ACP YPN on CSOs & EPAs at the European Parliament

On 28th September 2017, Yentyl Williams, ACP YPN President and Founder presented on “Cariforum & SADC: A model for other EPAs?” as part of S&D Africa week 2017 at the European Parliament, Brussels. This was the first official presentation in ACP YPN’s new capacity as official member of the EU-Cariforum Joint Consultative Committee at the European Economic and Social Committee. MEP Maria Arena chaired the session with two other Expert panellists: Brenda King MBE, Member at the EESC and President of the Sustainable Development Observatory (EESC) and Junior Lodge, Team Leader of the ACP-EU Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) programme and former Cariforum negotiator.

Yentyl’s presentation focused on three main areas:

  1. ACP exceptionalism in EU trade agreements vis-à-vis CSO provisions
  2. ACP exceptionalism within the EU-ACP EPAs vis-à-vis CSO provisions
  3. Recommendations for the SADC EPA & EAC and ECOWAS JCCs

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Firstly, she explained that there is ACP exceptionalism in EU trade agreements. For example, the EU-ACP EPAs – be it the Cariforum EPA or others since, – depart from the logic of other trade agreements that the EU has signed since the EU-Korea trade agreement and the EU’s global strategy. Notably, they do not necessarily have legally binding commitments on civil society engagement, not do they have dedicated sustainable chapters, expect for the SADC EPA. See more via her joint publication here.

Secondly, she also explained that the exceptionalism also exists within the different EPAs: from the EU-EAC and the EU-ECOWAS EPAs that contain similar provisions to the EU-CARIFORUM EPA i.e. they establish the JCCs, to the SADC EPA which have no provisions, besides an article referring to monitoring through the “respective participative processes and institutions’ of the Parties” (Art. 4, EU-SADC EPA).

Third, Yentyl laid out three recommendations for the EU-SADC EPA: (i) A protocol could be added to the agreement; (ii) CSOs can still meet to discuss the agreement despite no formal provisions in the EPA for this; (iii) CSOs can be formally included through use of the revision clause five years after the EPA entered into force.

In conclusion, Yentyl responded to the main question of the panel discussion by stating that the EU-SADC EPA cannot be used as a model because of its lack of provisions for CSO inclusion. Yet, the EU-Cariforum JCC can share lessons, best practice and actively engage with the other regions that are establishing JCCs. She also highlighted that ACP exceptionalism in EU relations must come to and end, and there are many broader lessons to learn from the other EU trade agreements.

Find out more about the EU-Cariforum JCC’s 1st meeting here.

Find out more about the EU-Cariforum JCC’s 2nd meeting here.

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