- After entering into negotiations with the European Union (EU) over special ties and leaving the West Africa free travel union, the government of Cape Verde now has announced its desire to loosen its attachment to the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS). The Cape Verde government soon will present ECOWAS with proposals for "special status" of the island nation.
The Cape Verdean Foreign Minister, Victor Borges, announced this at end-December ECOWAS meetings in Burkina Faso. The Ouagadougou meetings included an ordinary ECOWAS Council of Ministers, a meeting of the regional security council and a conference of West African foreign ministers.
According to a press release sent to afrol News from the Cape Verde Foreign Affairs Ministry, the archipelago in particular wants to renegotiate its ECOWAS cooperation when it comes to migration and free circulation of ECOWAS citizens within the Community. The Praia government already in September 2006 announced plans to limit access to its territory for other West African nationals.
Minister Borges said the "special status" of Cape Verde should be negotiated on the basis of the "special conditions and vulnerability" of Cape Verde, being the only small island nation within ECOWAS. Praia had the right to ask for this according to article 68 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty, Mr Borges claimed, which justifies a special or differentiated treatment for vulnerable countries.
As the Cape Verde government first pronounced its plans to strictly limit West Africans from travelling to the archipelago, these were however set in another context. Praia had just signed an accord with the EU, with which it is trying to forge closer ties, to help curbing illegal immigration towards Europe. New measures to restrict travellers from ECOWAS would "be taken in cooperation with the EU," government spokeswoman Carlota Teixeira said at that occasion.
According to Foreign Minister Borges, he had also informed regional leaders that Cape Verde wanted to be exempted from the Economic Partnership Accord (EPA) between ECOWAS and the EU. The EPA is the main framework for economic cooperation between Europe and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries - collectively known as the ACP.
Also in September, Cape Verdean Economy Minister João Pereira Silva had announced that his country did not want to be part of the ECOWAS negotiations with the EU for a new EPA. Instead, Minister Pereira said Cape Verde was aiming at reaching its own, independent Economic Partnership Accord with the Europeans, hoping that this would prove more favourable to the middle-income nation.
Encouraged by its former colonial power Portugal, Cape Verde during the last few years has aimed at reaching a special attachment to the EU, or even becoming an associated member. Also ties with NATO have been deepened. While increasing its diplomatic relation with Europe, Praia has progressively gone on distance to its West African neighbours.
At the Ouagadougou ECOWAS meeting, however, the Cape Verdean government was made to understand it had to backtrack some of its previous decisions, which had been made unilaterally. Minister Borges agreed to negotiate over a "special status" for Cape Verde in order for the country to remain in the West African community.
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