This article examines the rationales of the European Union (EU) and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) in the preparations and negotiations of the successor to the Cotonou Agreement, paying particular attention to contested issues. It argues that the EU-OACPS Agreement constitutes a fundamental break from past practices, at least apparently: with regards to form, it introduces an unprecedented framework for cooperation, articulated in a common base with three distinct regional pillars; in terms of substance, it proposes a list of equally important strategic priorities, thus going beyond the previous focus on development. Furthermore, unlike its predecessor but like many other agreements signed by the EU with third states, it sets out a comprehensive political partnership for mutually beneficial outcomes. This article, importantly, unravels sources of tensions between and within the two sides. It also shows that negotiations were more symmetrical than in previous instances, not least because contentious issues such as aid volumes and trade cooperation fall outside the remit of the EUOACPS Agreement, and less participatory, as they were largely conducted by a small number of official representatives, with limited involvement of other stakeholders.