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With the expiry of Cotonou Agreement in 2020, PNG ACP Leaders Summit crucial

By Pita Ligaiula in Port Moresby, PNG

Leaders from the 79 member nations of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) will deliberate on two key documents today that will determine the future of the group when the partnership between the ACP and the European Union (EU) under Cotonou agreement will end in four years’ time.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will take over the chairmanship of the ACP group from Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogod when the Heads of State and Government will hold its plenary session over the coming two days.

PNG foreign minister Rimbink Pato says the ACP Foreign Ministers meeting Monday set the tone for the leaders meeting today.

“We will be advising our Leaders on development issues in terms of the political and organisational structures that will impact the ACP because come 2020 the ACP states partnership with the EU under the Cotonou agreement will come to an end. What happens after that is the subject of the preparatory discussion that we’ve had in this meeting,” Pato told journalists in Port Moresby.

“Two of the key issues that we discussed at the meeting today (Monday) included two major documents. One is the Port Moresby Declaration which looks at the operational issues of ACP Group moving forward in terms of its political structure and the operation of the Secretariat.

“The other major document on which we will advise the ACP Head of States of State and Government is the Waigani Communiqué where Ministers had the opportunity to look at and discuss what will be the future perspectives of the ACP Group comes 2020 when the Cotonou Agreement expires,” explained Pato.

Under the theme, Repositioning the ACP Group to address the challenges of Sustainable Development,’ Leaders will focus on three main areas - Equitable and Sustainable development for ACP peoples; Enhancing the role of the ACP Group in global governance for development and Peace, security and political stability as a prerequisite for development.

Discussions will take into consideration recent key international developments, including 2030 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), issues of migration, climate change and the fight against terrorism.

The Summit will also receive and deliberate on the final report of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), chaired by former President of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on the future of the Group.

Since its formation in 2013, the EPG has held consultations in all six ACP regions with various members of society, and conducted in-depth research, culminating in a number of recommendations for reform, in order to reorient the ACP Group to deliver more effectively on the development ambitions of its member states.

“We’ve had to look at in general terms the report of the EPG which was set up by the summit of leaders in Equatorial Guinea in 2012 which off course remains up to this point still a property of the Leaders in terms of what discussion, what deliberation they will make and give directions to us the Council of Ministers moving forward in the future perspective of ACP.

“It’s an historical meeting for PNG.

“We are happy indeed to see all our brothers and sisters of the ACP family coming to PNG in a very important time like this when we need to look at those challenges that are common to us in terms of our development aspiration moving forward,” said Pato.

Pato said ACP Leaders will also be updated on the State of play of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.

This morning, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama will sign a financing agreement of 10 million Euros (FJD$23.4 million) with the European Union to assist Fiji’s recovery effort in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The signing ceremony will be followed by the Pacific ACP Leaders meeting.

Most of the Pacific Leaders are in PNG to attend the ACP Leaders Meeting. Already in Port Moresby are the chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna, Tuvaluan  Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga and Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai.

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