At the 10th annual joint consultative meeting between the AU Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) and the EU Political and Security Committee (EUPSC) on Friday (November 18) at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the two sides have vowed to further enhance their cooperation in addressing challenges of peace and security on the African continent. Following the deliberatation a day earlier on migration of African youth who flee the continent in search of better life, but experience tragedies, the consultative meeting on Friday has mainly focused on current pressing security issues in Africa, particularly in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region, the center and the north of the continent.
Cherif Mahamat Zene, Chad Ambassador to AU, who was also co-chair of the AU-EU consultative meeting, reiterated that conflicts, terrorist attacks, insecurity and instability continue to prevail in different parts of the continent. He added, “We will be able to identify, for each of the situations on our agenda, ways of finding joint solutions in a collective approach, taking into account, of course, new threats and developments that require us to readjust our tools in the face of insecurity and instability.”
Walter Stevens, Chair of the EUPSC, who has also co-chaired the meeting, underlined the need for AU and EU to agree to reinforce close cooperation in addressing the conflicts.
Managing migration is more than ever a thorn in Europe’s side, threatening its unity and integrity. As no single solution will be enough to tackle this complex issue, there is still work to do to establish a real partnership with African countries, which will be the key to a sustainable decrease illegal migration to Europe. This article was originally published in the 8th issue (October 2017) of The Ethiopian Messenger, the quarterly magazine of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels.
More than two years since migrant flows reached their peak in the EU, managing migration is more than ever a thorn in Europe’s side, threatening its unity and integrity. Migration is one of the policy priorities of greatest concern to EU citizens, along with security and economic governance, and the issue has received constant attention from the Heads of State or Government. In 2016 alone, half of the conclusions of the six European Council meetings were dedicated to migration. Considerable work has been made to address the many aspects of this multidimensional challenge and reduce flows, protect EU’s borders and tackle the root causes of migration. Despite this attention and promising steps, recent decisions reveal a lack of coherent and long- term strategy on the part of the EU to have a real impact on the problem, while African priorities have sometimes been sidelined. As no single solution will be enough to tackle this complex issue, there is still work to do to establish a real partnership with African countries, which will be the key to a sustainable decrease illegal migration to Europe.
Blocking African migration.
Over recent years, the EU has developed several tools to handle migration from Africa. When the newly appointed Juncker Commission took office in 2014, a position of EU migration commissioner, indicating that migration would be the number one priority for its mandate. In 2012, a European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa was appointed by the European External Action Service, followed in 2015 by the nomination of an EU Special Representative for the Sahel. The establishment of these two positions aimed to enhance the quality, intensity and impact of the EU’s engagement in these strategic regions.
Following the first phase of the response to the crisis, which culminated in March 2016 with the signing of an agreement with Turkey, the European Union shifted its focus from the Western Balkans route to the Central Mediterranean, where the migratory pressure coming from Sub-Saharan Africa was far from being under control. EU leaders vowed to reduce the continuing high number of predominantly economic migrants through the implementation of partnership frameworks of cooperation with individual countries of origin and transit. Since then, the EU has been pursuing a double objective: relieving the immediate migration pressure through formal agreements with African states to return economic migrants to their home countries, while making a deeper investment in tackling root causes of irregular migration and open opportunities for regular migration.
In late August, African and European leaders meeting in Paris in another effort to stop illegal migration discussed the possibility to set up reception centres in Chad and Niger to identify refugees that are in a situation giving them a right to asylum, hence starting the asylum procedure on African territory and allowing women and men to avoid a dangerous journey. In addition, some 50 million euros were released to finance an African joint military task force aiming at cracking down on human trafficking, drug smuggling, weapon smuggling, and terrorism – another important step in tackling the root causes of migration. In theory, these small steps forward should be seen as hopeful signs for Africans migrants and European governments. However, in practice, in the absence of firm commitments for fresh investment or EU countries taking in more refugees, the current status quo is likely to continue, especially as previous problems have not been addressed.
