optimistic that his proposals and recommendations of the WG will be duly taken on board during the negotiations.
In the same breadth, you will recall that the Secretariat had commissioned a study on the Impact Assessment of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. The consultant who is one of your own, former ACP Member of Parliament and Chair of the Committee of Economic Development, Finance and Trade, Ambassador Kembi Gitura of Kenya who is currently in Brussels for the necessary consultations and interviews. I am reliably informed that he will be able to informally interact with the ACP PA Working Group on Post Cotonou. The Secretariat will certainly deliver its undertaking that the report of this study forms part of your debate in your next session in Benin.
Mr. President, Hon. Members,
As we embark on this journey to ensure we strive to change the lives of our people, the role of the ACP Group should remain active and present in the multilateral fora. In this regard, I have the pleasure of informing you of the official opening of the ACP Information Centre for South-South and Triangular Cooperation, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on last Friday, 5th of October 2018.
This historic opening, the first ever ACP permanent representation in an ACP Member State, attests to the Group’s commitment of enhancing its visibility and promotion and implementation of South South and Triangular Cooperation. This centre will seek to achieve amongst others, the following:
– case studies on South-South and Triangular Cooperation, gather and disseminate information on development needs for ACP countries and other developing countries, through implementation of programmes and projects;
– to create an on-line platform to exchange information, in real time, on case studies and on the above-mentioned South-South and Triangular Cooperation activities; and
– to serve as an interface with the ACP Secretariat in Brussels for an electronic project inventory matrix, which provides information on the formulation, implementation status, and results of intra-ACP projects….these as you know portray the flagship activities of our Group.
In a similar manner, I wish to bring the following matters to your attention. The Committee of Ambassadors has approved the following projects and programmes for financing under the Intra-ACP Action Plan 2018 to the tune of € 805 million:
– Health Systems Strengthening in ACP Countries,
– Improved ACP Countries’ Development Policies, Research and Innovation and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Capacities in ACP Countries,
– Spotlight Initiative on Gender Equality
– Global Partnership for Education,
– Support Programme for ACP SIDS and Coastal Countries,
– Intra-ACP Fisheries and Aquaculture Blue Growth Programme for Improved Value Chain Productivity and Competitiveness,
– Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Programmes,
– Mineral Clusters to support Artisanal Mining & Quarrying
– ACP Farmers’ Organisations and Support to Agritourism; and
– Technical Assistance to Support ACP Financial Institutions’ Access to Blending Investment Resources.
These projects and programmes I have just outlined, establish a clear nexus between the work of the JPA and that of the implementors of the ACP-EU Cooperation. As some are linked to a number of Resolutions you have adopted and more so, give an opportunity to this august assembly to follow up on some of the programs to ensure they benefit our citizens.
Mr. President, Hon. Members,
There has been a growing concern amongst most of the ACP Member States about the Economic Partnership Agreements entered into between EU and ACP regional configurations. Preparations are underway to undertake an analytical study and to take stock of the EPA process in a comprehensive manner focusing on the legal, trade, regional integration and development areas. A report will enable the ACP Group to possess the relevant elements to establish whether the various EPA processes are consistent with the objectives and principles laid out by the ACP Group at the commencement of the negotiations and moving forward into the future, post-2020.
The study will cover the EPAs currently under implementation, EPA configurations for which agreements are neither concluded nor being implemented as well as the impact of EPAs on non-EPA ACP States in the respective regions at the wider ACP level.
Mr. President, Hon. Members,
In conclusion, allow me to thank the authorities of the Republic of Benin for offering to host the 52th Session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly and 36th Session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. The Cotonou Agreement stipulates that there shall be two JPA sessions per year alternately held in an EU and ACP Member State. The EU side fulfilled its obligation for this year by hosting the June-Brussels session. The offer by Benin will ensure that the ACP side also honours its obligation. That is indeed a great venue for the consolidation of the ACP solidarity and for the advancement of the ACP-EU partnership based on mutual respect, interdependence and a shared vision of a better world for all. What an opportune time for us to go back to the historic city – Cotonou.
I thank you all for your kind attention, see you in Benin!!