ECOWAS, EU and AEBR at the University of Edinburgh, 9-10 May 2012:

The Centre of African Studies (University of Edinburgh) and the ABORNE (African Borderlands Research Network) have organized an exchange between the African and European experiences on territorial cooperation. A delegation of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) met the European Commission and the AEBR.

 

Professor Paul Nugent (Director of the Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh) and Dr. Wolfgang Zeller, Coordinator of ABORNE (African Borderlands Research Network) organized this exchange between the African and European experiences on territorial cooperation with financial support from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. An ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) delegation made up of Mrs Kinza Jawara-N’jai, Principal Programme Officer and Head of Division of Cross-Border Co-operation at the ECOWAS, and Mr. Tony Elumelu, Principal Programme Officer and Head of the Division of Free Movement and Migration. In addition, the meeting was attended by Mr. Charles White, International Relations Officer in the Regional Policy DG of the European Commission, and Dr. Martín Guillermo Ramírez, Secretary-General of Association of European Border Regions (AEBR).

The purpose of the workshop was three-fold:

(a) to consider whether there were pertinent lessons to be learned from the European experience of Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC)

(b) to enable ECOWAS to renew its engagement with the EU Commission and to begin discussions on future closer collaboration with AEBR. The context was provided by the 2012 report entitled “Opportunities for Cross-Border Cooperation in West Africa: A Contribution to the Regional Integration Process” that was prepared by AEBR and supported by the European Commission [http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/international/pdf/Final_Report_CBC_WA_EN_6- 0.pdf]

(c) to discuss the possible contribution of academic researchers within the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) to the ongoing work of ECOWAS in the area of CBC.

Points (a) and (b) were addressed on the afternoon of 9 May, where there were three presentations, followed by discussion:

- Mrs Jawara-N’Jai and Mr Elumelu spoke on the emergent structures and legal instruments relating to CBC and the free movement of people and goods. They also identified areas where they felt external engagement would be helpful to ECOWAS.

- Dr. Ramírez delivered a presentation on “Past and Current Experiences of Cross-Border Cooperation: Lessons for West Africa?”

- Mr. White then followed up with a talk on “Territorial Cohesion in Europe: The Future of Cross-Border Co-operation and Implications for non-EU countries”

The presentations were followed by a discussion that continued in a more informal manner over dinner. On the morning of 10 May, Mr White and Dr. Ramírez wer forced to leave to follow their agendas, but the proceedings continued with two other presentations.

- Professor Nugent spoke on the subject of: “Promoting Cross-Border Cooperation in West Africa: Priorities and Criteria” and argued, on the basis of a North American and European comparison, that there ought to be fewer impediments to CBC in West Africa. He also raised the possibilities of twinning border towns that are such a feature of West Africa

- Dr. Zeller and Professor Nugent then explained the architecture and operations of ABORNE, which was then followed by a discussion.

On the afternoon of 10 May, the ECOWAS delegation travelled to Armagh where a meeting had been arranged with the North-South Ministerial Council and InterTrade Ireland. The team returned to Edinburgh on 11 May and  flew home to Abuja on 13 May.

The following were the outcomes of the visit:

(a) The ECOWAS team and AEBR agreed to explore how they could work more closely together, with the assistance of the EU where relevant

(b) The ECOWAS team will be invited to attend the ABORNE annual conference, which will be held as part of the CAS@50 anniversary conference, from 5-8 June 2012.

(c) As part of AEBR plans to mark Borders Day on 7 June - with videolinked events in Brussels, Addis Ababa and Chile - Edinburgh will seek to link in with representation from ECOWAS and the African Union Border Programme (AUBP).

(d) ECOWAS and ABORNE will work together on drafting a Memorandum of Understanding dedicated to closer collaboration in areas where it is felt that the scholarly community could be of  assistance to ECOWAS.

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