Statement by Sir John Kaputin, Secretary-General of the ACP House, at the Workshop on the Lisbon Treaty and Impacts on ACP

The Secretary-General of the ACP Secretariat, Sir John Kaputin, hold a speech at the ACP House, Brussels on Friday, 16 October 2009 at the Workshop on the Lisbon Treaty and its potential impacts on the ACP Group.

Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies Ambassadors and Representatives of ACP States,
Dr. Paul ENGEL, Director of ECDPM, and his team,
Representatives of the EU Council and the European Commission,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the honour to make a Statement at this important Workshop, as I believe that this workshop could not have been organised at a better time. First and foremost, allow me, on behalf of the ACP Group and my own behalf, to thank the ECDPM for accepting to organise this Workshop on behalf of the ACP Secretariat. The ECDPM have always been willing to assist the Secretariat in various other meetings, and I hope that this collaboration will continue to improve.

Mr. Chairman,

For a long time now, ever since the process of revising the constitutional make-up of the EU started, I have been following the process with keen interest. I believe that the Lisbon Treaty has implications for the ACP Group collectively and individually at national level, as well as for the world in general. The EU has become a major international political and economic force, and any reform in its composition, institutional structure or working methods is bound to have ramifications beyond the EU’s borders.

The Lisbon Treaty marks another milestone in the evolution of the EU from its humble foundations in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which focused mainly on trade relations and development coordination among its Member States, to the Union that it is today. However, the Lisbon Treaty is far more ambitious. It represents a shift in the EU’s emphasis from peace and economic development within the Union to strategies intended to address global challenges such as the eradication of global poverty, as well as a more political role for the EU on the international scene.

Mr. Chairman,

As you know, the ACP Group’s association with the European Union goes right back to the Treaty of Rome, starting with the First Association Convention in 1957, which was succeeded by the Yaoundé and Lome Conventions to the present Cotonou Agreement. Along the way, the ACP-EU relations have to take into account changes in the EU’s internal and external environment, as exemplified perhaps by the addition of overtly political themes that are the essential elements of the Cotonou Agreement.

Mr. Chairman,

It is important to always recall that the Cotonou Agreement has as its primary objective the eradication of poverty, promotion of sustainable development and the gradual integration of ACP countries into the global economy. One of the critical questions to be asked about the Lisbon Treaty is how committed the EU still is to the objectives of Cotonou, and indeed to the ACP Group. The biggest threat to world development is global poverty, and I believe that the international trade and financial regime must be structured in a way that tackles the root cause of the marginalization of developing countries in the international economy.

Recent global developments, beginning with the food and fuel crisis in 2006 and now the current financial and economic crisis, demonstrate that it is not possible to co-exist peacefully in the global community of nations in an environment of both absolute deprivation on the one hand and tremendous prosperity on the other hand. Indeed the current crisis has just demonstrated how intertwined the international community has become; we share a common heritage and a common future.

Mr. Chairman,

During the past 4 years, we have witnessed a gradual re-alignment of the EU’s development cooperation policies with the ACP Group, as seen in the three separate EU regional strategies for Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific Regions, as well as for South Africa. In the spirit of ACP-EU Partnership, the organs of the ACP Group, including Council, have reiterated that the three regional strategies and the one for South Africa should aim at strengthening the key pillars of the ACP-EU Partnership as delineated in the Cotonou Agreement. This means that the regional strategies should be Cotonou-Plus, both in regional coverage and content of cooperation, and most importantly, should not undermine the solidarity of the ACP Group.

Although I would like to see the build-up of parallel Partnerships as a means of helping countries and regions to better position themselves in the global economic space, I feel that the European Union should be mindful that these new regional development initiatives are not advanced at a great cost of degrading the largest North-South Partnership in the world.

You will have noticed that central to these concerns is the future of the ACP Group. In view of these sentiments, it would be interesting to see how the new external actions of the EU envisaged in the Lisbon Treaty will address these issues.

Mr. Chairman,

It is worth noting that the inevitable ratification of the Lisbon Treaty comes at a time of the 2nd Revision of the Cotonou Agreement. Is it possible that our negotiating partners are already taking into account the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty during these negotiations?

I believe, as I have stated before in other forums, as well as before the ACP Committee of Ambassadors, that the ACP Group needs some serious reflection about the nature of our organization and its future. For instance, are the institutional frameworks that underpin the ACP Group, namely, the Georgetown and Cotonou Agreements, structured in a way that will allow the ACP Group to remain relevant to its Member States in future?

I believe that as we reflect on the implications of the Lisbon Treaty on the ACP Group, these are some of issues we should think about.

I thank you for your kind attention and wish you a successful workshop.

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