President of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Council and Foreign Affairs and External Trade Minister of Solomon Islands, Hon. William Haomae launched the second-five year review of the Cotonou Agreement on Friday at the 34th Session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers, in Brussels, Belgium.

Prior to the launch, the ACP Council, chaired by Mr Haomae, had the opportunity to examine the second revision of the Cotonou Agreement and took time to discuss a negotiating structure which would be proposed to the European side.

"It is in the interests of all our member states that this Agreement is revised to ensure that it remains relevant and applicable to the reality and demands of the world today," Mr Haomae said.

He said based on the exchange of notification letters in February, an ACP negotiating mandate has also been developed.

Mr Haomae said that the details and other technical issues would be communicated to the Europeans after the Council.

He added that: "The maturity of the ACP-EU partnership is reflected in the very fabric of the Cotonou Agreement. It is both a political and technical Agreement."

Mr Haomae said in an increasingly inter-dependent world, often described at present as a global village, "we really need to stand together hand-in-hand to uphold each other."

The minister said that the ACP Group would take each step forward in this negotiation process as a move in good faith, knowing that the European Union and its member-states would equally be faithful to the cause - as they have demonstrated before under previous Agreements as well as during the first phase of the Cotonou Agreement.

Cotonou is a Partnership Agreement between the ACP and EU, which was signed on 23 June 2000 in Cotonou, Bénin - hence the name "ACP-EC Partnership Agreement" or "Cotonou Agreement". It was concluded for a twenty-year period from March 2000 to February 2020, and entered into force in April 2003. It was for the first time revised in June 2005, with the revision entering into force on 1 July 2008, the second review was launched on Friday by Mr Haomae and should be concluded in February 2010.