What the European Union Is Doing To Help the Sahel Region, By Amb. Losada

Veteran Spanish Diplomat, Ambassador ANGEL LOSADA, is no stranger to Nigeria. For five years, he was the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria and during that time he took the relationship between Nigeria and Spain to the next level by increasing the level of trade and tourism between both countries. Indeed, it was in his time that many Nigerians began to see Spain as a major tourism destination. But today, Ambassador Losada is the Special European Union (EU) Representative for the Sahel Region (in Africa) and he is based in Brussels, Belgium. Last week, he was in Abuja to meet and discuss with leading Nigerian Government officials on issues in the Sahel Region. However, in spite of his very tight schedule, he found time to pay a courtesy call at the Headquarters of The Abuja Inquirer, his “favourite Nigerian weekly newspaper”. Afterwards, he sat down for a brief interview with EMMANUEL OGBECHE. Excerpts. 

Let’s start with the Sahel: Which countries make up the Sahel region?
The Sahel has a core group which is composed of five countries, also known as the G-5. These are Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina-Faso and Chad. The Northern part of Nigeria is also part of the Sahel. Algeria is also part of Sahel.

What is your mission in Nigeria?
Nigeria is one of the most important countries in Africa and headquarters of the Economic Community Of West African States, ECOWAS. I came to discuss with Nigerian government officials as well as the authorities of ECOWAS on the situation in the Sahel Region. As the EU Special Representative on the Sahel region, this is part of my mandate. This mandate takes into consideration the peace process in Mali, a country in which Nigeria is a key mediator together with ECOWAS. I will also discuss the situation in the Lake Chad Basin and the security situation in the Sahel region.

Tell Us about your mandate in the Sahel Region…
Well, the EU has established a strategy for the Sahel region which is based on two pillars: security and development. There is no security without development and there is no development without security. And the EU, based on its strategies of development and security as elaborated in our Regional Action Plan has identified four areas of priority. These are: the youth, fight against radicalisation, migration and fight against illicit traffic of persons. My task is to coordinate the action of the EU in order to put all these in motion within the financial means that we have. For the Sahel, we are budgeting more than 3.5billion EUROS from 2015 to 2020. On top of that, there is a Trust Fund which has been approved which allows the EU to finance more projects and programmes to tackle the root cause of migration and we are working with Nigeria on this Trust Fund.

Who contributes to the Trust Fund?
They are member states of the EU and some countries outside the EU.

What specific measure is EU taking on illegal migration?
We are negotiating with the different countries in order to see exactly what we can do and how we can help the population. We want to put necessary measures in place to ensure they stay back. Out of the 3.5 billion EUROS in the Trust Fund, 1.1 billion is to tackle the root cause of migration.

What is the EU doing about extremism in the Sahel region?
We are working with all the different Ministries of Interior in the different countries to handle the problem of radicalisation. The first thing is to understand what is radicalisation. We are participating very actively to assist the G-5 countries build defence structures and security in their respective countries. And we are organising seminars against radicalisation in all these five countries within the G-5 and also try to understand the problem of radicalisation because radicalisation in Europe is not the same thing as in the Sahel region. Another important element of my mandate is also to lecture on the security situation. That is why I came here. The EU participates very actively in the fight against Boko Haram. We have given 50 million EUROS to the Lake Chad Basin Committee to help intensify the fight against terrorism and radicalisation in their areas and to help the Multi National Joint Task Force based in Germany.

Are you doing anything for Nigeria’s North-East?
Yes. There are programmes in the Trust Fund. There is also an EU Operations Committee which meets regularly and approves different projects which are presented through the EU delegation in Nigeria. The Nigerian Ambassador in Belgium also participates in that committee.

 

QUOTE:

“There is no security without development and there is no development without security. And the EU…has identified four areas of priority. These are: the youth, fight against radicalisation, migration and fight against illicit traffic of persons. My task is to coordinate the action of the EU in order to put all these in motion within the financial means that we have”

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