ECOWAS, EU reaffirm commitment to strengthen cooperation01 Dec, 2018
Abuja, 30th November 2018. The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union (EU) have agreed to strengthen cooperation in various fields including security, trade liberalisation and investments, human development and political governance.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the 22nd ECOWAS-EU Ministerial Political Dialogue held on the 30th of November 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria, the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou lauded the fruitful partnership between both regions.
“I have no doubt in my mind that our sustained mutual cooperation and collaboration will enable the (ECOWAS) region record more successes in on-going attempts to deepen integration, in an atmosphere of peace and stability,” President Brou said.
On political and security issues, President Brou noted that despite the fragility in some parts of the region, the sustained commitment of the governments of ECOWAS Member States, and support of the international community “have helped significantly in reassuring us that the current stability can be consolidated”.
He expressed the Commission’s appreciation of the EU’s consistent and reliable support in the area of peace and security and called for the extension of the collaboration to the socio-economic development domain.
Other areas of concern mentioned by the ECOWAS Commission chief that required collective attention, included trans-humans, irregular migration and the tension in the Sahel.
The co-chair of the session, and Chair, ECOWAS Council of Ministers, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, who spoke through the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Ambassador Mustapha Sulaiman, said the ECOWAS-EU cooperation platform has provided the opportunity for critical examination of partnership issues and challenges as well as exchange of ideas and development of “actionable plans towards the achievement of our mutual sustainable development goals.”
He expressed his optimism that the cooperation would grow stronger for the mutual benefits of both regions and their populations.
In his remarks, the Secretary of State, Ministry of Finance, Republic of Austria and President of the Council of the European Union Mr. Hubert Fuchs, who led the EU delegation, described the ECOWAS-EU relations as broad and deep.
He stressed the need for a shift from a project-by-project approach to “a more strategic one based on clearly defined regional policies to enable the parties advance their common interests.”
Mr Fuchs listed the areas of common interest to include the promotion of peace, security and stability, consolidation of democracy and adequately addressing demography, social inclusion, growth, job creation as well as migration and mobility.
He said that both sides had also reached a consensus to pursue and maintain a common political engagement notably in support of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.
The Secretary of State noted that despite some identified challenges in West Africa, the “EU has reached the conclusion that it is one of the regions on the continent where democracy and the respect of human rights are most advanced”.
Other dignitaries at the Dialogue included the ECOWAS Commission’s Vice President Madam Finda Koroma, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Political Affairs Peace and Security Gen Francis Behanzin (rtd), and the Managing Director, Africa, for the European External Action Service Mr. Koen Vervaeke.
Discussions during the session centred on institutional and political developments and security situation in the region with specific reference to Guinea Bissau, Mali, Nigeria and Togo.
Also discussed were security situations in the Sahel, the Gulf of Guinea, and Peace Support Operations in West Africa, including the ECOWAS Missions in The Gambia (ECOMIG) and Guinea Bissau (ECOMIB), and the ECOWAS joint summit with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
In addition, participants examined the challenges and opportunities in the region with regards to growth, job creation, demography and migration.
Regional integration and trade, especially the EU-West Africa Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the status of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) and perspectives on the ECOWAS-EU Cooperation after 2010, were also discussed, among others.
The next session of the Dialogue is to take place in Brussels at a date to be mutually agreed by both sides.