The European Union is to release 33 million euros ($35.6 million) in aid to Gambia which was frozen due to human rights concerns under former president Yahya Jammeh’s leadership.
The EU Ambassador to Gambia, Attila Lajos, confirmed to Newsweek that the funds would be released to President Adama Barrow’s administration, which has pledged to uphold international law and protect human rights in the tiny West African country.
“The European Union pledged support to the new government and we are going to make all means of support available,” Lajos said, speaking from Gambia’s capital Banjul following a meeting with Barrow on Tuesday. “We are foreseeing a new start of the EU-Gambia development cooperation and relations.”
The funds were reportedly allocated for development projects in Gambia between 2015 and 2016. The EU withdrew around 13 million euros ($15 million at the time) in aid to Gambia in December 2014, citing a lack of progress on various human rights issues, including a law Jammeh introduced in November 2014 which makes some homosexual acts punishable by life imprisonment.
The European Union signed a treaty in 2003 with various developing states, including Gambia, known as the Cotonou Agreement, which requires signatories to respect human rights in order to receive EU development aid.
Jammeh expelled the EU’s chargé d’affaires in Banjul in June 2015 amid an ongoing row about the withheld aid, giving Agnes Guillaud just 72 hours to leave the country. An EU spokeswoman said it was “astonished” by the expulsion and the bloc decided to continue withholding funds as a result.
Lajos tells Newsweek that the EU’s commissioner for international cooperation and development, Neven Mimica, will soon conduct high-level talks with the Gambian government to explore other potential avenues of support.
Barrow defeated Jammeh in the December 2016 election in Gambia, but his rival refused to accept the result and did not leave the country until two days after Barrow’s inauguration. Barrow told Newsweek earlier in January that the country would be “looking for support” from international organizations to help rebuild its economy. He added that the new administration wanted to accept “all democratic principles” and wished to redevelop foreign relations which soured under Jammeh.