The European Union (EU) has said that its regional programmes in the Gulf of Guinea worth more than 155 million euros are supporting the implementation of important ECOWAS strategies in maritime, fisheries and illegal drug trafficking.
Mr Kurt Cornelis, Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS said this at the opening of a two-day maritime stakeholders information and coordination meeting on maritime security in Abuja on Monday.
Cornelis, however, said that increased security efforts did not deter piracy, armed robbery at sea, illegal fishing, smuggling and trafficking as these still posed major threats to maritime security.
The head of cooperation said that such threats made the region the most dangerous in the world for piracy and armed robbery at sea in 2018.
The envoy said it remained a priority for the EU to support ECOWAS in its efforts to bring maritime security and safety to the Gulf of Guinea.
“The EU is committed to support regional efforts towards improving maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and development of local capacities of ECOWAS member states.
“To this end, EU regional programmes in the Gulf of Guinea dedicated to security are currently worth more than 155 million euros.”
He said regional programmes in the Gulf of Guinea dedicated to security supported the implementation of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Security and Regional Strategy to fight illicit drug trafficking.
He said the EU programmes also supported the Regional Policy for Fisheries.
Furthermore, the envoy said it was germane for countries in West Africa to enhance cooperation with Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to tackle the challenges.
Cornelis expressed optimism that the meeting would enhance cooperation and coordination of interventions against maritime crimes and illegal fishing and improve the capacities among stakeholders of maritime security.
The maritime stakeholders meeting for ECOWAS members and Mauritania was on the EU-funded programmes tagged Improved Regional Fisheries Governance in Western Africa (PESCAO) and Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS).
PESCAO is a programme aimed at defining an articulate, inclusive and equitable regional policy for maritime fisheries in West Africa and to effectively fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The programme, which is under the responsibility of ECOWAS Department of Agriculture, started in May 2018 and will for a four-year period.
SWAIMS is another programme intended to prevent criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea and support the ECOWAS in its implementation of the Integrated Maritime Strategy.
The programme began in January 2019 and is expected to be for four years.
Gen. Francis Behanzin, ECOWAS Commissioner, Political Affairs, Peace and Security said the meeting would present the opportunity for various stakeholders to better coordinate their efforts in the region to avoid duplication of actions.
“Several panellists will make presentations on the relevance of their organisations or agencies in the implementation of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy,” he said.
Behanzin said the main objective of the strategy was to support and encourage the creation of greater wealth through the “development of a prosperous, stable and environmentally friendly economy”.