Ministers for Justice and Foreign Affairs from five Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) member states and other officials have deliberated on the accession of third states (non-member states) to the ECOWAS treaty.
Including Ghana’s Minister-designate for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey and Minister-Designate for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, the ministers were from Togo, La Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria.
The meeting held on Thursday was to discuss conclusions of a study on the accession of Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania to the ECOWAS treaty, for endorsement and referral to the Heads of State to inform their next line of action.
In her opening address, Ms Botchwey said the request from the three countries to accent to the ECOWAS treaty was sent to the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government at its 52nd Ordinary Session, on December 16, 2017.
She said it was directed to the ECOWAS Commission to undertake a study and constitute a High-Level Committee, comprising the Presidents of the five countries represented at the meeting, to address the legal and institutional requirements for third-country accession to the ECOWAS Treaty.
According to her, a multi-sectoral meeting of experts was held in Accra, three days prior to the meeting, to work on the study to help higher authorities arrive at a conclusion.
To enable the ministers to effectively carry out the duty, Ms Botchwey said there was the need for a reflection on the reasons behind the growing interest of third states in the community, taking into account the geopolitical considerations, and its underpinnings.
“To the keen observer of developments in our region, the single market that our region offers and its attractiveness for trade and investment, including the fact that our population is youthful and increasingly educated are certainly some of the reasons for the high interest in ECOWAS.
“We should and must seize the opportunity, guided by the principles of complementarity, and our shared values to leverage these interests for the benefit of the citizens of the Community”, she said.
Ms Botchwey commended the ECOWAS Commission, the team of legal experts and officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice for the preparatory work, which would enrich the deliberations.
She hoped that the outcome of the discussions would bring conclusiveness to the unresolved question of third-country accession to the ECOWAS Treaty.
Mr Dame, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice-designate recalled that Morocco requested to join as a full member of ECOWAS, whilst Mauritania and Tunisia wanted to join as associate member and observer, respectively.
He said Morocco’s application was endorsed in principle at the summit of ECOWAS Heads of States in June 2017 but it had since delayed.
Mr Baba Gana Wakil, the ECOWAS Resident Representative in Ghana, said it was gratifying to note that several countries had taken a keen interest in the activities of the sub-region, saying “This is, indeed, an interesting development that should attract our attention and scrutiny.”