The Managing Director for Africa in the European External Action Service (EEAS), Dr. Nick Westcott, on 21 June launched a structured and regular political dialogue between the European Union (EU) and Liberia, as set out in article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement.
This marks a major step forward in EU relations with Liberia. Dr Westcott led an EU team composed of Attilio Pacifici, the EU Head of Delegation, and the four EU Heads of Mission permanently represented in Liberia (France, Germany, Sweden and the UK) in a first consultation with the President and senior ministers.
A political dialogue gives both partners a forum to raise a whole range of internal and external issues.
Subjects discussed with the President included the political reconciliation process, strengthening of institutions of democracy, development priorities, and regional issues, including challenges for ECOWAS and the African Union, e.g. from the crisis in Mali and other parts of the fragile region of West Africa.
The EU pledged continued support for regional integration, and the real advantages offered by an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU were also discussed. Future development support was also discussed with the President.
Later this year, discussions will begin concerning EU development assistance to Liberia up to 2020, which will focus on supporting Vision 2030 and Liberia’s second Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS)
The political dialogue between the EU and Liberia will continue in a structured and regular manner and will be co-ordinated on the Liberian side by Augustine Ngafuan, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
During his two-day working visit to Liberia, and to gain deeper insights into Liberian politics, economics, security and development issues, Dr Westcott also held meetings with several Government ministers, the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the Governance Commission, the Acting Chairperson of the National Elections Commission, representatives of opposition parties, and civil society and media representatives.
Dr Westcott has also interacted with Heads of Mission from the EU, Africa and the United States, the Officer-in-Charge of UNMIL and representatives from the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The EU has long been one of Liberia’s major development partners. EU cooperation with Liberia is focused on poverty reduction as its core development strategy.
During the years 2008-2011, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, the UK and the EU provided more than €420 million (roughly US$550 million) to Liberia in development assistance, focusing on the four pillars of Liberia’s (PRS).
More than half of the funding went into infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and energy, and delivering basic services in education and health.
Almost €60 million were invested in strengthening governance and the rule of law, whereas close to €30 million went into revitalizing the economy and over €10 million were invested in consolidating peace and security, including police training.
An additional €32 million have recently been allocated to help reducing maternal health. Close to 10% of the total contribution was channelled directly into the national budget of Liberia as general budget support.
Most of EU development funding is provided as grants. Since 2010, Liberia benefits from direct support from the EU through the national budget. The majority of EU assistance to Liberia is financed through the European Development Fund (EDF).
The European Union budget also provides for a number of different financing instruments, mainly used for projects proposed by non-state actors to address priority issues. They cover, for example, humanitarian actions, food security, human rights and environmental protection.
It can be recalled that since 2009, the EU has a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This post is currently held by Catherine Ashton, who is also Vice-President of the European Commission.
She ensures the consistency and coordination of the EU external action, and acts in the name of the EU within international organizations and at international conferences. Through its foreign policy, the EU promotes security, stability, democracy and respect for human rights.
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU set up its own diplomatic service, the European External Action Service (EEAS), with its headquarters in Brussels and 140 EU Delegations around the world, including the EU Delegation to Liberia, to assist the High Representative in fulfilling her mandate.
The EEAS works in cooperation with the diplomatic services of the Member States and comprises officials from the Council of the EU, the European Commission, and staff seconded from the diplomatic services of Member States.