A Break from the Past or Business as Usual? EU-ACP Relations at a Crossroad
Recent scholarly literature on the EU’s development policy has argued that the Union is using its provision of development cooperation to advance its geo-strategic interests. This paper investigates whether there has been an equivalent rupture with the EU’s core normative commitment, namely to conduct a human rights-based approach to development. Contrary to the hypothesis of change, I find that continuity characterises the EU’s mandate for a new partnership with the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group of states. In fact, the EU’s commitment to a rights-based approach to development shaped the EU’s negotiating directives for a post-Cotonou agreement. In particular, the EU sought to make sure that human rights commitments in the self-standing EPA trade agreements were not lost, as these relied on references to the Cotonou-acquis. However, drawing on a concept of justice as impartiality, I also find that there are ambiguities to the EU’s rights-based approach. I find that national executives’ delegated authority to initiate and conduct dispute settlement on violations of the Cotonou-acquis comes at the cost of promoting individuals’ and civil society’s right to autonomy. Arguably, the EU’s political conditionality policy prioritises support to duty-bearers (states) to uphold their obligations over the empowerment of rights-holders (individuals) to claim their rights.
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