Communiqué from the 17th EU-ECOWAS Political Dialogue at Ministerial Level – 15 June 2010, Luxembourg

EU website. The Seventeenth Political Dialogue at Ministerial Level between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union was held in Luxembourg on 15 June 2010 under the Co–Chairmanship of H.E. H. Odein Ajumogobia, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria and H.E. Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain on behalf of the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, H.E. Catherine Ashton.

2.    The ECOWAS delegation further included H.E. James Victor Gbeho, President of the ECOWAS Commission, Colonel Mahamane Toure, Commissioner, Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mr. Alhaji Mohammed Daramy, Commissioner, Trade, Custom, Industry and Free Movement, H.E. Adamu Abbas, Under- Secretary for African Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria and Mr. Vincent Zakane, Director of Cabinet, representing Burkina Faso. The EU delegation further included Ms. Carmen de la Peña, Director General for Africa, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Mr. Christian Leffler, Deputy Director- General for Development and relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and Development, European Commission and Mr. José Costa Pereira, Head of Unit, Africa Task Force, General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. H.E. Said Djinnit, Special Representative of the UNSG, United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), Mr. Jean Luc Senou, Resident Representative of the UEMOA Commission in Brussels and Mr. Sheik Niang, Chargé d’affaires, Embassy of the African Union, also attended the meeting as observers.

3.    In their opening statements, the Co-Chairpersons highlighted the increasing usefulness of EU-ECOWAS dialogue, which has become a building block of the EU-African relations. This is particularly important in the run up to the upcoming 3rd EU-Africa Summit in November 2010, where African and European partners will take stock of achievements to date and plan the next most important steps ahead.

POLITICAL AND INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENTS IN ECOWAS AND THE EU

4.    The Parties took note of the changes brought about by the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. The establishment of the European External Action Service will provide increased coherence to the EU’s external action and therefore should result in further impetus for the EU-ECOWAS relationship. The format of our partnership, which has proved highly effective, will remain unchanged even though the EU representation will be simplified.

5.    The Parties also noted the changes in ECOWAS leadership. In that context the EU congratulated once again H.E. James Victor Gbeho for his nomination as President of the ECOWAS Commission and reiterated its firm determination to deepen and further develop the excellent cooperation achieved with former President Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

PEACE AND SECURITY

6.    The Parties welcomed the general improvement in peace and security environment in the ECOWAS region in recent times, occasioned by encouraging results in the restoration and consolidation of democracy, and national reconciliation processes.

7.    The two Parties, however, expressed mutual concern about the persisting fragility of the region characterised by some reversals in the democratisation processes caused by instances of constitutional manipulation; military incursion into politics; brazen acts of impunity by some militaries; and the impacts of drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organised crime. In this regard, both pledged to maintain vigilance and scale up their efforts to defend the gains of the democratisation processes, combat criminality and mitigate the effects of food insecurity in West Africa.

Guinea

8.    ECOWAS and the EU commended the efforts by the political class and all the other stakeholders in the transition to return the country to constitutional rule and in particular the leadership of the Interim Head of State, General Sékouba Konaté within the framework of the Joint Declaration of Ouagadougou of 15 January 2010. In this regard, the Parties welcomed the setting of a firm date of 27 June 2010 for the presidential elections and the concrete steps being taken to prepare the country for these elections.

9.    Both Parties expressed satisfaction with the unity of purpose demonstrated by the EU, ECOWAS and the rest of the international community, and the measures being taken by them within the framework of the International Contact Group, to support the transition. They also renewed their gratitude to the ECOWAS Mediator, President Blaise Compaoré, in this regard and for his continued support to the process through his special representative in Guinea, General Ali Traoré.

10.    They urged all stakeholders in the electoral process to refrain from all acts liable to jeopardise the transitional process and welcomed all international efforts in that sense.

11.    The Parties commended the submission of the report of the joint ECOWAS/EU/UN assessment mission on SSR led by General Cissé and expressed their commitment to accompany the Government of Guinea in the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report. The European Union announced the continued gradual resumption of its development cooperation under article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement , in line with the agreed scheme of mutual commitments.

12.    They welcomed the opening of an Office of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights in Conakry, as a measure to further enhance the efforts of the country considering the fight against impunity as an indispensable prerequisite for the achievement of sustainable peace and stability.

Guinea-Bissau

13.    The EU and ECOWAS expressed serious concern about the rapidly deteriorating political and security situation in Guinea Bissau characterised by the persistent undermining of the political authorities by the military and the latter’s indiscipline vis-à-vis the elected civilian authorities, worsening drug trafficking and the extreme fragility of governance institutions.

