By Omar Bah
A visiting delegation from the European Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs has expressed hope that the EU may consider reassessing visa restrictions on Gambia if the country continues to accept returnees.
The delegation, comprising six parliamentarians, were in Banjul to reaffirm the EU’s interest in further deepening its partnership with The Gambia.
In October 2021, the European Council temporarily suspended the application of certain provisions in the visa quota to nationals of The Gambia because of the country’s lack of cooperation on readmission of her citizens illegally staying in the EU.
The council had also suspended the possibility of waiving requirements with regard to the documents to be submitted by visa applicants, limitation of the processing period to 15 calendar days and, as a consequence, restriction of the extension of this period to 45 days, issuing of multiple entry visas and optional visa fee waiver for holders of diplomatic and service passports.
“No migration policy can function without the effective return of those who don’t have the right to stay. All countries have an obligation under international law to the readmission of their own nationals and we expect this obligation to be fulfilled. Today’s decision, the first applying the new mechanism, is a clear sign of our strong commitment to use all relevant tools to improve cooperation on readmission,” the council said at the time.
But reacting to a question on whether the EU will now consider lifting the restrictions, the head of delegation and chairperson of the committee, David McAllister said: “There was a lack of cooperation on returns and readmissions by the Gambian authorities but things have improved in 2022 and if they continue to improve in 2023, I certainly believe the situation can and I believe should be rapidly reassessed. I understand how important this issue is for the citizens of The Gambia and it has been addressed in a number of conversations that we have had and I will also have a closer look myself and I will as a sum-up of this trip also ask the commission how the process is going in 2023.”
Meanwhile, the European Union Ambassador to The Gambia, Corrado Pampoloni has said the EU stands ready to join other donors to fund a special international court to try Jammeh-era crimes.
“We are told that when the Special Prosecutor is nominated, a donor conference will be organised where each will receive his own task and we will follow the indication of the government but we have already decided that we will help the government. It is something that we do on a regular basis. In the tribunal for Hussein Habré in Senegal, we helped the government of Senegal to organise and pay for some of the expenditures and we will do the same here together with the other donors,” Pampaloni said.
Commenting earlier on whether the government has engaged EU to fund its reparations, David McAllister, said: “We have not been asked anything so we cannot say if it can be done or not. But this is an important aspect that the state needs to address. I would like to emphasise the EU’s support for a democratic consolidation process. I would encourage swift progress on the reforms because there is certainly a need for clear timelines and roadmaps in the reform process and during our meetings, we enquired about the steps taken on transitional justice notably on implementing the TRRC White Paper including the awaited implementation plan. So, the EU has shown in recent years that we are ready to support The Gambia as a trusted partner and we will continue to do so.”
On Constitutional reforms, the EU official said:“When it comes to constitutional reform, in the end, we can only hope to see The Gambia achieve its objectives through political commitment and cross-party dialogue. The majority in the opposition, the government and the parliament need to get together through an inclusive consultation process and our advice will always be to include civil society representatives because constitutional reform is always a complicated process. There are a lot of things to consider but if there is interest on the Gambian side, we are ready to give any kind of support. We want the Gambian people to see us as trusted partners and we are ready to assist when required.”
McAllister said the impression is that the money the European Union invested Tn the Gambia’s democratic transitional process is definitely well invested. “We are very happy to see the positive developments and we really appreciate the improved relations between The Gambia and the European Union. If it comes to financial support, apart from supporting the democratic transitional process – we have projects on tourism, food systems, agriculture, transport and human development,” he said.