The foreign affairs ministers of the 27 EU Member States and 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, met on 31 May 2011 in Brussels. Acting as co-chair of the meeting, János Martonyi said at the subsequent press conference, the countries have agreed to increase dialogues on migration, and to discuss the situation in South Sudan.
The European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP), will pay special attention to issues related to migration, especially visa issues, remittances and readmission, Minister for Foreign Affairs János Martonyi said, on the 36th session of the EU–ACP Council of Ministers.
The foreign minister stressed that presently, migration is a very sensitive question in the EU, so problems will be resolved only if the EU strengthens its cooperation with the affected countries. “We will keep the issue on the agenda and continue the work,” said the minister. This was confirmed by ACP Secretary-General Mohamed Ibn Chambas, acting as the other co-chair of the meeting. Mr Ibn Chambas said that a working group created specifically to this purpose, will regularly debate current issues in the future, in order to prepare them for early execution, even as soon as in 2012.
Both parts of Sudan must receive support
János Martonyi announced that the Council has reached an agreement: if South Sudan applies for admission, the new state can join the cooperation via a simplified procedure.
They also agreed that following South Sudan’s declaration of independence on 9 June, after the successful referendum, it will need support from the international community, if it wants to stand on its own feet. As Mr Ibn Chambas said in response to a question, the country now faces several challenges, such as the complete lack of transportation, energy and social infrastructure. János Martonyi confirmed that the EU has allocated 200 million euro, to help the new state.
Both co-chairs highlighted that the tense relationship between the two countries poses a security challenge. To this end, János Martonyi welcomed the agreement between North and South Sudan: they will set up a demilitarised zone along their common border. The Hungarian foreign minister stressed that the EU should not forget about North Sudan either, which also faces serious economic and social problems.
Economic partnerships: negotiations are too slow
The ministers also discussed the progress achieved so far in the field of economic partnership agreements (EPAs), between the EU and the ACP countries. This was essential, since (although the EU applies reduced tariffs on all exports from ACP countries) the competitive edge of these countries have deteriorated due to the past years’ world trade tendencies, and the changes of the generalised system of preferences.
János Martonyi pointed out that the EU fully supports the partnership agreements and intends to create further regional conventions, but these negotiations are progressing very slowly. The minister underlined: regardless of the vast gaps between the philosophical and legal approaches of the negotiating partners, reaching an agreement is in the interest of both parties.
The ministers also discussed other questions relating to trade cooperation, including banana, sugar and cotton trade problems.
Relations between the EU and ACP countries date back to the initial period of European integration, while their present cooperation is determined by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, which was signed in 2000 to last twenty years. The EU and ACP foreign ministers has been meeting annually since the ratification of the Lomé Convention in 1975. Every Member State of the EU and 78 out of 79 ACP countries participated in the cooperation. The sole exception is Cuba, which has not ratified the Cotonou Agreement.