Unfinished business and growing tensions
While European countries are still at odds over how to deal with the number of migrants making the journey from North Africa to Italy and Spain, many decisions taken in 2015 still have to be implemented, mainly due to the security and political contexts of many European States. The refugee quota plan proposed by the Commission in September 2015 was bitterly opposed by central European countries, and so far only about one quarter of the 160,000 people the EU promised to disperse have been found a home. Fresh tensions have been rising over Austrian Defence Minister threatening to close its border with Italy, and send soldiers to guard it, while the Mediterranean country has taken in nearly 85 per cent of this year’s arrivals and has pleaded for help from other European Union nations. The question of terrorism and its intersection with illegal migration from North Africa is high on the list of concerns for many European countries, in light of the recent attacks in Spain. Germany, for its part, is determined to stop illegal migration from Africa and wants the EU to use development aid to strike border control deals with African nations in an effort to placate right-leaning German voters ahead of September’s federal election.
But more worrying are the failings in Europe’s long-term efforts to tackle the root causes of migration through development aid, opening up safe and legal pathways for genuine refugees. The Partnership Framework signed in June 2016 with five African countries (Ethiopia, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria) has little to show for, as European funds to infrastructure projects in exchange for return and readmission have led to few concrete projects. Development policy is, increasingly, in the service of migration policy, which would have been considered scandalous in the last few years, and many EU countries have been reporting the costs for hosting refugees as ODA, reducing funding available for development programs abroad and causing a drop in spending for the poorest nations.
Another crucial piece of the puzzle in achieving this is opening up safe and legal pathways for genuine refugees. Yet EU states trail behind the rest of the world in terms of resettlement from Africa. Of the almost 39,000 people resettled from Africa in 2016, only around 1,800 ended up in Europe. There is therefore little hope for the Commission’s grand resettlement campaign proposed in July 2017, offering to pay member states €10,000 for every person resettled from Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Niger and Sudan.
Time for a long-term vision
Compared to the chaos that took Europe by surprise in 2015, a more united approach for dealing with migration has emerged. But the absence of a long-term vision on migration at the European level raises questions, as all studies predict a population explosion in Africa in the coming decades. The decisions taken in 2015 and 2016 were made in response to the urgency, but EU and African leaders alike need to start thinking about what a sound migration policy should be for the next thirty years. Understanding the challenges, promises and realities of African migration is fundamental for the EU, as Europe’s security and prosperity depends heavily on what is happening in Africa.
At the moment, the vast majority of African migrants are still located in Africa, where human dams are forming in countries hosting large numbers of refugees. Economic development is the main challenge in the region and the EU despite being the world’s biggest donor, has failed to listen to Africa’s priorities, such as industrialization and infrastructure, focusing on humanitarian assistance instead. Similarly, recent EU proposals focusing on transit countries rather than countries of origins revealed that the EU’s first objective is to stop people from reaching Europe rather than keeping them from leaving their countries. The EU’s newfound will to use its visa policy as leverage to encourage third countries to speed up the readmission of migrants arriving in Italy is a further illustration of this fact. Moreover, the strengthening of controls at the Union’s external borders and returning illegal immigrants seems to be the only subjects on which consensus has been reached in Europe when it comes to migration, while a clear distinction between “good migrants”, who would be the refugees, and the “bad” economic migrants” has emerged in the European leadership. One can only hope that these conceptions will not keep the two continents from avoiding mass displacements, saving lives at sea and put in place a real cooperation.
President Dr. Mulatu Teshome held discussions on Wednesday (November 15) with President of the Republic of Estonia Kersti Kajulaid, who is on a state visit to Ethiopia. Welcoming President Kersti who took an oath as the first female President of Estonia on October 2016, Dr. Mulatu expressed his country’s strong desire to further enhance its ties with all members of the European Union such as the Baltic States and closely work on both multi-lateral and bilateral fronts. The President noted Estonia’s presidency of the council of the EU will afford the opportunity for both countries to work closely together on African, Global and Bilateral issues of common interest.
President Mulatu explained the Estonian side the immense investment and business opportunities his country owns ready to be seized by Estonian business. Dr. Mulatu also urged the need to support Ethiopia’s ongoing efforts to address the root causes of migration through youth employment. Dr. Mulatu suggested that the EU-Africa cooperation would be more robust if it can largely focus more on socio-economic development using instruments such as Agenda 2063 and SDG’s.
