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Brussels, 10 December 1999

EU-ACP NEGOTIATIONS - Conclusions of the Brussels Ministerial Conference, 7-8 December 1999

A broad consensus emerged on most unresolved issues at the third ministerial meeting in the negotiations between the ACP States and the European Union. In the words of Poul Nielson, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid:

"Some have called this the ACP-EU Millennium Round. This may be going a bit too far. But the agreement is very comprehensive, and it certainly is a "Development Round". Europe is entitled to take some comfort from this after what happened or did not happen at other recent meetings. I am looking forward to the final formal conclusions of the negotiations. Taken together with the joint ACP-EU approval yesterday of the Commission's proposal to provide debt relief to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries to the tune of more than 1,2 billion, Europe is showing that it is willing and able to support its partners in the developing countries."

The parties agreed on a common approach aimed at promoting good governance and fighting corruption. They defined good governance, in the context of a political and institutional environment that upheld human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law good governance, as the transparent and responsible management of public resources for the purposes of equitable and sustainable development. It would be a fundamental element of the future agreement.

Also adopted was a new procedure for consultation and adoption of measures in cases where human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law were violated.

In addition, they also adopted a specific procedure for application in serious cases of corruption, placing the emphasis on the primary responsibility of the state concerned to take measures to rectify the situation. This innovatory step is proof of the vitality of the dialogue between the ACP States and the European Union and their shared determination to tackle these problems frankly and find effective solutions.

The ACP States and the EU further agreed on another new feature of the future partnership, namely the participation of non-governmental actors. This participatory approach will be promoted in four ways: information and consultation on development strategies and policies, access to some of the financing, involvement in the implementation of development projects and programmes, and capacity building.

In addition to provisions on cultural cooperation, the parties agreed to step up their dialogue concerning the cultural heritage of the ACP States, above all with a view to conservation and exploitation of this cultural heritage, development of information exchanges by giving researchers and historians of the ACP countries access to the archives on their cultural heritage, and assistance for training in the conservation, protection and exhibition of cultural goods.

Agreement was reached on the principles and objectives of the future trade arrangements. The two parties will conclude new WTO-compatible arrangements by phasing out barriers to trade between themselves and stepping up cooperation in all areas important for trade. The negotiations will start no later than 2002 and the new arrangements will enter into force no later than 2008. In 2004 the EU will assess the situation of those countries that are not least-developed which, after consultations between the parties, have decided that they are not in a position to negotiate partnership agreements. The EU will study possible alternatives in order to find these countries a new WTO-compliant trade framework equivalent to their present situation. In 2006 the parties will undertake a comprehensive review of the agreements planned for all the countries and ensure that no extra time is needed for the preparations or the negotiations themselves.

What is more, in 2000 the EU will embark on a process that will give free access to the bulk of products from all LDCs by 2005 at the latest.

The ACP States and the Community will ask the WTO for a waiver that will allow them to keep the present preferential arrangements during the preparatory period. The Community has expressed willingness to look into the impact of liberalisation on the competitive position of the ACP States during this preparatory period.

On financial matters the following points of agreement were reached:

Debt: in addition to the decision of the joint Council on the margins of the conference to allocate 1 billion to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and top up the current EDF structural adjustment facility with 250 million, the negotiators adopted important provisions on debt relief for the ACP countries.

The investment facility designed to promote private-sector development. The main difficulty lies in the terms and conditions for implementing this instrument. The parties did agree that there should be a significant degree of concessionality for operations relating to infrastructure projects in LDCs and post-conflict countries, privatisation or having a major social and economic dimension

The new system of programming will be based on an assessment of each country's needs and performance and the possibility of regularly adjusting financial resources in the light of this assessment.

Finally, administrative, and in some cases financial, responsibilities will be decentralised and devolved to local level with the aim of making cooperation more effective.

The negotiators can now proceed to the finalisation of the provisions of the future partnership agreement. A thorny issue still has to be settled, however: the clause on the readmission or return of illegal immigrants in the context of migration is still under discussion.

The EU also made its financial offer to the ACP States: the 9th European Development Fund will be endowed with 13.5 billion, of which 10 billion for the long-term development allocation, 1.3 billion for regional cooperation and 2.2 billion for the investment facility. On top of this there is 1.7 billion in European Investment Bank loans. Total funding is thus 15.2 billion.

The two parties are convinced that they can conclude a new partnership agreement before the expiry of the Lomé Convention in February 2000 and have agreed to hold another ministerial meeting before mid-January.

For further information, please contact Mark Leysen, Tel: 299 3060

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