Joint press statement by the President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the President of the European Commission and the Prime Minister of the Spanish government

On 8 February 2024 Her Excellency, President of the European Commission, Ursula VON DER LEYEN, and His Excellency, Prime Minister of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, made a joint visit to Nouakchott during which they met with His Excellency President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani.

The three leaders had in-depth discussions on, firstly, the strategic relations between Mauritania and the European Union and, secondly, the strong, friendly, bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Spain and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

The three leaders emphasised the depth and diversity of these relations, which cover a wide range of policy, economic, trade, cultural, cooperation and security matters.

Aware of the scope and importance of these links, they underlined, in particular, the essential principles guiding their cooperation: constructive dialogue, mutual respect, trust, transparency, and ongoing efforts to uphold their commitments and make them more effective.

They also expressed their attachment to their shared universal values, such as respect for human rights, peace and fraternity.

They noted with satisfaction the strengthening of the partnership between Mauritania and the European Union, supported by shared interests and common values and their shared commitment to democracy.  

In that context, the two European leaders welcomed the role played by Mauritania as a vector of stability in a subregion facing significant security challenges.   

The two European leaders committed to providing Mauritania with the support necessary to reinforce its central, beneficial role in the subregion and its capacity to deal effectively with its many security and economic challenges within a framework of inclusive and sustainable development.

The three leaders welcomed this new step in the development of their strong, diverse, and mutually beneficial relations.

This new dynamic is intended to intensify exchanges in areas of common interest, in particular that of renewable energies, at a time when the world is moving towards a decarbonised economy, with the prospect of clean, ecologically sound solutions.

In that context, the three leaders welcomed the Team Europe Initiative signed last October in Brussels, which forms the basis for fruitful cooperation in the field of green hydrogen between the EU and Mauritania.

With this impetus, a European business mission will visit Mauritania in March to explore investment opportunities. It will follow up on the exchanges that took place in the context of the roundtable on green hydrogen held in Nouakchott on 8 February.

In view of the urgent need for a new road infrastructure between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou to efficiently develop the green hydrogen sector, President VON DER LEYEN stressed the EU's strong interest in supporting this project as part of its Global Gateway strategy.

Accordingly, cooperation with the EU will support the Mauritanian government's major efforts to produce the electricity necessary for the country's socio-economic development, particularly through rural electrification programmes.

The EU is also exploring the possibility of offering financial support for the construction of the high-voltage line between Nouakchott and Néma, which is an important component of the subregional electricity grid platform.

The support provided by the EU, the European Investment Bank and Spain to the digital infrastructure, health, fisheries, and agriculture sectors has been welcomed. Spain is able to work together with multilateral institutions to explore the possibilities for jointly financing other development projects in Mauritania. Spain is also committed to facilitating financing for companies wishing to invest in Mauritania.

To strengthen and prolong the cooperation between Mauritania and the Kingdom of Spain, the two countries signed a New Framework Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation.

As regards security, President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani presented his analysis of the regional security situation and its implications not only in the Sahel and in Africa in general but also much further afield, while stressing the relevance of the G5 Sahel ideals and objectives.

Convinced that building peace and stability is essentially a collective undertaking, he emphasised the need to continue mobilising the international community to promote security and development in the Sahel.

The three leaders share the same concerns about the growing instability, which jeopardises all development efforts. The Prime Minister of the Spanish government and the President of the European Commission paid tribute to Mauritania's central role in efforts to achieve stability in the Sahel. The two European leaders have therefore decided to strengthen their cooperation with Mauritania on peace and security.

President VON DER LEYEN reaffirmed the EU's support for Mauritanian defence and security forces, notably by equipping a new Mauritanian counterterrorism battalion.

As part of these joint efforts, President VON DER LEYEN also expressed her willingness to contribute to ensuring that the G5 Sahel Defense College can continue its activities.

The European leaders welcomed Mauritania's efforts to host refugees and acknowledged the pressure that puts on resources and local populations. Mauritania is currently hosting more than 150 000 displaced persons and the flow of migrants shows no signs of abating.

The parties therefore reiterated the urgent need for support from the international community commensurate with the challenges posed by the situation, especially in terms of looking after refugees and assisting host communities. 

President VON DER LEYEN also announced increased support for refugees and host communities, meeting the expectations of the Mauritanian side. For his part, the Spanish Prime Minister announced his intention to double humanitarian aid for refugees in 2024.

The three leaders also expressed concern about the increase in irregular migration to Europe, resulting in loss of life, suffering and abuse of all kinds. They committed to stepping up cooperation to dismantle people-smuggling and people-trafficking networks and to combat irregular migration while protecting and safeguarding the fundamental rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. In that context, Spain and Mauritania are already working on circular migration programmes, in which pilot projects will be developed. Similarly, the three leaders stressed the importance of helping the Mauritanian security forces in their fight against migrant smuggling.

The President of the Commission committed to strengthening this cooperation in the context of a structured migration partnership between the EU and Mauritania.

To help Mauritania face the challenges involved in managing migration, forced displacement and security and development, the European Union intends to increase its financial support and draw on the experience of the European agency Frontex.

To that end, the relevant departments of the government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and of the European Commission have been entrusted to continue the work started in December 2023 to strengthen dialogue, with a view to establishing a migration partnership, which will take into account each party's objectives and the necessary implementing measures.

Nouakchott, 8 February 2024