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Cotonou Agreement

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Cotonou Agreement

The Cotonou Agreement’s main objectives are the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty and the gradual integration of African, Caribbean and Pacific States into the global economy, whilst adhering to the aims of sustainable development.


Partnership agreement 2000/483/EC between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000.


The Cotonou Agreement offers a framework for the European Union’s (EU) cooperation relations for the economic, social and cultural development of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP).

Centred on the target of reducing and in the longer-term eradicating poverty, the cooperation must also contribute to the peace and security and the democratic and political stability of the ACP states. In this regard, the partners to the agreement shall act jointly to gradually achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Cotonou Agreement is based on equality between the partners and ownership of the development strategies. It was signed on 23 June 2000 for a period of 20 years and may be revised every five years.

Political dimension

The Agreement has a strong political dimension resulting in:

  • regular political dialogue, aimed at strengthening cooperation and promoting an effective system of multilateralism;
  • peace-building policies, conflict prevention and resolution. In this field, the partnership concentrates on regional initiatives and on building local capacities, and also on the involvement of regional organisations such as the African Union;
  • promoting human rights, democratic principles based on the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance. A new procedure has been developed for cases of violation of these elements, stressing the responsibility of the country in question;
  • identifying questions of common interest connected with general (regional integration) or specific (trade, military expenditure, drugs, organised crime, child labour and discrimination) issues;
  • developing cooperation strategies, including an agenda for aid efficiency, sectoral policies concerning the environment, climate change, gender equality and migration;
  • attention paid to the subject of security, in particular with regard to countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, provisions on the Statute of the International Criminal Court, provisions on international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and illegal trafficking.

The political dialogue is conducted in a flexible way, under either a formal or an informal framework and at the most appropriate territorial level. The regional organisations and national parliaments may also participate.

The Agreement envisages a substantial role for non-State actors (NSAs) during the design and implementation of development strategies and programmes. In particular, the NSAs are local authorities, civil society organisations and the private sector, which have access to specific partnership financing.

Development strategies and poverty reduction

The Agreement is based on an integrated approach which includes actions for promoting economic, social and human development, as well as regional integration. The action priorities are set for each country in accordance with the principle of differentiation.

Economic development focuses on:

  • macro-economic and structural policies and reforms;
  • sectoral policies (in particular, developing the industrial, agricultural, tourism, fisheries and traditional knowledge sectors);
  • investment and development of the private sector, in particular the cooperation supports public sector investment in infrastructure which promotes the development of the private sector, economic growth and poverty eradication.

The key elements of social and human development concern:

  • sectoral social policies regarding improving education, health and nutrition systems;
  • youth issues, in particular participation in public life and exchanges between the partner countries;
  • health and access to services, fighting diseases connected with poverty and sexual and reproductive health protection;
  • cultural development.

Regional cooperation and integration are aimed at facilitating development in all sectors. Cooperation must also support inter- regional and intra-ACP cooperation schemes and initiatives, including those involving non-ACP developing countries. Regional cooperation and integration seek, among other things, to:

  • accelerate diversification of the ACP States' economies;
  • promote and expand trade, which equally benefits the least developed countries (LDCs) among the ACP States;
  • implement sectoral reform policies at regional level.

Lastly, the development strategies systematically take into account three cross-cutting issues:

  • gender equality;
  • sustainable management of the environment and natural resources;
  • institutional development and capacity building.

Economic and trade cooperation

The Agreement complies with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. It enables the ACP States to play a full part in international trade.

It provides for the negotiation of regional economic partnership agreements with a view to liberalising trade.

The Agreement highlights the vulnerable situation of the ACP states and the importance of cooperation and trade assistance. In this respect, cooperation on trade matters is not restricted to trading activities; it also extends to the protection of intellectual property rights and compliance with international labour standards.

The most vulnerable states

Special treatment is granted to the least developed, landlocked and island ACP States, and to post-conflict countries. They receive special attention in certain areas, namely on matters relating to food security, regional cooperation, transport infrastructure and communications.

Joint institutions

The Council of Ministers meets once a year: it consists of members of the Council of the EU, the Commission and a member of the government of each ACP State. The presidency is held in turn by a member of the Council of the EU and by a member of the government of an ACP State.

It conducts the political dialogue and ensures that the Agreement is properly implemented. It may take decisions that are binding on the parties and draw up resolutions, recommendations and opinions. It may also delegate responsibilities to the Committee of Ambassadors. It presents an annual report to the Joint Parliamentary Assembly on the implementation of the Agreement.

