The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union (EU) have reaffirmed commitment to strengthening their long-standing mutually beneficial partnership building on the impressive achievements and lessons learnt.
This was the thrust of discussions when the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Gen. Francis Behanzin led an ECOWAS delegation on a courtesy visit to the office of the Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karslsen, in Abuja on Friday, 22nd March 2019.
Commissioner Behanzin, on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission’s President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, expressed ECOWAS’ gratitude to EU member states and governments for their support over the years in various areas of development, including peace and security, trade, anti-terrorism and fight against piracy, peace-keeping and consolidation of democracy and good governance in West Africa.
“We are grateful for the EU support, especially in the area of peace and security because without peace and security there will be no development,” the Commissioner noted.
In this regard, he mentioned the ECOWAS Missions in Guinea Bissau (ECOMIB) and The Gambia (ECOMIG) and the need for support of the mandate of the Missions.
The ECOWAS Commissioner also cited the conduct of series of elections by ECOWAS member States as another challenge. While acknowledging the EU support in the deployment of ECOWAS election observation Missions to member states holding elections, Gen. Behanzin reiterated the urgent need for the reduction of the cost of elections through an operationalization of a planned regional electoral material depot.
On the way forward, he called for support for the strengthening of ECOWAS’ institutional capacity in order to maximize the benefits of its partnership with the EU and other development partners.
In his response, Ambassador Karlsen noted the excellent partnership between the two organisations, and lauded ECOWAS’ leadership role in regional peace keeping through the work of the Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department, taking into account the African Union’s Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) initiative.
In line with EU’s post-Cotonou strategic thinking, he called for a shift to an integrated “policy-first and project-afterwards” approach, to optimize the benefits of the EU-ECOWAS collaboration.
The EU has provided ECOWAS with grant supports of more than one billion Euros in the past six years, including about 293 million Euros on peace and security interventions in the past decade.
The 10-member ECOWAS delegation to the meeting included the Chief of Staff of the ECOWAS Standby Force, Brig.-Gen. Usman Yusuf, the Director of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Dr Remi Ajibewa, and Mr. Dieudonne Nikiema, Manager of the ECOWAS Peace Fund (EPF), among others.