President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has hailed the European Union (EU) for its enormous contributions to Liberia to help eradicate the Ebola virus as well as its direct budgetary support.
“It is a most pleasing coincidence that we join in celebrating European Union Day this year on the very day the World Health Organization (WHO) declares Liberia Ebola free,” she said, adding, “This convergence of celebrations provides the opportunity, perhaps the work of Providence, to pay deserving tribute to the European Union for its enormous contribution to our efforts to eradicate the deadly Ebola Virus Disease from Liberia.”
President Sirleaf made the remarks at a reception last Friday at the residence of the EU Delegate to Liberia, Madam Tina Intelmann, in observance of EU Day.
The EU, said President Sirleaf, had made a total financial contribution of over €1.2 billion through the WHO and other organizations to combat the epidemic in the three worst affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Going further, she highlighted that the EU has provided essential budget support to the country to help offset the negative impact of the Ebola virus disease on the economy and the attendant revenue shortfall.
“To date the EU remains our biggest provider of direct budget support. It is also funding several important development projects of which the most visible is the Redlight to Gbarnga and Gbarnga to Ganta Road Project, funded through the Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund,” she acknowledged.
Despite the excellent relations between the Liberian government and the EU, President Sirleaf said they cannot neglect the need to promote and improve people to people interaction.
“We ask the EU Delegation and the diplomatic missions of its individual member states resident in Monrovia to work with us in finding a workable solution to this problem for the issuance of Schengen Visas in Liberia in order to reduce the difficulties and costs currently associated with travelling to EU Countries,” she appealed.
On the regional level, President Sirleaf welcomed the adoption of the Action Plan 2015-2020 on March 18, 2014, of the EU strategy on the Gulf of Guinea to strengthen cooperation among the countries of the region.
Across borders, at sea and on land, the Action Plan will enhance the region’s capability to handle the many challenges of maritime insecurity and organized crime.
Earlier, Ambassador Intelmann welcomed President Sirleaf and noted that 2015 had been an incredible year for both Europe and Liberia.
She said the past year had brought Europe to think a little bit more about the foundations of the European Union’s common goals because some things they thought were not possible are possible.
“We have discovered that we cannot take peace for granted in Europe,” she said.
What they have learned over the past year, she noted, is that they need to push forward, work together as the founding fathers of Europe envisioned.
As for Liberia, she noted that no one had anticipated the Ebola outbreak and its devastating consequences.
She expressed sympathy for the lives lost as a result of Ebola and those who have suffered as a result.
Ambassador Intelmann highlighted the enormous EU assistance as well as political support provided Liberia in its fight against the disease and for its development agenda.