Joint Press Communique: Seventh Session of the Liberia-EU Political Dialogue - 7th Edition of the Liberia-EU Political Dialogue

Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar M. Findley, and EU Ambassador to Liberia, Her Excellency Hélène Cavé, Head of EU Delegation
Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar M. Findley, and EU Ambassador to Liberia, Her Excellency Hélène Cavé, Head of EU Delegation
Photo Credit: Public Affairs Bureau

The Government of the Republic of Liberia (GoL) and the European Union (EU) met on May 6, 2019 for the 7th edition of the EU-Liberia Political Dialogue to reaffirm the strong political relations subsisting between the two parties and deepen their political dialogue. This meeting bordered on nine thematic areas including, Government's Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), State of the Economy and 2019-2020 National Budget, Human Rights, Fostering an enabling business & investment environment for private sector development, Good Governance, Accountability and Transparency, Post-Cotonou Negotiations and EU Future Programming Exercise in Line with PAPD, Liberian Official Passports, Post-Brexit and Schengen visas.

 

According to the Joint Communique, the dialogue was in fulfillment of Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States which, led to the establishment of a platform for regular and comprehensive political dialogue. The Cotonou Partnership Agreement also calls for signatory Parties to regularly engage in a comprehensive, balanced and deep political engagement leading to commitments on both sides.

 

The Dialogue was co-chaired by H.E. Mr. Gbehzohngar M. Findley, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Ambassador Hélène Cavé, Head of EU Delegation to Liberia.

 

The Liberian Delegation to the Dialogue was led by His Excellency Mr. Gbehzohngar M. Findley, Minister of Foreign Affairs while Her Excellency Hélène Cavé, Head of EU Delegation to Liberia led the European side. Other Members of the Liberian delegation included Hon. Samuel D. Tweah, Minister of Finance and Development Planning; Hon. Wilson K. Tarpeh, Minister of Commerce and Industry; Hon. Piso S. Tarr, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection; Hon. Moses Y. Kollie, Minister of Labor; Amb. Wesley Johnson, Commissioner at the Governance Commission; Mr. Molewuleh B. Gray, Chairman of the National Investment Commission; and Mr. C. Mike Doryen, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority.

 

Meanwhile, members of the European Union Delegation comprised Ambassador Hugues Chantry of Belgium; Ambassador Terence Wills of France; Ambassador Catherine Campbell of Ireland; Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvist of Sweden; Ambassador David Belgrove of the United Kingdom; Mr. Günter Plambeck, Chargé d'Affaires a. i. of Germany; and Mr. Peter Eilschow Olesen, Deputy Head of Mission of Denmark.

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During discussions on the Government of Liberia Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), The Liberian delegation highlighted that the government’s PAPD focuses on: infrastructure, in particular roads; education, and the need to improve skills in order to enhance Liberia's economic competitiveness; healthcare delivery efforts to reduce high rates of child and maternal mortality; peacebuilding, and the need to strengthen Liberia’s security sector following UNMIL's departure; and governance and transparency to implement the GoL's commitment to ensuring that public institutions perform and deliver under the PAPD. Liberia announced that new governance and transparency measures, including measures to fight corruption, would be forthcoming.   

 

 

The EU side emphasized its full support for the PAPD With respect to the PAPD's implementation thereby stressing the importance of setting clear priorities and ensuring that these were reflected in the national budget, even if financial resources were limited.

 

The EU expressed interest in the domestic revenue mobilization strategy to finance the PAPD adequately.

 

Both parties have also agreed on the need to find the right balance between "delivering fast and delivering well" in the PAPD's implementation.

 

During the discussion, the Liberian Delegation confirmed that the national budget would be aligned with the PAPD as the EU delegation underlined the importance of national ownership of the PAPD among Ministries, Agencies and Commissions.

 

On the State of the Economy and 2019-2020 National Budget, the Liberian Government explained that the macroeconomic context remains very challenging, and expressed concern for high currency depreciation and inflation. It emphasized that the GoL was undertaking measures aimed at stabilizing the economy as the first priority.

 

The Government of Liberia also informed the EU that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) would enter into an IMF-backed program, and the national budget 2019-2020 would be reviewed to bring public expenditure closer to revenue.

 

The GoL expects that a solid budget would be approved, and the National Legislature would be part of the budgetary reform.

 

Meanwhile, the Government of Liberia underlined the importance of fiscal discipline and responsibility but told the EU delegation that austerity should not affect productive expenditure and the need for the national budget to inject more financial resources into the economy in order to stimulate growth. Therefore, the MFDP stressed the need for Liberia to continue to receive budget support.

 

In this respect, Liberia and the EU agreed on the need to address the economic situation and expressed concern for the impact of high inflation on the poorest and most vulnerable elements of the society; something the Liberian The Liberian delegation responded that fiscal stability and the need to alleviate the impact of inflation on Liberian citizens were matters of great concern to the Government.

 

On the subject of Human Rights, the Government of Liberia acknowledged that prison conditions and overcrowding remain a cause of concern and assured it commitment and determination to build a new prison facility and pass legal measures aimed at reducing the number of pre-trial detainees. Meanwhile the Liberian side also announced that a new executive order banning Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) of girls below the age of 18 or non-consenting adults would be reactivated shortly.

 

The EU has also been assured by the Liberian Government that the GOL is confident in shortly passing the Domestic Violence Bill and furthered  explained that H.E President George Manneh Weah was committed to signing a new executive order banning FGM, and the Government is also engaging with traditional leaders to ensure its successful implementation. It also underlined the Government’s frantic efforts aimed at enhancing women's representation in public service and decision-making positions. Regarding Labor related matter, the Liberian side revealed that Liberia had approved a National Action Plan, National Secretariat and Communication Strategy to tackle Trafficking in Persons, including child abuse and child labor thereby stressing the GoL's commitment to increasing the number of prosecution and conviction cases in this area.

