By Chinelo Chikelu
The European Union (EU) Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Michel Arrion, said Nigeria can play a more active role in West Africa integration process.
Arrion who compared Nigeria to Germany, one of Europe’s engines of integration, says Nigeria could play a similar role in the region.
Speaking to Leadership correspondent in Kaduna, the ambassador who will complete his tenure in a few days said the EU enjoys a wide spectrum of relationship with Nigeria, in particular with the business, civil societies sectors, activists, the media and the creative community.
Arrion further said the EU maintains an excellent relationship with the ECOWAS, having worked with the organ at the commission level. Although, the EU is yet to realize the ECOWAS, EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) deal, Arrion is hopeful the deal may yet push through.
The EPA is a proposed trade treaty between ECOWAS, Mauritania and the EU, which aims to establish a free trade area in accordance with Article XXIV of GATT, through the gradual removal of trade restrictions between the two trade partners. The EPA is to foster smooth and gradual integration of ACP states into the world economy, with due regard to their political choices, development priorities, and thus, promote the sustainable development, and contribution to poverty eradication.
Currently, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mauritania are left to sign the deal. Although 13 ECOWAS member states have signed an approval of the deal, while some have gone on to pursue individual trade deals with the EU, the ECOWAS EU EPA deal will not materialize without the agreement of all member states.
Arrion described as sad that Nigeria refuses to “reap the benefits of an agreement with the most trade partner in the globe.” However, he said while the EU is yet to receive a formal decision on the issue, it will continue its campaign of information. “But it is left to the ECOWAS to promote the deal no the EU.”
Ambassador Arrion said the EU has achieved several successes regardless of the EPA deal, such as its support of 2015 election in Nigeria, which led to a peaceful and democratic transition.