The Promise of a Recalibrated Caribbean-European Union Partnership

The Caribbean and the European Union (EU) have been enjoined in a formal bi-regional relationship since the signing of the Lomé Convention in 1975, and are firm proponents of multilateralism, strong advocates of regional integration, democracy and rule of law, and reflect vibrant multi-ethnic and multi-lingual polities. The bi-regional relationship has evolved considerably over the intervening 45 years, and is reflected in formal agreements between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States and the EU, and in the sphere of economic cooperation, has been strengthened with the signing of the Cariforum- EU Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2008. The EU also remains a significant source of development cooperation for the Caribbean, complemented by a sui generis project management regime that includes multi-annual programming. Beyond this, the bi-regional ties have expanded into new areas of joint multilateral endeavour such as the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Despite the long and formal engagement, the Cariforum-EU partnership has not engendered either deep understanding of, or universal support in, each other’s conduct of multilateral negotiations. To the contrary, the partnership displays regular flashes of unease and arguably low-level tension. This paper seeks to assess the Caribbean-EU partnership in terms of its contribution of bi-regional trade and economic cooperation to Caribbean development, and possibilities for a renewed partnership considering new impulses shaping the Cariforum-EU relationship, including the post-Cotonou Agreement, Brexit, EU-LAC Political Dialogue and COVID-19 responses. A Cariforum-EU development agenda to fuel post-pandemic Caribbean recovery is mooted with the additional value of harnessing the promise of the revised partnership.