 

In this respect, the EU emphasized the need to fight high levels of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Liberia, and stressed the importance of allocating adequate resources to education. It highlighted the new EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, which would invest considerable resources to fight SGBV in Liberia. The EU recalled that FGM was a harmful practice that continues to violate the human rights of a significant number of Liberian women and girls. The EU side also encouraged the Government of Liberia to sign a new executive order as soon as possible and resume work with the Legislature to deliver a permanent legal ban on FGM, as other countries in the region had done. The EU encouraged the GoL to address prison overcrowding and take appropriate measures to reduce the backlog of court cases resulting in lengthy periods of pre-trial detention for a large number of people. It recalled that women remain underrepresented in public service and decision-making, and invited the GoL to work together with the Legislature and political parties to consider repealing registration fees for women candidates and introducing temporary special measures, if necessary.

 

 

In the meantime, the Liberian Side pledged Government’s commitment to Fostering an enabling business and investment environment for private sector development as both the EU and Liberia agreed that businesses and investments need predictability, transparency and fair legal processes. The Government of Liberia stressed its determination to improve the business climate and set the right conditions for a private sector-driven economy, and was working to introduce more clarity in the legal and regulatory framework and more simplicity in administrative proceedings, in collaboration with the business community. The Government also highlighted it efforts to reduce the time necessary to register a business, and plans to create a single-window platform for businesses, improve small and medium enterprises (SMEs)' access to finance, establish a loan facility for businesswomen, and strengthen Special Economic Zones to boost the manufacturing sector.

 

The EU in the joint communiqué stressed its readiness to support the Government of Liberia in promoting an enabling business and investment climate which provides the right conditions for private sector development. It explained that, as part of the External Investment Plan (EIP), the EU had a number of tools and facilities available to assist a country in improving its business and investment climate, like value chain analyses, economic regulation reviews, and support to private sector consultations. As a first step, the EU would finance a mission to assess possible areas of intervention to improve Liberia's business climate. The EU also assured that the EU Delegation and Embassies of EU Member States (MS) would continue to foster win-win investments and partnerships with local businesses involving European companies, though there was still concern among European businesses about the treatment of foreign companies and the respect for existing contractual obligations. The EU highlighted the recent cancellation of demurrage fees charged by shipping companies as example and expressed willingness in the Business Climate Working Group created by the Government of Liberia.

 

On matters surrounding Good Governance, Accountability and Transparency, The Government of Liberia informed about ongoing activities under PAPD's Pillar 4 (good governance, transparency and the fight against corruption) precisely by the Governance Commission. The Liberian Delegation highlighted the project to set a Special Court to deal with cases of corruption and the government’s determination to maintain tenured posts at 'transparency and integrity institutions' like the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), General Auditing Commission (GAC) and Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) and used the dialogue to It also highlight the recent passage of the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom.

 

The EU have agreed that its Member States will support the Government of Liberia efforts to improve governance, accountability, transparency, institutional building, the rule of law, the sustainable and equitable management of natural resources, and sound economic policies. The EU recalled that progress in all these areas would enhance the confidence of development partners and investors in the country. The EU further emphasized that zero tolerance on corruption was vital, and encouraged the Government to strengthen the role of integrity institutions like the LACC, GAC and PPCC. The EU also stressed the importance of maintaining tenured posts at these integrity institutions. In response, the Government of Liberia recognized that governance issues are critical to nation building.

 

During deliberation on Post-Cotonou Negotiations and EU Future Programming Exercise in Line with PAPD, The EU recalled that the Cotonou Agreement framing the relations between EU and ACP countries would come to an end in 2020 and a new agreement was being negotiated with emphasis on the areas of economic growth and job creation, human development, peace and security, climate change, migration and global issues. The new EU programming cycle 2021-2027 was also being prepared. A new instrument, the NDICI [Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument], had been proposed, with 3 pillars; Geographic, Thematic, Rapid Response. Very soon the EU would start in each country, including Liberia, a dialogue with the partner Government and other stakeholders on the priorities of the new programming exercise.

 

On the Sessions bordering on Liberian Official Passports as well as issues surrounding Schengen visas, The Government of Liberia expressed concern over the lack of recognition of Liberian official passports, issued in addition to diplomatic and service passports, by some EU MS, and asked MS for clarification on their policy with regard to this issue and in response, the EU Delegation encouraged the Government of Liberia to recirculate specimen of the various categories of passports among EU Member States. Meanwhile, during the second session of the EU-Liberia dialogue, Liberia called on the EU to consider the issuance of Schengen visa in Liberia, as it would alleviate the difficulties confronted by Liberians wanting to travel to Europe something the EU has agreed and confirmed that Schengen visas would be shortly delivered in Monrovia.

 

Regading Post-Brexit matters, the EU informed its Liberian counterpart that discussions are ongoing within the UK Government on the Withdrawal Agreement as well as the UK Government's intent, post Brexit was to work where possible, in collaboration and with the EU on development program, striving to avoid any negative impact on developing countries citing that a recent example was DFID's forestry program in Liberia. It previously had been a joint EU/DFID program but had now separated into two separate programs, one EU led, one DFID led, which were complementary to each other.   

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Finally, The EU and Liberian sides pledged to remain constructively engaged to further strengthening their partnership and to continuously cooperate to address issues of common concern in a frank and open manner, and continuing to work together for the good of the Liberian people. The EU-Liberia Political Dialogue will take stock of progress in the areas addressed in previous dialogues and discuss new issues twice a year. The 8th EU-Liberia Political Dialogue will take place in November 2019.

           

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Monrovia

May 29,2019