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‘Gambia willing to work closely with EU’

May 12, 2014, 10:36 AM | Article By: Osman Kargbo

The minister of Fisheries and Water Resources, Mass Axi Gye, has reiterated The Gambia’s willingness to work closely with the European Union (EU) for the mutual benefit of both parties.

Minister Gye made this statement on 9 May 2014 while delivering a speech on the occasion marking Europe Day, at the EU Residence on Atlantic Road in Fajara.

“The Government of The Gambia regards the EU as a strategic partnerand is willing to work hand in handwith the Unionto establish and nurture a working relationship that is based on mutual respect, taking into consideration our respective values and norms,” Minister Gye said.

He also stated that The Gambia “welcomes the resumption in July 2013 of the Political Dialogue,” which served as a forum for “frank and honest” discussions between the Government and the EU.

Minister Gye, who on behalf of President Yahya Jammeh, the Government and people of The Gambia congratulated the people of the EU on celebrating Europe Day, said: “Over the years the EU has been a major partner of the Government of The Gambia in the realization of key national projects such as the EU-MDG initiative, Global Climate Change Alliance Project, Drainage Sanitation and Waste Management Project, Governance Programme and the nearly completed 273 kms roads project.”

He added: “As you celebrate Europe Day, we look forward to the disbursement of funds of the two remaining projects under the 10th EDF and the budget for the implementation of the 11th EDF covering the period 2014 – 2020.”

The minister stated further that because the people of both nations are confronted by organised crime, climate change and economic stagnation among other problems, in globalised circumstances, The Gambia and EU “are therefore linked by a common destiny, which calls for a solid partnership based on genuine collaboration and mutual respect.”

On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman called for the unification of Europe “to make war on the continent impossible and spread peace and prosperity globally”.

Since then the European integration has been intensifying and expanding by leaps and bounds. Today, according to EU Chargée d’Affaires in The Gambia, Madam Agnes Guillaud, the EU brings together over 500 million people from 28 countries, speaking 24 languages.

“The EU aspires to build a Europe which respects the freedom and identity of all people, and through its External Action Service promotes core values of peace, democracy and respect for human rights in its external relations with partners throughout the world,” Madam Guillaud stated.

She added that the EU has become a truly global player, assisting democratic transitions around the globe and helping oppressed minorities, social groups and NGOs to voice their concerns.

“These values form the basis of our long-standing cooperation with The Gambia, in the political, development and economic fields,” the EU Chargée d’Affaires said.

She added:“Over the past four decades, the Government of The Gambia has been our partner in implementing EU-funded projects and programmes locally, which have enhanced the socio-economic development of the Gambian people, especially addressing areas such as transport and infrastructure, food security, education, economic growth and poverty reduction.

“There has been a lot of progress in this regard since we marked Schuman Day last year.We launched the EU Millennium Development Goal Initiative (MDG 1c) project for The Gambia, which intends to provide support to fight food insecurity through improved agricultural production and school-feeding programme.

“We also launched the Drainage, Sanitation and Waste Management project while the work on the main record infrastructure of the country was completed by 31 December 2013.

“An additional 10 million Euro has been committed for the improvement of feeder roads to allow better access to markets, schools and health centres for the most vulnerable Gambians leaving in rural areas.

“The Governance programme focusing on access to justice, the media and public finance management has started while an additional 3 million Euros have been devoted to support the fight against Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) and illegal migration as well as to improve the performance of state-owned enterprises in terms of delivering services to the public.”

Madam Guillaud said further that the EU also continued to support the Gambian civil society through a call for proposals aiming at access to political, economic and social rights for women and children, for which three contracts had been signed with renowned international NGOs partnering with Gambian ones.

“The year 2013 has also been a remarkable year in terms of the preparatory work of the allocation of the 11th European Development Fund for The Gambia which runs from 2014 until 2020,” she pointed out.

“For the first phase of this programming two sectors have been proposed for The Gambia: Agriculture for economic growth and food security and Exit strategy from the transport sector.”

This year had also been special for European citizens, Madam Guillaud noted, saying that from 22 to 25 May voters will go to the polls to cast their ballot in the elections to the next European Parliament.

“This means citizens will have a clear say in what should be the EU’s priorities for the next five years,” she added.

Europe Day, she noted, is an opportunity for all to commemorate past achievements, but also “to look ahead at how we can shape our European future together and promote peace and prosperity at home and in the world.”

Government officials, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, leaders of political parties in the country, as well as representatives of international agencies and institutions such as the UN, IMF and WHO were among invitees who attended the august occasion.