14.    The Parties renewed their deep concern about the incidents of 1 April 2010, including the violation of the UN compound, the illegal arrest and manhandling of the Prime Minister and the Chief of Defence Staff, and the continued detention of the latter. Both Parties demanded tangible progress in the current political-military impasse in the country and urged the authorities of Guinea Bissau to solve all the continued irregular situations generated by the crisis in conformity with constitutional provisions and the principle of rule of law.

15.    The Parties expressed their commitment to accompanying the authorities to put an end to impunity and to shed full light on the events of 1 April 2010, as well on the assassinations of March and June 2009. They agreed to explore the possibility of targeted sanctions against those responsible for continued instability and clear violations of the constitutional and legal framework, as well as international law.

16.    ECOWAS and the EU called on the national authorities to put in place an appropriate framework for the effective implementation of all aspects of the reform of the security sector. In this context, they welcomed the recent approval by the National Assembly of central elements of the legislative package of the reform and the work of the EU mission on SSR.

17.    ECOWAS and the EU reiterated their commitment to support Guinea Bissau in the ongoing reform process, the reform of the security sector being at its core. ECOWAS underscored the urgency of mobilising adequate financial resources before the end of 2010 implementing the quick impact projects identified by the ECOWAS-AU mission together with the authorities of Guinea Bissau, including the setting up of a pension fund for the military, the improvement of the conditions in the barracks, the restructuring and reorientation of the Armed Forces, and the establishment of a mechanism to secure and protect republican institutions. The EU welcomed the information provided by ECOWAS.

18.    The Parties welcomed the decision by the AU to open an office and appoint a Special Representative in Guinea Bissau.

19.    The Parties expressed their deep preoccupation with the grave impacts of drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime on the political and security environment in the country and their cascading effects in the ECOWAS region. They agreed on the need to explore and exploit synergies between all national and international partners to support the immediate implementation of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on Drug Trafficking, including the building and sustenance of regional and national capacities, as well as the strengthening of cooperation between the source, transit and destination countries, to confront the scourge. The EU side reaffirmed its continued political and financial support for the Praia Regional Action Plan.

Côte D’Ivoire

20.    The Parties expressed their mutual disquiet with the lack of progress in the effective implementation of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement and its supplements, in particular the repeated postponement of the crucial presidential elections. In this regard, they underlined the expectation that the authorities in Cote d’Ivoire would prioritise the holding of credible elections as a necessary precondition for the consolidation of national reconciliation and political stability in the country.

21.    Both Parties welcomed the pledge by President Laurent Gbagbo to organise the elections before the end of 2010, and encouraged him to set a firm date for them. They called on him to complete as soon as possible the direct dialogue initiatives with the major political stakeholders to agree on a framework to resolve the lingering dispute over the voter’s register, and capitalise on the 50th independence anniversary celebration to foster national consensus. The Parties expressed full support and appreciation for the Facilitator of the Inter-Ivorian Dialogue, President Blaise Compaoré.

22.    The Parties welcomed the establishment of inclusive institutions for the transition, representing all political elements in Niger, the adoption of a consensual electoral code and establishment of a National Independent Election Commission (CENI). They also welcomed the adoption of a roadmap which, by means of a number of electoral steps, paves the way for the establishment of a new constitutional framework and new democratically elected authorities. Finally, the Parties noted the commitment made by members of the Supreme Council for Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) and the government established in February 2010 to manage the transition, that they will not stand for election and that they will hand over power at the end of the transitional period, planned for March 2011.

23.    The EU referred to the positive outcome of the 26 May 2010 consultations under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement, as well as to the need to ensure full compliance with the commitments undertaken by Niger, following which the EU would consider accompanying the process with gradual and sustained resumption of cooperation.

24.    The ECOWAS side informed the EU Party about its mission to Niger in May 2010 to express satisfaction with the authorities over the transition arrangement and to encourage them to fulfill their pledge to hand over power to a democratically elected President on 1 March 2011.

25.    With regard to the current food crisis and the risk of famine in Niger, both Parties exchanged information about the steps being taken to coordinate humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of the population, particularly the most vulnerable. The Parties also urged the rest of the international community to take all necessary additional measures to assist Niger in overcoming the impacts of the food crisis.

Security and development in the Sahel region (incl. the food crisis)

26.    The Parties reiterated their concern over the prevailing security situation in the Sahel region against the back drop of weak operational capacity of security agencies to police the vast spaces. This, together with poverty and exposure to the impacts of climate change, have created an enabling environment for organised crime, trafficking and terrorist cells to thrive. In this regard, the Parties welcomed the outcome of the Algiers Ministerial meeting and the coordination of Sahel states in the fight against these challenges. They renewed their call on all states in the region to step up their engagement and cooperation, and to consolidate and develop intra-regional dialogue.

