12 June 2017

Liberia: EU Wants Continuity

The fifth comprehensive political dialogue between the Government of Liberia and the European Union (EU) has taken place in Monrovia.

During the dialogue, the European Union underscored the importance of continuity in development efforts, a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The Unionalso highlighted several areas where the Government of Liberia must now ensure the sustainability of donor supported reforms, through appropriate allocations in the national budget including decentralization, civil service reform and sustainable forestry management.

The Liberian Government during the dialogue revealed that 2017 is expected to see a return to economic growth after three years of recession.

However, the government disclosed that revenue collection remains below expectations, reflecting continued economic difficulties.

As a result, the government said it deems it prudent to prepare a draft National Budget for 2017-18 that is lower than the 2016-17 national budget.

It assured the European Union that spending for the elections and election security have been prioritized within the National Budget and that arrangements are being made to ensure timely disbursement of elections related funds.

It also explained several measures that have been taken to reduce recurrent costs, such as cuts in allowances, travel and reductions in goods and services budgets.

The European Union, during the dialogue recognized these efforts and underlined the importance of all branches of government showing restraint and leadership in this area at a time when ordinary people are experiencing challenges.

The Government of Liberia provided an update on the "Last Mile" plan, explaining that around 70 percent of projects are on track, with others requiring remedial action.

According to the statement, the importance of creating the right enabling environment for continued donor investment in infrastructure was also discussed, with an emphasis on regulation of the electricity market and effective use of the Road Fund for road maintenance.

The parties highlighted the relevance of the EU-Liberia Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) and welcomed the second Joint Committee meeting, which was held in Brussels from 8-9 June, 2017.

They also committed to engage constructively in upcoming technical discussions on the recent warning issued by the European Union in relation to regulation of fishing vessels on Liberia's international shipping register.

The parties also expressed their ongoing commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The government was admonished to encourage the Legislature to ratify the agreement before the end of the current session.

At the end of the dialogue, both parties commented on the benefits of a regular exchange of views and expressed their confidence that the next administration would find the annual dialogue equally useful.

The parties reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening their relationship and expressed the desire that the 6th Annual EU-Liberia Political Dialogue would take place in accordance with the normal schedule in May 2018.

At the same time, the government said it is continuing to identify ongoing priority needs and potential projects for the next planning cycle, noting that this will ensure the new administration can quickly agree on its own development strategy and avoid any gap in donors support.

Meanwhile, the European Union has expressed confidence in the National Elections Commission's capacity and welcomed the Ganta and Farmington River Declarations in which leaders or standard bearers of political parties committed themselves to peaceful elections and resolution of electoral disputes through mediation or judicial means.

At the meeting, the Government of Liberia briefed EU delegation on preparations for the 2017 presidential and representatives elections, as well as plans to ensure a smooth handover to the incoming administration in January 2018.

The European Union, for its part, underlined the importance of a successful administrative transition and appreciated receiving an update on government's efforts in this regard.

As is customary, the political session also addressed human rights issues.

The EU acknowledged Liberia's overall positive track record in upholding fundamental freedoms and welcomed the news that the bill to decriminalize the Violation of the Rights to Freedom of Expression has been submitted to the Legislature for passage.

The European Union welcomed Liberia's continued adherence to a de facto moratorium on use of the death penalty and repeated its principled position on complete abolition of capital punishment.

The parties discussed the complex issues behind the high level of pre-trial detention in Liberia, during which the European Union committed itself to support government's efforts to address these challenges.

The Government of Liberia apprised the EU on the ongoing discussion between prosecutors and the Judiciary, in search of solution to the protracted problem of the unacceptably high level of pre-trial detention.

During the economic and trade session, the EU and Liberian Government delegations had an open discussion on the need to create a better environment for business if Liberia is to achieve its objective of becoming a middle-income country.

The Government of Liberia set out a number of ongoing initiatives designed to simplify and clarify business regulations including the constitution of the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) with the help of UNCTAD and World Bank in order to address issues affecting trade and proposed recommendations on how such issues can be tackled, as well as the formation of the Business Reform Committee to coordinate reforms to improve Liberia's indicators for the World Bank Doing Business Index.

The European Union welcomed these efforts and hoped that they will reduce the element of discretion in the application of rules and lead to greater predictability for businesses.

The Government of Liberia briefed EU on the economic and budgetary situation and expressed gratitude for the Union's continued budget support.

The dialogue was held under the theme: "Consolidating Peace and Economic Development."


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