Some two hundred West Africans comprising academics, jurists and lawyers will interrogate various aspects of the ECOWAS integration model during a four-day international conference being jointly hosted by the government of Cape Verde and the ECOWAS Court of Justice which opens in Praia from Monday, 9th May 2022.

The hybrid conference, which is being held under the theme ECOWAS Integration model: the legal implications of Regionalism, Sovereignty and Supranationalism, will enable a panel of discussants consisting of jurists and scholars from ECOWAS Member States, ECOWAS Institutions, International Organisations and Development partners to discuss the theme under seven sub themes.

The President of the ECOWAS Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante said the conference is intended to provide a platform to critically examine the legal environment for the implementation of the regional integration agenda including the impact of regionalism, supranationalism and national sovereignties of the Member States on the integration process.

“Participants will examine whether or not the enabling legal environment exists at the regional and municipal levels, for the development of an ECOWAS legal order as well as the role of the Court, national courts and the ECOWAS Commission in the integration process,’ he added

Under the first sub theme, panelists will examine the ECOWAS integration model including the types of regional integration, the evolution of the ECOWAS model; regional integration theories and practice including the European integration as a model for regional integration. They will also discuss intergovernmentalism, the ECOWAS approach to regional integration including its merits and challenges as well as the goals and pillars of ECOWAS regional integration objectives including the issue of shifting deadlines as well as the ECOWAS 2050 vision.

Panelists discussing the second sub theme of Regional Economic Integration will evaluate the  ECOWAS integration agenda including the enabling legal environment for economic integration and situate ECOWAS in the regional economic  integration matrix such as the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) Free Trade Area, Customs Union, Common Market and others.

The Resource persons involved in the fourth sub theme of Supranationalism and Regionalism will consider the legal implications of supranationalism and the primacy of Community norms including the myth or reality of ECOWAS as a super State or Supranational Authority. Furthermore, they will examine ECOWAS regional integration without supranationalism including regional integration without the direct applicability of Community Acts in Member States and the feasibility of regional integration without the invocation of Community norms before national courts.

The Panelists will also examine the delegation of Authority by Member States, particularly the legal relationship between the States and the Community; the role of Member States and the Commission in holding Member States accountable for their Treaty obligations as well as the lessons for ECOWAS in the European Union model of Supranationalism.

The Role of Regional Courts in the regional integration process, the seventh sub theme  will be examined by panelists with emphasis on the role of the ECOWAS Court in the Integration process particularly its Treaty supervision and oversight function;  lessons from the role of the European Union court in the European integration process and the development of European Community Law.

The discussants will also propose ways to strengthen the relationship between the ECOWAS Court and National Courts for the attainment of an ECOWAS Community legal order, the harmonization of the legal  and judicial systems of Member States as well as the vexed issue of the enforcement of the judgments of the ECOWAS Court by the national courts of the States. They will also discuss the invocation of Community Law before national courts and the preliminary Ruling Procedure as provided under Article 10 (f) of the Protocol on the Court relating to Referrals.

Under the sixth sub theme of Regional Integration and Regional Protection of Human Rights, panelists will consider the relationship between Regional Integration and the regional protection of human rights; the unique features of the ECOWAS human rights mechanism as well as the ECOWAS common passport and ECOWAS citizenship. In addition, they will undertake an appraisal of the human rights jurisprudence of the ECOWAS Court; regional human rights systems and the challenges of the enforcement of the judgments of the court and how to strengthen the enforcement mechanism.

Finally, panelists discussing sub theme seven will review the Free movement of Persons, Goods and Services as an important factor in regional economic integration against the context of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment, including the militating factors. Also for examination by the panelists are the free movement of persons, goods and services as an important factor in regional integration; the challenges militating against the full enjoyment of the right of residence provisions of the Protocol including discriminatory national laws and double standards.

President Jose Maria Neves of the Republic of Cape Verde will deliver a statement at the opening ceremony on Monday, 9th May 2022 while the President of Court, Justice Asante will deliver the welcome address. Professor Solomon Ebobrah of the Niger Delta University in Nigeria’s Bayelsa State will deliver the keynote address as the Guest Speaker.

Each session will be chaired by either a judge of the ECOWAS, the President of a Regional Court or President of the Supreme Court of a Member State.