27.    The EU informed ECOWAS of its on-going work within the EU initiative for security and development in the Sahel region and its upcoming mission to Niger, which will complete the assessment of the situation in the field, following previous missions to Mauritania and Mali. The EU added that it was pursuing its efforts, in close coordination with the governments of the region, to address the underlying causes of instability, including support for strengthening institutions of governance. The EU welcomed the support that ECOWAS reiterated in this regard and emphasised the importance of the Organisation remaining engaged. The Parties exchanged information on their current and envisaged support to tackling the food crisis in the Sahel region.

ECOWAS and pan-African peace and security architecture (incl. Standby Forces)

28.    The ECOWAS side informed the EU delegation about the latest developments in the implementation of the ECOWAS Standby Force Roadmap, notably the recent field training exercise FTX “Cohesion Benin 2010″ in May in Benin. ECOWAS added that the FTX offered the opportunity to validate the operational deployment capacity, and also the interaction, of the different components of the Eastern Battalion Units from Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone, led by Nigeria under a realistic scenario. ECOWAS said that the FTX concluded the validation of the ESF Task Force, having already validated the Western Battalion (in December 2008 in Senegal) and the logistics composite battalion (in June 2009 in Burkina Faso).

29.    ECOWAS further informed the EU delegation that the next steps of the Road Map under the African Union vision 2010 would involve adjusting and evolving this ESF Task Force into a Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC) able to intervene at very short notice with relative autonomy which could be reinforced according to the evolution of the situation on the ground with the remaining pledged units to constitute the ESF Main Brigade whose structure, composition and format have already been approved by the Committee of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff.

30.    ECOWAS concluded that the Vision and Roadmap of the Police component have also been approved by the Committee of the Chiefs of Security Services and pledges made to supply units. In this regard, ECOWAS was in the process of bringing onboard permanent police and gendarmerie staff at the ECOWAS HQ in Abuja and that work was also in progress to develop the civilian component.

31.    The EU side reiterated its commitment and continued support for the efforts by ECOWAS to finalise the development of its Rapid Deployment Capability, and encouraged the ECOWAS to reinforce efforts currently underway to integrate the police and civilian components into the ESF as this would ensure an integrated approach and facilitate an effective and flexible rights-based response to possible crisis.

32.    Both Parties stressed the importance of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) as the consolidated framework for joint action to meet the challenges of proximate and structural causes of conflict in West Africa, and in this regard welcomed the central role of the ECPF in funding considerations under the 10th EDF. The ECOWAS Party informed the EU delegation of on-going efforts by ECOWAS to develop the Plans of Action to facilitate the operationalisation of the Framework, and in this context the measures underway to set up a Technical Steering Committee at the ECOWAS Commission to oversee the process. It also informed about action being taken to establish a Mediation Facilitation Division within the ECOWAS Commission. The EU side welcomed these developments and encouraged ECOWAS to speed up the operationalisation of the ECPF, stressing that the operational and structural conflict prevention in the region is a joint priority.

33.    The Parties also welcomed the commitments and priorities identified in the Monrovia Declaration of 26 March 2010 issued at the ECOWAS conference on “Two decades of peace processes in West Africa”, and encouraged all partners and ECOWAS Member States to support their realisation.

INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL CHALLENGES

Forthcoming electoral processes 2010-2011

34.    The Parties expressed satisfaction with the peaceful conduct of recent electoral processes in the region and called all stakeholders to further develop their commitment and efforts towards democratic governance in order to guarantee further democratic progress in upcoming electoral campaigns and polls.

35.    In that context the Parties noted the elections anticipated in upcoming electoral processes in the region including inter alia foreseen presidential elections in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger, (2010), Nigeria, Benin, Liberia, The Gambia, Cape Verde (2011) and expect that those elections are conducted under duly constitutional and democratic conditions. In this regard the Parties emphasised the paramount importance of maintaining close and constant liaison in order to be able to react promptly and decisively to any possible problem. It is essential to ensure peaceful electoral processes.

36.    The ECOWAS side emphasised that elections occupied a strategic position in the Constitutional Convergence Principles articulated in the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. Both sides welcomed the regularity of electoral processes and the EU commended the commitment of ECOWAS to ensuring constitutional accession to and maintenance of power in the region. They stressed that the holding of regular, credible, free and fair elections is a cornerstone of the shared values between the Parties. They therefore considered electoral processes in West Africa as a major peace and security issue and pledged considerable assistance to Member States in the organisation of elections.

37.    Both Parties emphasised the need to prioritise the continued follow up on recommendations of Election Observation Missions from ECOWAS and the European Union.

Regional efforts to fight corruption, organised crime, illicit traffics and money laundering

38.    Both sides agreed that the fight against corruption, organised crime, illicit traffics and money laundering should receive permanent attention, in view of the continued significant negative impact of these scourges on West Africa and the EU. This is particularly important in view of the increasingly worrying negative impact of these criminal activities on the region and beyond. Criminal networks are increasingly flexible and transnational, and a vigorous regional response needs to be underpinned by effective operational capacities.

