Relations between the EU and Africa are discussed regularly at the monthly meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. The trade and development aspects of the relationship are integral to these discussions, in keeping with the primary objective of the EU's approach to development cooperation — the eradication of poverty in the context of sustainable development. It is clear that the development of trade, both regionally and globally, remains central to the achievement of sustained economic growth for the world's least developed countries, 34 of which are in Africa.
The EU-Africa Joint Strategy, which was adopted by the EU and 53 African States at a summit meeting in Lisbon last December, marks an important turning point in the relationship. It established a new partnership between the EU and Africa, based on the principles of interdependence, equality and respect, and a joint commitment to peace and stability, poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Currently the EU is engaged in the negotiation of Economic Partnership Agreements with the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. In this context, negotiations are continuing with the four regional African groups of countries. The negotiating mandate derives from the legally-binding 2000 Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the ACP States, the central objective of which is the "reduction and eventual eradication of poverty, consistent with the objectives of sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy".
The Economic Partnership Agreements will next be discussed by EU Development Ministers at the General Affairs and External Relations Council which I will attend in Brussels on 10-11 November. The discussion will focus on how the Agreements can help build regional integration in Africa, which is critical for increased participation in the international trading system by the world's poorest countries.
With our EU partners, the Government also responds to the needs of African and other developing countries in the context of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). While the Commission negotiates on trade matters on behalf of the member States, Ireland has consistently played an important role throughout the current Doha Round of negotiations, in promoting a just and equitable outcome. The relationship with Africa, and the needs of the world's poorest countries, represent a crucially important element in discussions at Ministerial level on the negotiating mandate for the WTO Doha Round.