In fulfillment of its pledge to support African-led International Mission in Mali (AFISMA), the European Union on Tuesday, signed a grant agreement for 76 million Euros with the Economic Community of West Africa ( ECOWAS) Commission.The grant will also assist to strengthen the implementation of the regional protocol liberalizing the intra-community movement of citizens. On the margins of the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, in January, the EU had pledged the grant during the donors’ conference hosted by ECOWAS.
According to the Commission, €50 million of the grant will go mainly towards the payment of the salaries of the force while the remaining €26 million will assist the region in addressing free movement and immigration issues.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, signed for the sub- regional body and the Head of the EU delegation to Nigeria, Ambassador David MacRae, on behalf of EU.
“The provision of the sum of 50 million euros has once again demonstrated the EU’s unwavering resolve to assisting ECOWAS in the management of the crisis in Mali and the consolidation of peace and security in West Africa,” the ECOWAS boss said at the signing ceremony.
He also commended the EU, whose team “worked assiduously to establish the finance cell in the Commission,” that will support ECOWAS in ensuring that the fund is managed in line with EU procedures, adding that AFISMA is on the threshold of its consolidation and stabilization phase.
“I have no doubt that ECOWAS will still count on the support of the EU and all other development partners for AFISMA and the Mali Security and Defence Forces in this most critical and logistics intensive phase, “ the president added. He also underscored the importance of the EU support for free movement and immigration in the region, saying this will “magnify the vital cooperation between ECOWAS and the EU in one aspect of the integration process.”
“For us to realize the dream of economic growth, regional development and integration, community citizens’ rights of entry, residence and establishment must be fully guaranteed and migration and labour mobility must be effectively coordinated and managed,” President Ouedraogo said.
While he acknowledged the challenges to the seamless implementation of the regional flagship protocol, he described the signing of the agreement as timely and would assist the region address some of the “critical priority areas identified for the seamless implementation of the Protocol.”
Ambassador MacRae, in his remarks, said the signing “concretizes the pledge made during the donors conference and a demonstration of the EU commitment to supporting the long-term objective of assisting Mali fully restore state authority, law and order, in addition to providing necessary support to the stabilization process in the country at the political and military levels as well as contributing to its early recovery.”
He said the EU has also pledged to support the road map for the transition to democratic and constitutional rule, national inclusive dialogue as well as free and fair elections, and urged the Malian authorities to accelerate the full return to constitutional rule and the political reconstruction of the country.
As evidence of its support for Mali’s development, Ambassador MacRae said the EU has resumed development aid to the country for which 250 million euros is available from the European Development Fund, in addition to another 20 million euros in fast-disbursing assistance from the EU’s Instrument for stability.