The Committee of Ambassadors assists the Council of Ministers. It is made up of each Member State permanent representative to the EU, a Commission representative and a head of mission for each ACP State to the EU. Its presidency is held in turn by the representative of an EU Member State and by an ACP State.

The Joint Parliamentary Assembly is an advisory body made up of an equal number of Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the ACP States. The Assembly may adopt resolutions and submit recommendations to the Council of Ministers. It meets twice a year in plenary session, alternating between the EU and an ACP country. The members of parliament may also meet at regional or subregional level if desired.

Violation of essential elements of the Agreement

The text lays down measures in cases of non-compliance with the requirements of essential elements of the Agreement, namely respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.

It provides for a preliminary consultation procedure, but, in the absence of an acceptable solution, supplementary measures may be taken, including suspension of the Agreement, although this is a last resort.


The Cotonou Agreement represents a new phase in the cooperation between the ACP states and the EU. For certain ACP states, the cooperation started with the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. It was extended with the two Yaoundé conventions and the four Lomé conventions.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Agreement 2000/483/EC



OJ L 317, 15.12.2000


Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 2005/599/EC



OJ L 209, 11.8.2005

Decision 2010/648/EC



OJ L 287, 4.11.2010


Trade regime

Proposal for a Council Decision of 30 September 2008 on the signature and provisional application of the agreement establishing a framework for an Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, on one part, and the East African Community Partner States, on the other part [ COM(2008) 521 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The trade regime set out in the Cotonou Agreement and the WTO waiver covering that trade regime expired in December 2007. Thus, the establishing of a Framework for an Economic Partnership Agreement (FEPA) between the EU and the East African Community Partner States should allow existing trade relations to be maintained and should serve as a basis for the negotiation of a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by the end of 2009. The FEPA lays down the necessary measures to establish a Free Trade Area as well as specific provisions on rules of origin, non-tariff measures, trade defence measures, dispute avoidance, fisheries and administrative and institutional cooperation.

Council Regulation (EC) No 1528/2007 of 20 December 2007 applying the arrangements for products originating in certain states which are part of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States provided for in agreements establishing, or leading to the establishment of, Economic Partnership Agreements [Official Journal L 348 of 31.12.2007].

This Regulation establishes the list of States benefitting from an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). It provides for the implementation of this trade regime from 1 January 2008.

Specific provisions

Decision 2008/991/EC no 3/2008of the ACP-EC Council of Ministers of 15 December 2008 to adopt amendments to Annex IV to the Partnership Agreement [Official Journal L 352 of 31.12.2008].

Annex IV related to the procedures for the implementation and management of the Cotonou Agreement has been amended in order to harmonise the procedures for the awarding and performance of public contracts.

The contracts and subsidies are attributed in accordance with Community rules and standards.

Decision No 2006/1/EC of the ACP-EC Council of Ministers of 2 June 2006 specifying the multi-annual financial framework for the period 2008-2013 and modifying the revised ACP-EC Partnership Agreement [Official Journal L 247, 9.9.2006].

This financing agreement relating to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement covered the period 2008-2013 and provided for an overall budget of more than EUR 24 billion. This envelope includes EUR 2 billion in own resources of the EIB, while the remainder consists of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). On an annual basis, that represents an increase of approximately 35 % compared to the 9th EDF. A larger share of the budget is devoted to regional programmes, thereby emphasising the importance of regional economic integration for national and local development.

Decision No 1/2012 of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers of 15 June 2012 regarding the revision of terms and conditions of investment financing (Chapter 1 of Annex II to the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement) [Official Journal L 174, 4.7.2012].

This Decision states that interest subsidies that ACP countries benefit from through the Agreement may be capitalised or used in the form of grants. Up to 15 % of the budget for interest rate subsidies may be used to support project-related technical assistance in ACP countries.

Decision No 1/2013 of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers of 7 June 2013 adopting a protocol on the multiannual financial framework for the period 2014-2020 under the Partnership Agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other part [Official Journal L 173, 26.6.2013].

This Decision sets the overall amount of financial assistance provided to ACP States in the multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020, i.e. EUR 31.5 billion, of which EUR 29 billion is for the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), representing an increase of more than 30% compared to the 10th EDF. The amount of the 11th EDF is allocated as follows:

  • EUR 24.365 billion for national and regional indicative programmes;
  • EUR 3.590 billion for intra-ACP and inter-regional cooperation;
  • EUR 1.134 billion for the investment facility.

Last updated: 05.02.2014