Praising the Ethiopian side for the warm welcome accorded to her, President Kersti said Estonia is keen to strengthen its ties with Ethiopia. The President noted scaling up the relations with Ethiopia would greatly help her country to forge relations with Africa. Mrs. Kersti expressed her country’s intense interest in sharing its experiences in IT and e-governance.
President Kersti has also met the African Union trade and industry commissioner, Albert M. Muchanga. The two sides discussed mainly on digital issues and talked about the forthcoming summit between the European Union and the African Union. On the occasion she noted, Africa has a rather unique opportunity – to leave a number of steps in the development of digital society, which have been spending a lot of time and energy in Europe.
A United Nations report entitled ‘Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea’ presented to the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), stressed Eritrea’s continued support for some anti-government elements continues to heighten security in the Horn of Africa region. The activities of the said groups are intended at destabilizing Ethiopia and Djibouti. “Eritrea continued to provide support to armed groups intent on destabilizing Ethiopia and Djibouti, including the Benishangul People’s Liberation Movement, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD-Armé), Patriotic Ginbot Sebat (PG7) and the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement. It also noted, “While none of these groups poses a critical threat to either Djibouti or Ethiopia, the support of Eritrea for them continues to generate insecurity in the region and undermines the normalization of relations between regional Member States,” the report said.
Ethiopian Horticulture Producers and Exporters Association (EHPEA) and companies who work in the cut flower industry in the country are participating at the 8th International Floriculture Trade Fair (IFTF) Expo which is being held in the Netherlands this week.
The participants of IFTF are exhibiting the globally renowned flowers Ethiopia produces and exports to the international market. The event is serving all segments of the Floriculture & Horticulture industry chain. More than 250 companies are taking part at the fair according to the Ethiopian Embassy in Brussels. The Embassy noted that Ethiopia is one of the leading countries forging a strategic partnership with the Netherlands in trade and investment. This demonstrates Government’s unflinching commitment in providing significant favorable environment and incentive to investors in the country. Participants also noted that the floriculture industry is increasingly becoming one of the most attractive investment arrays in the country.
Diplomats of different foreign countries residing in Ethiopia commended the government’s initiative towards advancing democratic system in the country. The diplomats whom ENA has talked to following the briefing by the Foreign Minister about current situations of the country on Tuesday praised the ongoing political reforms towards widening the political space.
Finnish ambassador to Ethiopia, Helena Airaksien told ENA that the government is taking a good initiative towards enhancing democracy. She also said that her country welcomes the reform and hopes to see that it would continue from this vantage point. Mentioning that Finland follows mixed electoral system, which Ethiopia has set to implement; Airaksien said “we support the move of the government towards democratization”. The Ambassador said Finland is keen to share its experiences in deepening democracy. “I think the Ethiopian government is good in working with partners, they are ready to listen they are ready open dialogue and will definitely continue this dialogue on democratization process”
Australian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mark Sawers on his part appreciated the political reform as “an important announcement”. “We welcome the government’s move down this path in close cooperation with the opposition parties” Ambassador Sawers said. “As a development it is an important step towards opening up the political space to see more opportunity, different viewpoints to be heard in the political system” he emphasized.
Speaking of the role of the international community and partners in further enhancing the ongoing democratization process, the Australian ambassador said “What we can do is to support from the sideline through assistance and technical aspects of electoral form or funding”. “Of course what we want to see is Ethiopia moving in the direction it is trying to move forward with the reform and we think it is very important for Ethiopia’s long-term stability and future. It will also be very important for Ethiopia’s trajectory in terms of a developing country and the developmental role” he elaborated.
It is to be recalled that the ruling party – EPRDF – and 15 national political parties had been negotiating on various agendas over the past months within the agreed objectives of strengthening democratization and widening the political space. Accordingly, the negotiations that have been taking place have brought changes in the electoral system besides revising some of the country’s proclamations. Thus, under the new electoral law, Ethiopia will have a hybrid electoral system composed of 80 percent simple majority vote and 20 percent proportional. Agreement has also been reached among the negotiating parties in financing political parties.
This article was originally published in the 8th issue (October 2017) of The Ethiopian Messenger, the quarterly magazine of the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels.
