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Under the Romanian Presidency, Luxembourg took part in the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in its development configuration in Brussels on 16 May 2019. Under the Finnish Presidency, Luxembourg took part in the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in its development configuration in Brussels on 25 November 2019.

During 2019, the Council, in its development configuration, addressed the following major issues:

Negotiations on a post-Cotonou agreement between the EU and the APC countries

the Cotonou agreement, dating from 2000 (it entered into force in 2003 and was subsequently amended in 2005 and 2010 respectively) links the EU and its Member States to 79 ACP countries (more than half the Member States of the UN) through a legally binding international agreement. The agreement has three different strands, namely (i) development cooperation (where activities are financed through the European Development Fund - EDF); (ii) economic and trade relations (governed mainly by economic partnership agreements - EPAs); and (iii) the political strand (in particular, political dialogue, migration, and the possibility of imposing sanctions in the event of failure to comply with the commitments made). Since the Cotonou agreement was to expire on 29 February 2020, in September 2018 the EU and the ACP embarked on negotiations to conclude a successor agreement.

An initial round of negotiations established the overall structure of the new agreement, namely a foundation setting out the existing elements of Cotonou, as well as three regional protocols. Thus, the link between the Cotonou agreement and the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) will be maintained. Although the governments will be the main players in the future partnership, the negotiations confirmed the need for dialogue with all the other stakeholders involved, in particular parliaments, civil society and the private sector. The future agreement should cover priority areas such as the rule of law, democracy, good governance, human rights, job creation and economic growth, investment, climate change, combating poverty, peace and security and migration and mobility.

A second round of negotiations began on 25 January 2019, focusing on the content of the foundation and on the institutional elements of the future partnership. In addition, high-level dialogue identified the priorities for each of the three ACP sub-regions, so that negotiations on the regional pillars officially opened on 4 April 2019. It should be noted that negotiations are being conducted by the European Commission and the ACP group, and that for the EU the Member States are kept regularly informed and consulted about developments

As the negotiations for a post-Cotonou agreement have taken longer than initially planned, some transitional measures have been adopted so that the provisions of the Cotonou agreement will remain in force until either (i) 31 December 2020, or (ii) the entry into force, or the provisional application, of the post-Cotonou agreement.

The EU’s new external action instrument -ndici (Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument)

With a view to the Union’s next multiannual financial framework (MFF), covering the period 2021 to 2027, the European Commission proposed in 2018 to create an instrument that will incorporate various current instruments, such as the European Development Fund, the European Development Cooperation Instrument, the European Neighbourhood Instrument, the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the Instrument for Stability and Peace, the Partnership Instrument and the European Fund for Sustainable Development, among others, to simplify the current architecture, increase transparency and increase the Commission’s flexibility.

An ad-hoc working group of the Council of the EU has been working since autumn 2018 on the draft NDICI regulation. A partial mandate has emerged from the work of the Austrian, Romanian and Finnish Presidencies, and it was on the basis of this partial mandate that the Finnish Presidency opened the trilogue with the European Parliament on 23 October 2019.

In December 2019, the Finnish Presidency unveiled a first costed proposal for the EU budget for the 2021 to 2027 period.

Innovation and digitisation in development cooperation and humanitarian action

on 20 November 2017 the Council adopted conclusions on Digital for Development, reaffirming that the EU and its Member States are committed to supporting digital technologies and services in developing countries as powerful enablers of inclusive growth and sustainable development. While Luxembourg has for many years mobilised new technologies and innovative solutions as levers in its cooperation and humanitarian action interventions, the subject has taken on a new impetus in recent years in the European and international cooperation agenda. Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation’s new general strategy, adopted in September 2018, places particular emphasis on the use of ICT (and data) for development.

In this context, the Luxembourg Government co-signed a letter to HR/VP Mogherini and Commissioner Mimica in May 2019, with the aim of stressing the importance given to Digital4Development (D4D) initiatives in the framework of EU development policy and, in particular, the new multiannual financial framework (2021-2027). In order to capitalise on the most important lessons learned by the international community in the implementation of ICT programmes, in December 2019 Luxembourg formally adhered to the ‘9 Principles for Digital Development’. These principles emerged from a concerted dialogue among several development actors and were adopted in 2014 (notably by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Digital Impact Alliance, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, UK Aid, USAID, the World Bank, and several specialised United Nations agencies).