Global economic, demographic and geopolitical as well as internal developments since the signature of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement in 2000 have had a profound impact on relations between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group. The paper analyses the process of adaptation in the areas of development cooperation and in the political and security context, reflected in two revisions in 2005 and 2010. It discusses the influence of the Lisbon Treaty on the objective of poverty reduction, and the role of EU values and security concerns. The negotiation of new trading arrangements compatible with the World Trade Organisation triggered a veritable storm in ACP–EU relations. The paper discusses factors, which proved to be major hurdles to the successful and timely conclusion of the Economic Partnership Agreements, as real trade between the two groups saw a reversal of the downward trend and the ACP recovered part of the previously lost market share of ACP goods in total EU imports. The exclusivity of the flagship partnership has started to crumble as the importance of new partners increased both on ACP and EU side. The author maintains that with the Cotonou Partnership Agreement's purpose defined as solely supporting the development of the ACP countries, it is not surprising that it does not count among the strategic partnerships from the EU perspective. Yet, it is too early to predict the future of the ACP–EU relationship beyond 2020, but both the EU and the ACP have an interest in starting off their discussions and negotiations on their future relationship on the right footing. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.