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President Macron administers last rites to the post-Cotonou treaty

The 79-member African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping is at risk after support wanes for a new accord

France's President Emmanuel Macron appears to have given up on the negotiations for a successor to the Cotonou Agreement between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (APC) community. In so doing, he may also have sounded the death knell for the ACP as an organisation.

The new treaty covers political and economic relations with the 79-member ACP but, unlike its predecessor, does not have an aid component or change EU-African trade relations (Dispatches 19/4/21, Long-awaited new trade treaty lacks substance for Africa).

'You are right to underline the difficulty,' Macron said following last week's European Council summit in Brussels, noting Hungary's refusal to ratify the treaty.

'I think that certain frameworks are a bit worn out today and so we must go beyond [them],' he added. There is no sign that Hungary – which believes that the treaty is not tough enough on migration control – would lift its veto (AC Vol 64 No 2, Grand ambitions, little money).

South Africa's decision to leave the ACP late last year further hit the organisation's dwindling prestige.

Macron's remarks were significant as France has traditionally been more sympathetic towards the ACP than Germany and the Nordic states.

But France's shift will be welcomed by many of the EU-Africa and development policy experts in Brussels. They see the ACP, whose secretariat is financed by the European Commission, as a supplicant rather than a serious negotiating partner and a relic of colonialism.

To them, negotiating treaties with the ACP rather than the African Union, now the main interlocutor with the Commission, has long looked like an anachronism.

A handful of African states have already indicated their reluctance to ratify the treaty over its provisions on non-discrimination which, they say, promote homosexuality.

The Commission itself is divided on the matter, with the EU's diplomatic service, the European External Action Service, in favour of cutting ties with the ACP, while the Directorate General for Development Co-operation wants to maintain relations with both the ACP and the AU.

However, Macron's comments and Hungary's veto could embarrass EU lawmakers who fear that allowing the treaty, which took several years to negotiate, to gently collapse is a sign of bad faith, particularly towards the Caribbean and Pacific blocs.

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