The ambience was warm and welcoming. The mood was sombre because a large-scale war was going on in Europe, thanks to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. However, on the flipside, the war on Ukraine underlined the significance of the event. Ambassador Samuela Isopi, Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, captured the significance so succinctly: “The war in Ukraine reminds us in a dramatic way of the enduring value of the European Union as a peace project among Europeans.” It was May 9, and the EU Delegation at Abuja was joining other EU establishments across the world to observe Europe Day 2022.
The event held at the Ambassador’s residence was also significant in another way. For the first time since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic imposed its style on humanity, the Europe Day reception was returning in an in-person format on a large scale for the first time. Over 400 people, including Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Sunday Dare, were present. The focus of 2022 Europe Day was on youth.
It was also a key moment in the year to celebrate the EU’s partnership and to renew the commitment to pursue with increased determination its long-standing engagement with Nigeria, to make it stronger and closer to the people. “We will continue to work with EU Member States, the European Investment Bank and other EU Development Financial Institutions, as ‘Team Europe’, to implement our joint vision,” the Ambassador stated.
To achieve this vision, she said, “Since 2021, together we have laid down two new key milestones to make that happen: First, the Nigeria-EU Joint Road-Map, setting out for the first time a comprehensive shared vision and a structured framework for dialogue and cooperation. Then just this February we launched, on the occasion of the visit of the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager, a seven-year, 2021-2027, Multi-annual Indicative Programme of cooperation with Nigeria.”
Nigeria’s minister for youth and sports, speaking at the event, thanked the EU for its partnership and support to Nigeria over the years. Several high-ranking government officials, members of the diplomatic community, representatives of youth organisations and civil society organisations, EU programme implementing partners, members of EU Youth Sounding Board, also attended.
The 2022 Europe Day celebration in Nigeria kicked off on May 6 when Ambassador Isopi lighted the iconic Abuja City Gate in the EU colours and motifs. The choice of the symbolic monument was to buttress the fruitful working partnership between the European Union and Nigeria over the years, as stated in the Ambassador’s speech during the lit-up event at the Gate.
On May 11, the Delegation opened its doors to the publics as it hosted its first Open Day in the country. About 3,200 Nigerians, mostly young people, took advantage of the opportunity to seek information about the various aspects of the EU’s activities, programmes and policies. The EU member states were not left out as the Embassies of France, Ireland, Finland and Spain were on ground to showcase their respective cultures and give information on different aspects of the programmes in countries.