European Union states are furious after the European Commission argued that it should single-handedly sign a partnership agreement with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, rather than trying to do so ratify by European parliaments.
The proposal, sent to EU national representatives in Brussels last week, was expected after the committee left the parties to the Post-Cotonou Agreement in parentheses when initials the text in April.
Still, EU Council member states have reacted angrily to the latest decision and have pledged to withhold their approval of the pact until the committee changes the text to a so-called mixed deal.
“The Commission’s decision to present an exclusively European agreement, contrary to the request of the EU Member States and the ACP partners, and the numerous delays along the way have damaged the relationship of trust between the Council and the Commission” , said an EU diplomat. , speaking on condition of anonymity, told Devex.
Post-Cotonou agreement covers a wide range of issues including maritime safety, human rights, return and readmission of migrants, youth, people with disabilities, blue economy, private sector development, science and research, etc.
Merijn Chamon, assistant professor of European law at Maastricht University, said the text is probably one of those tricky agreements that are fully covered by the competences of the EU, i.e. those that can be exercised by the EU institutions but not the exclusive competences of the EU. Such “shared competences” do not necessarily have to be exercised by EU institutions, and Chamon said the legal understanding is that the participation of national governments is a political decision left to them.
So far, the Dutch government has said in response to a recent parliamentary question that the EU member states are “unanimous” in their desire for a mixed agreement. At a council meeting on November 30, 24 countries voted in favor of a deal involving them.
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A spokesperson for the committee told Devex that he had proposed an exclusively European agreement “because the EU has competence in all areas covered by the agreement”.
A Polish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, argued that the text included areas covered by the shared competences of the EU and its member states. The diplomat added that the countries appointed the commission enter into a mixed agreement and that the current text is even more within the competence of member states than the Cotonou Agreement of 2000, which was a mixed agreement.
Exclusive: the European Commission is fighting to sell the post-Cotonou agreement at home
The EU executive said it had finally reached an agreement on the bloc’s relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific states. It must now convince the governments of the EU. There are a few issues that stand in the way.
However, with Hungary threatens to block the deal on migration concerns, there are also practical considerations. Memories are still fresh in Brussels of the EU trade agreement with Canada that was almost derailed in 2016 as opposed to the Walloon Region of Belgium.
The committee spokesperson noted that an exclusively European agreement “would also guarantee rapid application of the agreement”.
An exclusively European agreement always requires the unanimous support of the 27 EU member states, effectively giving each national capital a veto right. However, a mixed agreement also gives countries visibility to defend or criticize the partnership as they pursue ratification at home.
There are examples of other EU-only agreements, Chamon said, such as a association agreement with Kosovo – which is not recognized by some EU states – and the trade and cooperation agreement with the United Kingdom signed at the end of last year. The council insisted in these two cases that they did not set a precedent, but Chamon said it still leaves states open to the commission’s argument that “legally the council must think that this is possible, so why complicate things? “
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