• The post-Cotonou agreement between the European Union and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states has been negotiated to replace the previous twenty-year economic agreement between these two blocs.
• One of the priorities of the new binding treaty is to strengthen commitments to "comprehensive sex education" and "reproductive rights".
• The agreement also provides for the creation of a joint political coalition between EU Member States and ACP countries, leading to a majority vote in UN international bodies.
• The European Union negotiated the treaty on behalf of the 27 Member States in areas where it has no competence, such as health policy and "reproductive rights".
• The agreement, if ratified by the ACP countries, will lead to an unprecedented large-scale promotion of abortion and gender ideology in these countries.
• The Ordo Iuris Institute asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to present its position on this matter. In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that the conclusion of the agreement was considered "beneficial and desirable".
The signing of the Post-Cotonou Agreement on 15 April 2021 concluded the negotiations launched in September 2018 to draw up a new 20-year partnership agreement with ACP countries based on trade, development and "respect for human rights". The core of the post-Cotonou agreement, however, is not primarily focused on trade cooperation - which is separately covered by Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) - but rather on defining the social and political framework for a future long-term partnership heavily influenced by the European Union.
Failure to comply with the human rights principles and obligations set out in the treaty, including free access to abortion, may expose the parties to the suspension of the contract in whole or in part (Art.101 § 6-8), as human rights provisions are an "essential element" contract (Article 9 § 7). For this reason, the agreement presents a very disturbing and dangerous scenario with regard to human rights clauses for more than 1.5 billion people.
Regarding the content of the treaty and the specific priorities to be pursued in the field of human rights, the European Parliament, ahead of the 2018 negotiations, adopted a resolution calling on the Commission and the Council to include in the human rights section, freedom from discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation or gender identity," as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights, as set out in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and the outcomes of the review conferences. '
As indicated by the EP, the Post-Cotonou agreement states that "the Parties undertake to fully and effectively implement [Beijing and the ICPD] and the outcomes of their review conferences, and undertake in this context to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights" ( Article 30). Moreover, pursuant to Art. 2 § 5, "Parties will systematically promote a gender perspective and ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed into all policies." In the African Regional Protocol included in the agreement, African governments therefore undertake to implement "sexual and reproductive health and rights" (Art. 36 § 2) - a term always rejected by the African Group in documents negotiated by the UN and obliging African governments - and to ensure "Universal access to goods related to sexual and reproductive health" and "health care services" (Art. 29 § 5), which in the language used by the European Commission clearly means free access to abortion.
Moreover, Art. 49 § 6 authorizes African countries to provide access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education, taking into account UNESCO's International Technical Guide on Sexuality Education, which, inter alia, argues that children have a right to sex and should be educated about sexual pleasure, homophobia and transphobia. The Caribbean Regional Protocol, on the other hand, requires the second group of countries to implement the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development, which emphasizes the promotion of free access to abortion and policies that enable people to exercise their sexual rights, including sexual education in early childhood. In order to implement the provisions of the agreement, the EU has confirmed its commitment to share the costs.
From a political and geopolitical point of view, the controversy surrounding the post-Cotonou agreement concerns both international and domestic aspects. Internationally, the main implications lie in the provision that the parties undertake to coordinate their positions and votes in international organizations (Article 79 (1)), thus creating majority consensus in bodies such as United Nations.
This commitment will enable the EU to exert direct influence over ACP countries in many international organizations. In addition, the agreement elevates the results of the Beijing Conference and the International Conference on Population and Development - along with other controversial documents - to treaty obligations, making the ACP countries responsible for their implementation. On the other hand, at national level, the EU has committed itself on behalf of the 27 Member States to addressing areas such as "reproductive rights" in which it has no competence. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that while the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000 was a mixed agreement between the EU and its Member States, and as such required ratification by the latter, the agreement concluded after the signature of the Cotonou Agreement will enter into force without further ratification.
In accordance with the successive stages of adoption and entry into force, the new agreement will not become binding under international law until the internal legal procedures of each of the parties are completed and the final signatures are placed. As for the EU, the Council of the European Union will have to approve the signature, provisional application and conclusion of the agreement after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, while on the part of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), the treaty will be subject to approval and ratification by each state in accordance with its internal procedures. The European Council has now recently approved, on 22 June 2022, the extension of the application of an expired agreement between the EU and the ACP countries until 30 June 2023 or the entry into force of a new agreement, due to the delay in signing it.
Summing up, in light of the above, the post-Cotonou agreement seems to be a way to push ACP states' policy into the sphere of EU influence, and not a means of cooperation for the common good of the ACP nations. Although the agreement has been approved by both the ACP and the EU, it must not be forgotten that, in return for trade agreements to facilitate the economies of the global South, they are forced to accept social policy clauses that are not in their tradition cultural. As stated in the open letter written by the leaders of African women's organizations to the heads of African states regarding the treaty in question - the implementation of the agreement should be carried out in full respect of the material sovereignty, rights and religious and cultural values of ACP countries, without raising "reproductive rights", "comprehensive education sexual "or" gender equality "to the rank of human rights mistakenly recognized as such by the international community. Otherwise, the principle of respect for human rights takes the form of a cultural imperialism centered on the export of concepts of self-determination, family, education and sexuality, which is not even consensual among the citizens of the EU Member States themselves.
Veronica Turetta - Analyst at the Ordo Iuris Center for International Law
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