afrol News, 16 March - Ivorian Prime Minister Affi N'Guessan just had gotten the national budget for 2002 approved as he headed for Brussels and received even more good news. Meeting with the European Union's Commissioner for Development, Poul Nielson, he was informed that the EU would increase its macro-economic support for Côte d'Ivoire this year to 56 million euros.
Nielson said this was to "encourage the democratic progress" in the country, which finally has reached political stability after years of military rule and political violence. The EU Commissioner said he desired that the Ivorian government maintained its "national policy of reconciliation and promotion of democracy; a prerequisite for lasting stabilisation of the country."
In his talks with N'Guessan, Nielson had added that Côte d'Ivoire should maintain its focus on the issues of the position of foreigners in the country and action against unpunished crimes. He informed the Prime Minister that the EU would be available to support the organisation and observation of the local elections scheduled for July 2002.
Cooperation between the EU and Côte d'Ivoire had been restricted following the coup d'état in December 1999. The contested elections in October and December 2000, which gave rise to clashes resulting in hundreds of victims, then led to a period of "consultations" and enhanced political dialogue.
Having laid down political conditions for the resumption of cooperation, the EU then gradually resumed its aid as progress was made towards democracy, reflected in the success of the national reconciliation forum from October to December 2001. EU aid has reached over 25 million euro since the decision in June 2001 to gradually resume cooperation. The Ivorian authorities have now been notified of a five-year aid budget of 264 million euro, and the strategy for the use of these funds between now and 2007 is being drawn up.
Prime Minister N'Guessan thanked the EU for its support during "the difficult period" experienced in his country during the 2000 elections and for the resumption of cooperation. Even if there were notable improvements, N'Guessan said Côte d'Ivoire still needed substantial help to "overcome the economic crisis."
N'Guessan said the enhanced EU assistance would be used to enhance the priority sectors of the 2002 budget, emphasising "the social sectors (education, health), decentralisation, basic infrastructure, the fight against the AIDS, agriculture, as well as with the development of the private sector.".
Sources: Based on EU and afrol archives