The Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria, and the Economic Community of West African States ((ECWAS), Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, has lauded the long-standing excellent cooperation between the Union and ECOWAS, and advocated a comprehensive and integrated strategy to maximize the benefits of the partnership.
The EU has provided ECOWAS with grant supports valued at more than one billion euro over the last 6 years. These cover interventions in various fields, ranging from peace and security, to anti-terrorism, peacekeeping, capacity building, fight against piracy, human trafficking, transhumance, as well as economic development and poverty reduction, among others. About 293 million euros have been provided for peace and security efforts alone over the last 10 years.
“I believe that in line with the EU post-Cotonou policy thinking, we can achieve more with an integrated approach using partnership tools to strengthen our collaboration,” Ambassador Karlsen said during a media interview in his Abuja office on Tuesday, 12th March, 2019.
He said there is the need for a shift from the current “project-by-project approach to a multidimensional strategy,” building on the ideas espoused during the EU-ECOWAS Ministerial Meeting of November 2018.”
The EU official pointed out that while the EU-ECOWAS partnership has recorded many achievements, “We cannot rest on our laurels.”
To achieve the desired outcomes, Ambassador Karlsen emphasized that the partnership process must also be Africa-led, “our (EU’s) role is to partner and add value, but not to dictate or take over,” he added.
He also noted that beyond peace and security, which is interlinked with economic development, “there are also some cross-cutting issues such as Climate change and population growth, which could exacerbate the challenges of economic development and regional integration if not properly handled.”
The envoy further explained that a multi-response strategy would be more effective in tackling some peace and security concerns, such as extremism or terrorism.
“Nobody can deny the fact that military engagement is important, but it cannot stand alone,” he said, adding: “There is the need to look at the root causes of the challenges, which calls for an integrated approach combining political dialogue, development cooperation, humanitarian aid and long term economic solutions.”
The Head of Delegation also touched on EU’s support to the consolidation democracy and good governance in West Africa under the EU Support to ECOWAS Regional Peace, Security and Stability Mandate (EU-ECOWAS PSS) Project.
The EU, apart from deploying its own Observation Missions to ECOWAS Member States holding elections, also supports ECOWAS in the deployment of its own observer Missions under the PSS Project.
“The collaboration by international observation groups speaking with one voice adds value to the democratic process in West Africa,” said Ambassador Karlsen, who visited several polling units to observe the just-ended Nigerian elections.
He believes that the “collegial and brotherhood spirit among international observer groups, and their courage to speak out in constructive criticism, when things go wrong, is required in nursing democracy.”
“If we stop to be self-critical, democracy will not grow,” the EU official said, adding that ECOWAS should continue to play its leading role among Regional Economic Communities in Africa.
Describing the EU as one of the most committed ECOWAS partners, Ambassador Karlsen said: “We will continue to build on this strong partnership. We are inspired by each other in many areas, including integration, and what is good for Europe is also good for the ECOWAS region too.”