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Future of ACP in doubt after signing of much delayed trade deal

Member states question value of African-Caribbean-Pacific trade organisation

Over two years of tortuous negotiations on a successor pact to the Cotonou agreement – between the European Union and countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific regions (brought together in the ACP) – are due to produce what will be known as the Samoa Agreement (AC Vol 61 No 25, Old treaty rolls over). This follows Poland lifting its objections to the new agreement.

Warsaw had withheld its signature in protest at the treaty's language promoting non-discrimination, LGBT+ rights and gender equality. Diplomats in Brussels said Poland's primary motive was to protest the European Commission's decision to lift an embargo on surplus grain from Ukraine which had been flooding the East European market and depressing regional grain prices.

As the negotiations over the new treaty reach the finish line, many are asking whether the ACP as an organisation has also reached the end of the road.

African diplomats privately question the purpose of an organisation covering such disparate regions, but which is also supposed to be an equal of the European Commission.

The Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) secretariat, which is based in Brussels, has become almost entirely reliant on EU funding (AC Vol 54 No 25, Heads up for headquarters). Just over a third of its €15.4 million (US$17.1m) budget for 2023 was supposed to come in contributions from its member states with the remainder to come from the EU budget.

However, so far only €1.19m of the €5.46m due has been paid in. Ten countries are yet to pay their 2022 budget contributions; nine of them are under sanctions.

That prompted the secretariat to warn that the organisation's financial situation was 'critical' and it would be 'forced to curtail planned activities'.

Cash flow shortages notwithstanding, the OACPS is still planning to cover the full costs of a two-day retreat at a Belgian resort for ambassadors with Louis Michel, former Belgian foreign minister and the father of European Council President Charles Michel.

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