A Break from the Past or Business as Usual? EU-ACP Relations at a Crossroad

ARENA Working Paper 3/2021 (pdf)

Johanne Døhlie Saltnes

Image may contain: Terrestrial plant, Font, Pattern, Symmetry.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.


This paper was first published as Globus Research Paper 10/2020. It is part of the project ‘GLOBUS – Reconsidering European Contributions to Global Justice’ which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 693609. Available at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3578616

Tags: EU Development Policy, Human Rights, Impartiality, Justice, Post-Cotonou, Rights-Based Approach to Development
Published Mar. 18, 2021 4:29 PM - Last modified Nov. 3, 2021 11:39 AM