The European Union (EU) said on Wednesday in Abuja that its member countries were desirous of a stronger economic partnership with Nigeria to strengthen the cooperation existing between them.
The Head of the EU delegation to Nigeria, Michel Arrion, said at a pre-event briefing heralding the forthcoming security summit to celebrate 40 years of EU-Nigeria partnership, that over the years the relationship between Nigeria and EU had developed from a loose economic cooperation to a vibrant partnership on a number of issues, including climate change, trade, governance, human rights and security.
Mr. Arrion said the signing of the Lome 1 Convention between Europe Nine and 46 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in 1975 and the subsequent establishment of the European Economic Commission, EEC, Mission in Nigeria, marked the effective beginning of the partnership.
He described the cooperation over the years as dynamic, pointing out that it had helped change the political and economic realities and priorities of the partnering countries, particularly in the areas of trade and development aid.
After 15 years, the EU envoy said the cooperation between Nigeria and the European community shifted to human resources development in the rural sector, conservation, protection and re-development of the environment, agriculture and expansion to support the productive sector.
After 40 years of engagement with Nigeria, he said the EU funded development projects aimed at stimulating the economy, reducing hunger and disease, enhancing institutional capacities, strengthening good governance and fighting insecurity.
In 2008, Mr. Arrion said the EU decided to bring its relationship with Nigeria to a new level by agreeing on a broader political framework based on principles, guidelines and priority subjects for enhanced dialogue and cooperation on areas of mutual interest.
These include peace and security, migration, good governance, and democracy, human rights, trade and regional integration as well as development issues as energy, food security, environmental sustainability and climate change.
He lamented the low level of exports of agricultural products from Nigeria to the EU countries pointing out that this would not help the current economic challenges the country is facing.
“There are potential exports like rubber or tiles that could be developed. The EU will be delighted to import and to buy more rubber and cocoa from Nigeria. The problem is that the production is very small. That is why we are buying most of our cocoa from Ivory Coast and Ghana,” he said.
He said although 13 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, have so far signed economic partnership agreement, EPA on trade and economic cooperation with the EU, Nigeria was the only country that has refused to do so.
Emphasizing the need for competitive pricing of Nigerian products like palm oil, Mr. Arrion said he sees a potential market for the export of the commodity from Nigeria to EU if prices were competitive.