Bridging the credibility gap: Challenges for ACP-EU relations in 2011

ECDPM Relations between the European Union and its partners in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) are in a parlous state. Past readers of this annual review will know that we regularly refer to ACP-EU relations as being at a critical juncture, and this is certainly true at the start of 2011.

Yet no real movement is evident from past years, and it is hard to discern signs for optimism in the year ahead. The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) negotiations are blocked. On climate change, no real dialogue or solution is in sight. No solid common agenda has emerged on governance issues. Aid budgets are stagnating, and the EU is grappling with internal problems of its own. The EU’s credibility in much of the ACP is at an all-time low, and in the EU many seem to have lost faith in the future of the partnership with the ACP.

Moreover, there is a collective failure to recognise that in the face of such inertia, new thinking is essential and business as usual is no longer possible. The lack of a coherent and daring response strategy is a particularly worrying aspect. We have just passed the mid-way point of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. There is another 10 years to go. But if relations do not improve soon there will be little basis on which to negotiate a follow-up agreement by 2020.

Where could new response strategies come from? What could bring back the required political traction, dynamism and creativity to overcome the current stalemate on both sides of the equation?

Several ‘windows of opportunity’ to revitalize cooperation between the EU and the ACP and with Africa (as a continental entity involved in process of pan-African integration) are explored in this paper, each of them presenting various challenges to be addressed in the near future.

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