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CIDOB - [07/03/2008]

Miguel A. Moratinos: “Spain's role is to help the Africans to become the ones who solve their problems”

Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, has announced that a bilateral summit will be held with the countries of West Africa; he was speaking at the presentation of the 2008 CIDOB International Yearbook, which this year includes a special monographic section dedicated to Nigeria. The event took place in the Chamber of Commerce in Barcelona, and was also attended by Odein Ajumogobia, Nigeria's Energy Minister, and Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister reflected on relations between Spain and Nigeria, which are centred almost exclusively on the energy sector. He stressed that the African country represented "an exception to the absence of Spanish policy on Africa that had existed until the last term of office, during which time greater activism and commitment was deployed in this respect". Moratinos called Spain's relations with Nigeria a "platform from which we can understand and boost our relations with Africa". And particularly, in the region of which Nigeria is the leader – West Africa, which is of great strategic importance to Spain. The Minister gave a positive assessment of Nigeria’s situation, which he defined as "a democratic country that has succeeded in growing economically through respect for the rule of law".

Ajumogobia, the Nigerian Energy Minister, linked the increase in the price of oil and gas with an increase in demand and the poor functioning of the markets. He called for greater transparency and greater investment in production, given that in Nigeria, the volatility of energy prices is a factor that is destabilising the economy. He defended the reform of the energy sector in his country in order that Nigeria should become a catalyst for social and economic development, and to ensure Nigerian leadership in West Africa.

Moratinos listed the achievements of Spain's new policy toward Africa, with the opening of six new embassies and cooperation offices and an increase in spending on cooperation that has gone from €150 million to almost €1 billion. He announced that more resources would be available for the new 2009-2012 Africa Plan and the General Cooperation Plan. He defended the new aid programmes against climate change and to promote food security as examples of a policy that goes beyond simple declarations, in order, he claimed, "to change the reality so that Africans may live in a better world". He defended a model of shared responsibility in dealing with the management of migration flows that is based on respect for Human Rights. He called the refusal to approve the EU's Return Directive an error of perception, as he considered it to be a step forward in the protection of Human Rights.

Chambas, the President of ECOWAS, praised Spain's role and Zapatero's policy on West Africa, and highlighted the intensification of relations with Nigeria, a country that is considered to be an example of democratic consolidation in the region. Moratinos stressed the importance of the work done by ECOWAS in regional integration and stabilisation, and to which Spain provides €10 million in aid for development and immigration programmes. The Minister claimed that "the Africans themselves are capable of solving their problems without foreign intervention, and of being the protagonists of their own destiny", with Spain and Europe's role being limited to that of providing aid and support. Moratinos declared that the world is no longer Euro-centric, and that all countries now have a say in decision-making. He also announced that a bilateral summit would be held between Spain and the countries of West Africa in order to discuss issues concerning security, development, energy and infrastructure is. The Minister highlighted the importance of Spain's new African policy which he defined (quoting Zapatero) as a policy with the Africans following the policies in and for Africa of the colonial and postcolonial periods. He stressed the need for immigration policy not to be based solely on police methods, but that it was also important to "understand and listen to the African authorities and citizens". Spain's priorities were set down in the Plan Africa document, drafted in 2006 and which, the Minister declared, had been warmly welcomed by the African Nations, and he spoke of the excitement that he felt on being the first European representative to speak at the ministers’ meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa last January.

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