Cotonou Agreement

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The Cotonou Agreement is an international agreement between the European Community and the ACP states that regulates the special relationship (particularly favorable tariff conditions ) between the EC and these states, most of which are former colonies of the EU member states. He moves in the area of ​​tension between trade and development policy of the EU .

The agreement was signed on June 23, 2000 in Cotonou ( Benin ) as the successor to the Lomé Convention , which expired on February 29, 2000 . It outlines the intergovernmental relationship between the contracting parties in the areas of development aid , trade , investment and human rights and expires in 2020.

In contrast to its predecessor, the Lomé Convention , the Cotonou Convention also deals with human rights and governance . 79 ACP states and the then 15 member states of the European Union signed the agreement, which came into force in 2002.

The agreement provides for the replacement of the unilateral trade preferences, which the EU treaties with the ACP countries provide under the Lomé Agreement , with economic partnership agreements (EPAs), which provide for reciprocal trade preferences. Under this treaty, not only will the EU give ACP exports free access to their markets, but ACP countries will have to open their own markets for EU exports. In addition to reciprocity, differentiation also applies in the Cotonou Agreement, whereby the least developed countries are treated differently from the more developed.

The measures are mainly financed from the European Development Fund (EDF) and loans from the European Investment Bank . With around 23%, Germany is the second largest contributor to the EDF after France.


The signing of this agreement continued a long tradition of cooperation and partnership between the EC and third world countries, which began in 1963 with the Yaoundé Agreement . At that time the EEC supported projects on a multilateral basis with funds from the European Development Fund, mainly in Africa, mainly in the former French and Belgian colonies. After Great Britain joined the EC in 1975, former British colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific were included in development cooperation in the Lomé Convention, which was later renewed several times . The three other Lomé Conventions that were subsequently signed guaranteed trade preferences for the ACP countries , made it easier for them to access the common or internal market and introduced a price stabilization mechanism for certain products, the aim of which was to secure export income. Between 1975 and 2000, the European Development Fund made funds available to the ACP countries amounting to EUR 40 billion.

The ACP-EU negotiations for a new partnership agreement, which opened on September 30, 1998 under the Austrian EU Presidency, were successfully concluded on February 3, 2000. The negotiations were preceded by two years of intensive consultations, which were conducted on a broad basis based on an EC Green Paper.


The partnership agreement signed on June 23, 2000 in Cotonou , Benin , by the European Community and its Member States and 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP States) creates the legal framework for a comprehensive twenty-year partnership between 79 ACP countries, the Community and its member states, which includes trade, political relations and development cooperation. The convention replaces the Lomé IV convention, which expired on February 29, 2000 . Its aim is to reorient development policies towards strategies to alleviate poverty, combining the areas of politics, trade policy and development policy. In this context, the new EC-ACP partnership agreement is based on five independent pillars:

  1. a far-reaching political dimension,
  2. Promotion of co-determination concepts,
  3. greater focus on the goal of poverty reduction,
  4. Building a new framework for economic and trade cooperation and
  5. Financial cooperation reform.

Respect for human rights, the principles of democracy and the rule of law are essential components of the partnership. A consultation procedure has been foreseen in the event of any breach of these essential elements. If the case is particularly urgent, appropriate measures can be taken without prior consultation. The agreement also provides for a good governance obligation as an important basis for partnership and a consultation procedure in serious corruption cases. In addition, the agreement contains provisions for a more intensive political dialogue between the contracting parties on issues of mutual interest, such as: a. Arms trafficking and spending, drug abuse and organized crime, peacebuilding and conflict prevention. For the first time, the question of immigration is also taken into account in the agreement.

The agreement contains innovative provisions to promote participation concepts in order to strengthen the participation of civil society, economic actors and social partners:

  • Providing relevant information on the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement, in particular in the ACP countries,
  • Consultation with civil society on economic, social and institutional reforms and policies to be supported by the EU,
  • Simplifying the participation of non-state actors in the implementation of programs and projects
  • Appropriate administrative building support for the benefit of non-state actors
  • Promote networking and connections between actors

The central objective of the new partnership, the fight against poverty, is set out in the general provisions of the agreement and in the provisions relevant to development strategies. The cooperation strategies take into account the internationally agreed commitments, including the conclusions of the United Nations conferences and the international development cooperation goals, in particular the strategy of the OECD Development Assistance Committee.

For the cooperation strategies, the new agreement proposes a global approach in which the goals and priorities are in the foreground. In contrast to the Lomé Convention, which contained a detailed description of the areas of support, the contracting parties decided to summarize the more detailed political and practical guidelines in a compendium of reference texts to be approved by the ACP-EC Council of Ministers. These reference texts are a supplement, a more detailed version or a further development of the elements already contained in the main text of the agreement. The texts can be checked and amended by the ACP-EC Council of Ministers. The compendium will be updated depending on the development of the need for cooperation. This approach thus enables a flexible approach to regularly adapt the individual political guidelines for the various areas of cooperation without questioning the elements of the agreement itself. The agreement stipulates that the objectives of ACP-EC development cooperation are to be pursued through integrated strategies, which include economic, social, cultural, environmental and institutional elements which the actors in the country concerned must adopt. This creates a uniform framework for supporting the development strategies of the ACP countries and ensures the complementarity and interaction of the individual elements.

The following thematic and cross-sectional questions are systematically included in all areas of cooperation: gender-specific aspects, environmental aspects as well as institutional development and capacity building. These areas are also eligible for community support.

The agreement assigns the private sector in the ACP countries a key role in achieving the development policy objectives in the context of poverty reduction, especially in the areas of increasing productivity and promoting employment, and provides support strategies at the macro, meso and micro levels in front. Particular attention is paid to investment promotion.

