Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

Africa: ACP Countries Call for Rebirth

Malabo — Over 15 Heads of State and Government from the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are today in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea ending the 7th Summit of the ACP Group with a focus on the urgent need to render the organisation more dynamic. President Paul Biya, who arrived in Malabo on Wednesday, is taking an active part in the event.

After attending the 2 hour 30 minutes opening ceremony yesterday 13 December 2012 which began at 11:30, the Head of State joined his peers in the closed door session during which discussions centred on the way forward for the inter-continental grouping which now has the imperative task of adjustment in the face of a changing world and the new realities posed by Europe that has until now been the lone strategic partner of the ACP. President Biya opened discussions at the closed door session by pointing out that Cameroon remained attached to the destiny of the ACP and also felt the necessity for the group to reflect on the way forward after 2020 when the Cotounou Accord with the European Union will end.

While waiting for conclusions of the Summit by the end of today, the in camera sessions that President Paul Biya and his counterparts from the other African countries, the Caribbean and Pacific nations participated in up to late yesterday evening looked at issues related to the theme of the Summit which is: "The Future of the ACP Group in a Changing World: Challenges and Opportunities," as well as 'Environment, Climate Change, food security and rural development in ACP countries.'

Given the importance of concerns over the future of the ACP, the Heads of State had to decide on topics such as; the ACP Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) and other trade-related issues, ways of meeting the challenges of peace, security, stability and good governance in ACP States, the future of development finance as well as the Status of the ACP Group towards 2015 and beyond when the Cotonou Agreement with the European Union reach a final review phase.

The Way Forward

While accepting the fact that the ACP still needed to work in partnership with the European Union, all the seven speakers at the official opening of the Summit harped on the urgent need for diversification, South-South cooperation and a clearer vision for the ACP if the group must survive the changing times.

President Biya recalled that although the Yaounde and Lome Conventions reshaped the Cotonou Accord and gave a clear indication to the ACP-EU partnership, the emergence of new development partner and new challenges facing the ACP Group made it unavoidable for the ACP countries to look for new ways of rebuilding the organisation.

From the President of the 6th ACP Summit, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, to the Secretary General of the ACP Group, Mohamed Ibn Chambas and guest speakers like the Representative of the European Union, Andris Piebalgs who is the EU Commissioner for Development, President Yayi Boni of Benin who is the African Union President, the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Hon. D. Anthony, Prime Minister of St. Lucia; Chairman of the Forum of Pacific Islands, Hon. Henry Puna, Prime Minister of Cook Island and finally the President of the 7th ACP Summit, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago, President of Equatorial Guinea the message of change a re-positioning of the ACP was recurrent.

The way forward for the ACP according to the various speakers at the official opening ceremony yesterday may depend heavily on unity in diversity, enhancing of inter-trade links within member countries and unified action by the ACP Group. Values such as peace, security, democracy and the respect of Human Rights were equally singled out as imperative actions that all ACP member countries must strive for.

Future Challenges

However, despite numerous pleas by the ACP countries for negotiated trade Agreement with Europe and their desire for mutual partnership with the EU, the message from the EU delivered by Andris Piebalgs was clear - the ACP has no choice but to accept conditions set out by the European Union if they must work in partnership. The Treaty of Lisbon which remains the flagship for action within the EU being a major pointer to the fact that the ACP-EU partnership has little chances of surviving otherwise. For the past 37 years of existence, it has not been easy having the ACP countries to act with one voice in spite of the advantages that they all say can be derived from concerted action. Worries about the end of the Cotonou Agreement in 2020 and the consequences of applying dictates from the European Union on the ACP may not work like any magic wand in forcing the ACP countries to look at the same direction.

President Paul Biya will definitely play a central role in all the thorny issues being raised in Malabo given that Cameroon Chaired the ACP Council of Ministers' Session that looked into the future of the organisation. The President's official entourage in Equatorial Guinea that includes the Minister of External Relations, Pierre Moukoko Bonjo who attended the ACP joint ministerial conference on Tuesday 12 December 2012, the Minister, Director of the Civil Cabinet, Martin Belinga Eboutou, the Assistant Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic, Magloire Seraphine Founda, Minister in charge of Special Duties at the Presidency, Paul Atanga Nji, who came in on Wednesday and the Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Emmanuel Ganou Djoumessi, who chaired the ACP Council of Minister. Cameroon's Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea Lazare Mpouel Bala and Cameroon's Ambassador to Brussels, Daniel Evina Ane'e are also part of the Head of State's entourage in Malabo.

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