Union to support reinstatement of stability in the country, as European Commission Chairman visits Abidjan.

Chairman of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso signed the agreement for budgetary support on Thursday, granting the West African country funds of 115 million euros ($149 million) in what is expected to be the first of a number of steps of financial assistance.

The  Ivory Coast saw the outbreak of an effective civil war in 2010 following disputed presidential elections which prompted fighting between government loyalists and opposition rebels.  More than 3,000 were killed around the country, before out-going president Laurent Gbagbo was arrested in March 2011, and current president Alassane Ouattara took over the country’s leadership.

Meeting the Ivorian President Ouattara in Abidjan, Barroso praised the President’s conduct in coming through the disputed elections and following civil unrest in 2010 and 2011; pointing to the increasing positive trends in the West African country’s economic and political spheres.

Speaking at the signing, Barroso told attendees: “The European Union will remain beside Ivory Coast to help it quickly become once again a pillar of stability and growth in West Africa.”

Barroso also gave a speech to students at Abidjan University during his visit, and encouraged Ivorians to participate in “national reconciliation”, and highlighted the importance of re-establishing “impartial justice” and national security.

The Ivory Coast has seen startling growth this year as the country’s cocoa production resumes.  The economy is predicted to achieve a growth of 8.6 per cent for 2012, as compared to a 4.7 per cent decline in 2011 in the aftermath of the civil unrest.

Cocoa harvesting in the Ivory Coast – the world’s main grower of the crop – began earlier this month, with 51,000 tonnes of cocoa arriving at the country’s ports ready for export by the end of last week.  The government has set the price for the crop for the 2012-2013 harvest season at 725 Central African Francs ($ 1.43) per kilogram of cocoa.

While in Abidjan, the Chairman and the President also considered the situation unfolding in Mali, with Barroso suggesting that the EU would be pleased to provide support in order to achieve a unified government in the country, which currently finds its northern territories controlled by Islamic rebels, most prominently the group known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.


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