The European Union's special link to Sierra Leone revolves around successive conventions and partnership agreements between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries – to which Sierra Leone belongs. Today, the partnership between the EU and Sierra Leone is guided by the principles and objectives laid out in the revised Cotonou Agreement.
A Joint Country Strategy Paper prepared by the European Union (EU) , UK Department for International Development (DfID) and Sierra Leone was signed in December 2007. It covers the period of the 10th European Development Fund (2008-2013) and provides €242 million in assistance to Sierra Leone. In 2012, €24.2 million was added in the framework of the EU's Millennium Development Goals Initiative.
Cooperation between the European Union and Sierra Leone is concentrated on two focal areas: good governance and institutional support (€37 million) and rehabilitation of priority infrastructure (€95 million). The European Union is also providing general budget support amounting to €90 million. The remaining €20 million supports Sierra Leone in trade, agriculture and regional programmes.
A thorough dialogue has begun with the government and civil society to identify priority areas for support under the 11th EDF (2014-2020).
The EU is Sierra Leone's first trading partner (in 2009, exports to the EU represented 64% of total exports) and the country enjoys a preferential trade regime under the Everything but Arms arrangement.
The revised Cotonou Agreement emphasises the importance of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), which enable the construction of a mutual and reciprocal trading partnership compatible with WTO rules.
Sierra Leone has recently undertaken institutional, economic and tax reforms with the objective of improving the business climate. These reforms are producing positive results, with new investments arriving in recent months. The country's growing economy will benefit from further integration into other West African economies and from gradual trade liberalisation under the proposed Economic Partnership Agreement .
The mismanagement of natural resources (smuggling of so-called blood diamonds) was one of the root causes of the conflict in Sierra Leone. The country has engaged in the Kimberly process, designed to certify the origin of rough diamonds from sources which are free of conflict. The European Union plays an active role in this process.