Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mauritania & ECOWAS: A Self-centred Cooperation?

So, Mauritania wants to relate to ECOWAS? It would be welcome news if it weren't for the fact that the pseudo West African country, with a (natural) penchant for the Maghreb, left the 15-member bloc back in 1999.

Even if ECOWAS has moved on--and, really, does it have a choice?--as to whether it will accept Mauritania back into the Black West African fold is a moot point.

The motivation behind the overtures has to do with the proverbial "strengthening of relations" (the quotes are mine). This is evidently diplomatic-speak for "we need to talk some more on matters of mutual concern!". Frankly, there's nothing wrong with that; the only concern is as to whether Mauritania might want to re-join ECOWAS, and that's when the eyebrows in ECOWAS might be raised collectively, and the questions might be asked: can we trust this country?.

Either way, ECOWAS President is said to have obtained a warm reception from Mauritania:

The decision to strengthen relations was reached during the 15-17 August visit to Mauritania by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, who led a high-level ECOWAS delegation.

ECOWAS and Mauritanian officials "emphasized the very strong ties which have existed for centuries between the ECOWAS countries and Mauritania – characterised by brotherhood, friendship and good neighbourliness - and reaffirmed their common determination to strengthen them for the benefit of their peoples", the statement said

It said the two parties reaffirmed their common determination to strengthen their relations in all areas of common interest.

To this end, they agreed to negotiate as soon as possible an Association Agreement, which will guide their economic and trade relations.


From the country that has only recently outlawed the antiquated crime of slavery (as per the BBC news report of 9 August this year), I wonder what "brotherhood" these two parties are talking about.

Alls well that ends...and all that...

I am personally happy to hear that Mauritanian president Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is keen on enhancing relations, but I wonder whether it is a little less than altruistic, for despite talk of an Association Agreement between ECOWAS and the north-West african country, there is sneaky talk of the so-called and thorny Economic Partnership Agreements, that is slated for December 2007 (that is unless civil society has anything to do with that date!!):

after a working session with the Chairman of the ECOWAS Commission, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Mauritanian officials are more than convinced that the country has missed a lot of benefits for pulling out of the regional body.

Mauritanian officials have now shown their commitment to restore cooperation with ECOWAS, which obviously enables the country to tap existing trade benefits, especially the Cotonou Agreement, a 20-year trade package signed between the European Community, its member states and 77 countries of African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP). The package was signed on 23 June 2000.


The article, from suggesting that the EPA is a positive development (how would I conclude anything but that if it is talking about "tapping" into the "trade benefits") has also hinted that the agreement is going to go ahead!!!

The agreement serves as a platform of integration in world trade as well as gave birth to the creation of Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and the ACP countries.

Mr Chambas’ visit was seen as epitomising the wishes of both Mauritanian government and the ECOWAS, which is to promote a privileged partnership under EU-ACP negotiations through the Cotonou Agreement.

Whatever the case may be, unless civil society--and it won't yield--has anything to do with it, December 2007 could just be not only a cause celebre, but a cause to celebrate the demise of this most egregious of agreements that seeks to re-formulate Africa's efforts on regional integration!

A few months ago, Mauritania re-joined the fold of the African Union; it better not get too close to these EPAs...

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