Economic and trade cooperation is geared towards:

  • to promote the harmonious and gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy,
  • to strengthen production, delivery and trading capacities,
  • create new trade dynamics and incentives for investment
  • to ensure compliance with WTO rules.

In the area of ​​trade issues, the EC and the ACP countries agreed to conclude a new WTO- compliant regulation that will replace the previous one-sided market preferences with regional economic partnerships that will come into force in 2008 . Negotiations on this are to begin in 2002. In a preparatory phase, the markets are to be opened gradually and asymmetrically. The aim is to maintain the favorable competitive position of ACP countries in the internal market. The ACP states and the Community applied to the WTO for waivers for the interim arrangement, which was in force from 2000 to 2008 .

In addition, cooperation is planned in the following trade-related areas: cooperation in international forums, trade in services, protection of intellectual property rights, competition policy, standardization and certification, phytosanitary measures, trade and the environment, trade and promotion of basic labor standards, and consumer protection.

Development finance cooperation is carried out on the basis of and in accordance with the development goals, strategies and priorities set by the ACP countries at national and regional level. It is based on the following principles: (a) promoting ownership at all levels of the development process; (b) Recognition of the partnership based on mutual rights and obligations; (c) Emphasizing the importance of predictability and security in the flow of funds, which are continuously provided on very favorable terms; (d) flexibility and adaptation to the situation of each ACP State and the specifics of the project or program concerned; (e) Ensure efficiency, coordination and consistency of cooperation.

A number of radical changes have therefore been introduced with regard to financial cooperation. The allocation of resources should be based on an assessment not only of the needs but also of the performance of each country. A new system of rolling programming has been introduced which allows the Community and the beneficiary countries to adjust their cooperation program regularly. The financing instruments are combined and used more efficiently. All funds made available by the EDF are allocated through two financial instruments - separately for grants and for venture capital or loans for the private sector.

The STABEX and SYSMIN regulations to stabilize export earnings for agricultural and mining products from the ACP countries are being abandoned. Given the sensitivity of ACP economies to fluctuations in export earnings, it was agreed to take account of the consequences of such fluctuations, but to do so in a much more coherent way through the programming process and with a view to supporting general or sectoral reform efforts.

For the period 2000–2007, funding of around EUR 25 billion has been earmarked for the ACP countries. The endowment of the 9th European Development Fund (EDF) amounts to EUR 13.5 billion; Added to this are EUR 9.9 billion in residual funds from the previous EDF and EUR 1.7 billion from the EIB's own resources.

The ACP-EC partnership agreement has a term of twenty years but can be revised every five years. The financial protocols are closed for a period of five years each. Certain elements of the agreement, such as the implementation procedures and the sector policy guidelines, may be reviewed and adjusted by the EC-ACP Council of Ministers, which normally meet once a year. This new concept is intended to enable greater flexibility and the adaptation of the cooperation system to a changing world. A specific timetable is set for the trade agreements.

As a so-called mixed agreement, the Cotonou Agreement must be ratified by the EC member states because it includes areas of competence of the European Communities and the EC member states. An internal agreement of the 15 EC member states, also subject to ratification, which was signed on the sidelines of the Council on September 18, 2000, defines the respective tasks of the Commission and member states in the programming and implementation of aid and establishes the 9th European Development Fund. A second Internal Agreement, signed in Brussels on 18 September 2000, on the measures to be taken and the procedures to be followed for the implementation of the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement, specifies the conditions under which, in the areas for which they are responsible, the ACP-EC Council of Ministers establishes common positions to be adopted and empowers the Council to take appropriate decisions in accordance with Articles 96 and 97 of the ACP-EC Agreement.

The ACP-EC partnership agreement will come into force as soon as it has been ratified by all EU member states and at least two thirds of the ACP countries. However, following the decision of the ACP / EC Council of 27 July 2000 on the transitional measures applicable from 2 August 2000, most of the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement entered into force in anticipation, with the exception of the financial resources of the 9th EDF . For states newly acceding to the EU, the agreement stipulates that, based on a corresponding clause in the act of accession, they will automatically become a party to the agreement from the date of their accession. If there is no such clause, the Member State concerned will accede by depositing a certificate of accession with the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU.


The partnership agreement was a modern, comprehensive and contractual instrument for North-South cooperation at the time of conclusion. The agreement serves the European Union as an important foreign policy instrument.

The treaty applies to more than two thirds of all developing countries. The cooperation codified with the ACP states serves as a model for cooperation between the European Union and other developing countries, with which framework agreements have generally been and are being made. For the developing countries outside the group of ACP countries, it is important that the agreement that has now been agreed eliminates the different trade policies towards the developing countries by 2007 at the latest.

A possible follow-up agreement has been discussed since 2017. However, there are doubts as to its necessity, since on the one hand numerous bilateral agreements regulate the relationship between the ACP countries and the EU, and on the other hand China has become by far the most important investor. On the other hand, some parts of the contract are welcomed and should be continued, such as the reference to human rights, the rule of law or the unilaterally granted trade facilitations.

Legal sources

See also


  • Birga Friesen: The Cotonou Agreement with special reference to the new trade regime . In: Journal for European Law Studies 12 (2009) 419–454.
  • Sebastian Müller: The Cotonou Agreement: the new partnership between the ACP countries and the EU . Munich: Institute for International Politics, Security Policy, Defense and International Law, 2003.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. What a Cotonou follow-up agreement with the ACP states can achieve by Evita Schmieg, SWP , accessed on January 5, 2019.