26 November 2012

West Africa: Peace, Security, Energy Dominate Liberia, EU Inaugural Political Dialogue

The Inaugural Edition of the Ministerial Meetings of the European Union (EU) and Liberia Political Dialogue has taken place in Monrovia with the Government of Liberia and the EU renewing their commitments on a host of issues including peace and security in the West African region and the energy sector in Liberia.

Held under the theme "Regional and Global Issues", the two sides during the meeting agreed on the need for stability in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region. The EU expressed its support of ECOWAS' initiatives in Mali. Both sides agreed on the need to tackle drug and human trafficking as well as cross border crimes.

The EU made specific reference to the situation in La Cote D'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Mali and commended Liberia for playing an active role in the Mano River Union (MRU) and ECOWAS and expressed the hope that Liberia will continue to contribute to regional integration and development.

During the one-day discussion, The Liberian Delegation gave a presentation on the priorities it sees for key regional organizations, notably the MRU, ECOWAS and the African Union, and the role Liberia sees for itself in these organizations.

The Liberian Government Delegation was led by the Foreign Minister, H. E. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan while the EU team was led by the Head of the EU Delegation to Liberia, Ambassador Attilio Pacifici.

On sustainable energy, the EU confirmed its commitment to support sustainable energy projects in Liberia. Norway, an EU country, is already a major donor to the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant.

The EU also reiterated its offer to provide support to the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy to help Liberia benefit fully from the newly launched Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, and further advised the Ministry to present additional project proposals on energy matters.

The two sides exchanged views on critical trade issues' including Liberia's bid to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the status of negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between ECOWAS and the EU. Liberia expressed the need for further research on the EPA and committed to working with ECOWAS in this matter.

The EU also raised a number of issues around climate change, ranging from global emission targets to questions around soil erosion in Liberia, and recent issues of concern in the forestry sector around Private-Use Permits (PUPs). The Government of Liberia Delegation informed the EU that t a moratorium has been placed on the issuance of PUPs pending an independent investigation that will examine the propriety of the awarding of the permits.

The upcoming ratification by Liberia of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) to support Liberia's efforts to harvest and export timber in a sustainable manner to Europe was also discussed.

The Liberian Government said it is committed to working with all stakeholders in ensuring that issues complicating the ratification of the Agreement are resolved, an agreement the EU has already signed and ratified.

The Liberian delegation gave an update on progress made regarding the enactment into domestic law of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Convention, which was ratified by Liberia in 2004 and promised to push for an intra-governmental discussion in order to take a clear and decisive position on this matter.

On the issue of Schengen Visas, Liberia requested the EU to take necessary steps to issue Schengen visas in Monrovia in order to alleviate the difficulties imposed on Liberians travelling to Europe. The EU delineated challenges impeding the granting of full consular services in Monrovia and promised to continue to seek avenues whereby these challenges could be resolved.

At the end of the Meeting, the two delegations reviewed mutual commitments made and agreed that the next meeting will be held in January 2013.

Other members of the Liberian Delegation included representatives from the Ministries of Defense, Justice, Finance, Commerce and Industry, Lands, Mines and Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while other members of the EU Delegation included the Ambassadors of France, Germany, and Sweden, and the Chargé d'Affaires of the British Political office, the First Counselor of the EU Delegation to Liberia, and the First Secretary of Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain.

The Liberia-EU Political Dialogue was launched in June of this year during the visit to Liberia by H. E. Dr. Nicholas Westcott, Managing Director for Africa in the European External Action Services (EEAS) and was held under the framework of Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement.

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