39.    The ECOWAS side briefed the EU counterparts on the regional efforts to combat corruption, money laundering and organised crime under GIABA. It intimated that efforts so far have concentrated on adopting harmonised standards and facilitating institution building and strengthening in Member States to enhance prevention, detection and prosecution of organised crime. In this regard, the number of Financial Intelligence Units in West Africa has increased from two in 2004 to thirteen in 2009. It also submitted that all 15 Member States of ECOWAS have enacted anti-money laundering legislation while the region enacted a model law against financing terrorism in 2007. The EU side expressed satisfaction with the efforts underway in this direction, encouraged the ECOWAS side to build on the promising initiatives and pledged the continued commitment and support of the EU in this priority area.

40.    Both Parties agreed that the development of increased capacities by ECOWAS and its Member States is of paramount importance. The Parties referred to the commitments entered into at the Abuja regional seminar in September 2009, including the presentation by the region of a roadmap for the implementation of the 10th EDF which will allow for acceleration of procedures. To this end, the EU called on ECOWAS and its Member States to commit them selves more strongly to develop ECOWAS capacities, and consider possible alternative means of implementation such as Contribution Agreements when necessary. The EU expressed concern about the low level of commitment of financial resources made available through regional cooperation. The EU reiterated its readiness to assist ECOWAS in addressing the main operational challenges.

Regional economic integration and EPA development dimension

41.    The Parties emphasised the importance of regional economic integration for the consolidation of peace and security, the eradication of poverty, and the development of all economic sectors in West Africa. In this context, the Parties reiterated the commitment of both sides to demonstrate the necessary flexibility in order to resolve the outstanding areas of divergence and swiftly conclude the negotiations for the establishment of a regional EPA covering trade in goods, EPA-related cooperation and other trade-related issues by the end of 2010. Both Parties agreed that the EPA should promote regional integration and the integration of West Africa into the global market, boosting growth and competitiveness while allowing for protection of West African countries’ sensitive sectors, and containing mechanisms to help the region to address adaptation and adjustment needs.

42.    The Parties reiterated that the EPA Development Program (EPADP/PAPED) should play an important role in enabling the West African region to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the EPA whilst minimising the adjustment costs that might result from the implementation of the Agreement. In that context, they also welcomed the Conclusions of the Council of the European Union regarding the EPADP adopted on 10 May 2010, and in particular the EU’s engagement to contribute to the EPADP implementation through EU development cooperation instruments. The Parties welcomed the announcement that EU funds available for EPADP-related activities over the next five years are estimated to amount to at least 6.5 billion Euros. The EU and ECOWAS committed themselves to co-operate to pave the way for intervention by other donors in support of the EPADP, currently estimated by ECOWAS at 9.525 billion euros. Both Parties agreed on the need to ensure the availability of the EU and other parties financing in the shortest possible time. Both Parties stressed the need for a successful outcome on the second review of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the forthcoming ministerial conference in Ouagadougou 17-23 June 2010.

Prospects for MDGs achievement

43.    The Parties expressed their concern about the very limited progress achieved by the region towards the MDGs and encouraged all Governments and relevant authorities and stakeholders to step up their efforts to meet the MDG targets. They stressed in particular the importance of working harder towards poverty reduction and to increase actions towards sustainable development. They agreed that there is a clear link between MDGs achievement, peace and stability, and also that consolidation of good governance was both a condition and a consequence of progress towards the MDGs. The Parties therefore called on ECOWAS Member States to strengthen their focus on those issues and target them specifically as a matter of priority in the identification and design of their future development programs and projects, so that the EU and other international partners support can be more targeted.

44.    In this regard, the Parties underscored the urgency of renewed collective efforts to redress the situation and put the ECOWAS region back on track to meet the MDG targets. They called for the review of national poverty reduction strategies by repositioning them within the broader development strategies aimed at accelerating socio-economic development, and for the ECOWAS Poverty Reduction Strategy to serve as an important mechanism to drive this process. While welcoming the EU 12-point action plan on the MDGs, the ECOWAS side invited development partners to honour their ODA commitments and abide by the Paris and Accra principles on aid effectiveness in order to accelerate the development financing of ECOWAS Member States.

PREPARATION OF THE AFRICA-EU SUMMIT OF NOVEMBER 2010

45.    The Parties stressed the importance of the upcoming 3rd Africa-EU Summit. The EU expressed satisfaction with the presence of the RECs in the College-to- College meeting in Addis Ababa on 8 June. Both sides emphasised the indispensable coordination between the AU, the RECs and the EU in the preparation of the Summit. The EU encouraged active ECOWAS involvement in the preparations and in particular the design of the Action Plan 2011-2013 to be adopted by the Summit.

AOB

46.    The EU and ECOWAS agreed that the next Political Dialogue at Ministerial level will take place in West Africa at a date to be determined by the Parties.

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