The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC/Committee) welcomes the Joint Communication as well as the Commission's preferred option of an umbrella agreement with specific regional priorities that should be legally binding. The EESC believes that a new updated agreement is needed that takes account of the new realities such as the concern of European public opinion regarding the increased risk of terrorist attacks, perceived uncontrolled migratory flows, the risk of climate refugees due to the dramatic increase of the African population, the increasing influence of other regional powers, and the unpredictable actions of the current US president.
The EESC also calls for civil society to be better integrated in the next framework and provided with a stronger role that goes beyond consultation. This is important to ensure the Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) principle.
The EESC welcomes the plan to build on the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), with specific features of the European Development Funds included. However the Committee is disappointed that the 2030 Agenda is not placed at the core of the future Agreement reinforcing key principles such as universality, governance, and the inter-linkages and indivisibility of the SDGs.
The EESC believes that any future Partnership should be based on a political dialogue, rather than on a donor-recipient relationship.
The EESC also recommends that the political dimension be strengthened and there should be a strong monitoring mechanism, which includes civil society. The EESC is disappointed that the Joint Communication does not reflect the importance of CSOs at either the umbrella level or in the three regions. The Committee recommends that the future Partnership should include a formal mechanism to include CSOs in the design, implementation, monitoring and review as well as during the upcoming negotiation stage. The EESC stands ready to play a central role in this process.
The Committee welcomes the focus on human development as a specific priority of the future Partnership and believes it should be a priority for all three regions and linked to the SDGs.
The EESC welcomes the Communication’s statement to fully protect, promote and realise gender equality and empowerment of women and girls as well as its recognition of the key contribution women and girls make towards peace and state-building, economic growth, technological development, poverty reduction, health and well-being, culture and human development. However the EESC is disappointed that the Communication omits to detail how this will be facilitated.
The EESC welcomes that trade and the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) will be fully integrated into the new partnership. The EESC believes that trade agreements, including the EPAs, should use the UN's 2030 Agenda and the Paris (Climate) Agreement as their framework. The EESC recommends that ACP-EU EPA negotiations should happen in a transparent way and involve civil society. The EPAs should contain an enforceable sustainable development chapter with civil society actively involved in the implementation, monitoring and review.