L’année 2017 sera décisive pour le partenariat entre l’Europe et l’Afrique. Dans un paysage mondial en mutation rapide, l’Afrique connaît de profonds changements économiques, politiques et sociaux, et l’importance qu’elle revêt pour les dimensions intérieure et extérieure de la sécurité et de la prospérité de l’Europe est de plus en plus évidente. L’Europe et l’Afrique ont tout à gagner d’un renforcement de leurs liens politiques et économiques, mais elles ont aussi beaucoup à perdre si elles n’agissent pas.
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Since the 1970s, the EESC has been organising regular meetings with economic and social interest groups from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). These meetings provide an opportunity to draft recommendations on issues relevant to ACP-EU relations.
The Cotonou Agreement will govern relations between the EU and 78 ACP countries until 2020; it recognises the essential role played by non-state operators in the development process. This Agreement allows the EESC to organise meetings and consultation with ACP-EU economic and social interest groups.
The EESC maintains regular contacts with the representatives of civil society in the ACP countries at different levels through:
- Regular meetings of the ACP-EU Follow-Up Committee, composed of EESC members and representatives of ACP economic and social interest groups,
- Regional Seminars in ACP countries, providing a forum for discussing topics of common interest with civil society representatives in alternating regions,
- Triennial General Meetings of ACP-EU economic and social interest groups in Brussels.
The EESC also maintains regular contacts with the African Union's Economic, Social and Cultural Council.
The EESC has for many years kept up regular contacts with the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly by presenting a report on its activities at the Assembly's sessions.
The EESC is likewise in close contact with international employers', workers', farmers' and consumers' organisations. These organisations nominate the ACP representatives invited to the meetings held by the EESC, including the ACP-EU Follow-up Committee.
The Commission recently published a Communication on a Renewed Partnership with the ACP Group of countries. ACP-EU relations are currently governed by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement that will expire in 2020, therefore the Commission has published recommendations on what the future structure should be. Last year the EESC already drafted a general opinion on the post-Cotonou framework; this new opinion will have to answer specifically to the Commission's communication.
The EESC is a strong advocate of a fair, well-administered and sustainable development policy at EU level. It is also very committed to the cause of greater tax justice. In recent years, questions have been raised as to whether the international tax policies of the Member States, in particular the concluding of certain types of double taxation agreements, are consistent with EU development policy objectives.
The 2030 Agenda, the new global framework for sustainable development agreed by the UN in 2015, needs to be reflected in EU's development policy, the major orientations of which are set out in the 2005 European Consensus on Development ("the Consensus").
To this end, the Commission issued Communication COM(2016) 740, "Proposal for a New European Consensus on Development: Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future" in November 2016. Interinstitutional negotiations are expected to result in its endorsement in the form of a Joint Statement by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission, in May 2017.
Development responses to forced displacement should be tailored for each geographic region, whilst ensuring joined-up action across the European Commission and other institutions. While a development-led approach can produce considerable results with the current budget, the need for extra resources should not be ruled out. Civil society, end users, development partners and NGOs should be involved in the delivery and in making the Commission's Communication operational. Social and civil dialogue structures and processes should be enhanced and improved in partner and host countries to assist with its delivery. Entrepreneurship in the affected regions should be supported and developed as a viable development path for many forcibly displaced people. Education and training responses should be based on a lifelong learning approach. The possibility of making EU programmes available to forcibly displaced people should be considered.
The EESC recommends that the EU should aim to achieve a modern, equal and effective partnership with the ACP countries that transcends a donor-recipient relationship and is based on a coherent and integrated EU external policy, based on the principle of Policy Coherence for Development (PCD). This framework should guarantee the involvement of civil society organisations, including the private sector, whose specific task should be to monitor and assess the impact of the implementation of this Agreement on the sustainable development of the Parties. Civil society should be provided with the technical and financial support needed to undertake this role.
The EESC recommends that all forms of development support that the EU gives to third countries should fall under the same legal framework and should be subject to the same democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament, while retaining the same positive aspects of the EDF.
2015 is marked as the European Year for Development (when the process of discussion for the post-Cotonou arrangements will begin to gain momentum), but also as the year where the Millenium Development Goals (defined until 2015) will give way to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To combine development and sustainability, all available resources of financing must be explored. The magnitude of this challenge is so large that all players including governments, private sector, banks, civil society organisations and development agencies must contribute to the implementation of these goals.
The aim of the European Year for Development 2015 is to inform EU citizens about EU development cooperation, highlighting what the European Union can already achieve as the biggest aid donor in the world and how it could do even more with the combined strength of its Member States and its institutions.
Given the EESC specific expertise, the EESC's opinion is particularly sought on the role of the private sector –taking into account its diversity from SMEs to multinational companies- in fostering smart and sustainable economic growth and creating jobs, as well as investing in training, education, research and innovation, key enabling technologies such as information and communication technologies (ICT). Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, Public-Private Partnerships, joint innovation and inclusive business models could also be issues to be investigated. Possible mechanisms, processes allowing the involvement of the "private sector" in a global partnership for development in a post 2015 framework would also be of interest.
The opinion of the EESC should consider different options and scenarios for post-2015 and develop proposals on how to involve civil society more extensively in the process.