Political and economic relations
The special relationship enjoyed by Sierra Leone and the European Union finds its roots in their history as well as in the importance of their current trade relationship.
Sierra Leone-EU cooperation and political relations
The special link between Sierra Leone and the European Union is reflected in the successive Conventions and partnership agreements signed between the European Union and the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group of countries – to which Sierra Leone is a party – and is demonstrated by more than 35 years of development cooperation.
Today, the European Union-Sierra Leone partnership is guided by the principles and objectives laid down in the revised Cotonou Agreement.
The principles and objectives agreed between the EU and the ACP group of States are adapted to the social and economic reality of Sierra Leone in the Country Strategy Paper and National Indicative Programme that the Government of Sierra Leone and the European Commission (as the executive body of the European Union responsible for managing development assistance) jointly developed. The Country Strategy Paper and the National Indicative Programme detail the main axes of our cooperation on the basis of priorities identified by the Government of Sierra Leone is its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).
Sierra Leone-EU trade and economic relations
The European Union has long been Sierra Leone's first trading partner and the country enjoys a preferential trade regime under the Everything But Arms arrangement.
In 2009, Sierra Leone total exports to the rest of the world amounted to €156 million. Exports to the European Union represented €100 million or 64% of total exports. While for many years trade in precious stones dominated trade from Sierra Leone, in recent years exports in agricultural products have progressively gained an increasing share of total exports (from €13 million in 2005 to €27 million in 2009), reflecting the progressive diversification of the Sierra Leonean economy and the recovery of its agriculture.
Institutional, economic and tax reforms recently undertaken by the Government of Sierra Leone to improve the business climate are already producing positive effects, with new investments having materialised in recent months. The European Union believes that Sierra Leone's growing economy could benefit from further integration of the Western African economies and from the gradual liberalisation of trade under the proposed Economic Partnership Agreement. The recently revised Cotonou Agreement reaffirms the importance of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), in order to change 30 years of trade preferences that have failed to develop West African economies. The general philosophy of the EPA is to gradually transform the relationship between Western African countries and the EU from one of dependency to one of mutual trade partners in the long run and to establish a trade relationship which is compatible with WTO rules.