In the summer of 2017, the European Union decided to support the Nile Basin Initiative through its international development cooperation instrument, the European Development Fund. This decision demonstrates Europe’s interest and readiness to support the NBI and the establishment of the Nile Basin Commission. Ethiopia took this opportunity to renew its commitment to work towards ensuring an equitable utilization of the Nile river water resources.
This decision from the EU came after a summit held from 20- 22 June 2017 in Entebbe, Uganda, between all 10 riparian countries to discuss how to equitably use the Nile waters. The heads of the delegations at the Summit underlined the achievements of the Nile Basin Initiative as an effective platform for the Nile Basin countries over the last 18 years. They expressed the need to establish the Nile Basin River Commission to further consolidate these objectives as soon as possible.
More than 300 million people across 11 countries rely on the waters of the Nile, a much-needed resource, among others for drinkable water, agriculture and generation of energy. The increasing population and growing economy of the region will even further drive the demand. Another challenge that needs to be addressed collectively is the impact of climate change on the flow of the Nile, which is likely to become more irregular. A recent report produced in April 2017 by researchers of the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology detailed in their conclusions that climate change may drastically increase the variability of the Nile’s annual output (“Climate change enhances interannual variability of the Nile river flow”, Nature Climate Change, 24 April 2017, link) projects a major increase in flow variation from year to year. “We think that climate change is pointing to the need for more storage capacity in the future”, the authors said. There can be no doubt that the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam would be extremely important and valuable in this connection.
In this context of economic, social and natural changes, and in order to optimize an equitable use of the Nile resource by all riparian countries, the enhanced international dialogue between the concerned countries provided by the NBI is crucial. A better cooperation could create a stabilising, economic-growth-friendly atmosphere in the Nile region. If this cooperation bears fruits, this organisation could become an example for some of the many other international basins throughout the world, where water resources are shared between several states.
The NBI is a ten-country organisation set up in 1999 to facilitate cooperation around Nile River Basin policies and investments for the benefit of all the inhabitants of the riparian countries. Its headquarters are located in Entebbe, Uganda. The riparian countries negotiated the Nile Cooperative Framework Agreement – as a basis for the Nile River Basin Commission which is expected to be established on a permanent basis.
Beyond political cooperation, the NBI is focusing on technical issues, training and knowledge-sharing. The NBI organisation is also gathering and analysing technical data on water resource development plans of the riparian countries. The Initiative is also involved a Collaborative Water Assessment Process which helps to model different scenarios of the water resource levels and impacts of investments made around the river.
Foreign Minister Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu briefed Addis-based diplomats on current situations in Ethiopia, giving particular emphasis on the recent irresponsible clashes in Oromia and Somali Regional States, unrest in some parts of Oromia and the recent devaluation of Ethiopian birr among others.
Dr. Workneh underscored that clashes in Oromia and Somali Regional States were instigated by rent-seeking groups who wanted to take advantage of minor conflicts. The Foreign Minister said the government was now working to dismantle the activities of these rent seeking groups along the border. He also noted the government held serious of discussions with residents in the affected areas, their community elders and religious leaders as well as presidents of the regional states on September 14 and October 4, 2017 to urge them to work together on the basis of the Federal Constitution and resolve the conflict through dialogue. Understanding was reached that the problem is largely contained with some pockets of conflicts along the common regional border, he added.
The Foreign Minister noted that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is investigating the causes of deaths and alleged abuses in the said areas. Once the investigation of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the Government vows to take action in accordance with relevant laws of the Sate on perpetrators of the recent killings and displacement, he noted.
He also said that Indicate that the Government is assisting those displaced and is urgently developing a rehabilitation program. He further noted that elders and religious leaders reaffirmed their commitment to support efforts of government to restore law and order and stressed the need for close and continuous collaboration. He also said that the government is taking all necessary measures to stabilize the areas affected by the conflict and the situation in the border areas between the Oromia and Somalia Regional States is now getting back to normalcy.
Following the incidents that took along the Oromia and Ethio-Somali regions and the killings and substantial displacement of civilians, illegal protests were seen at least in eight towns of the Oromia region causing the death of eight people in Shashemene and Borena areas, according to the Foreign Minister. He said the Oromia Regional State has taken measures against offenders who targeted civilians and also put members of the police and military members who acted irresponsibly.
Regarding the reforms in the country’s electoral process Dr. Workneh said a number of different proposals have been put forward among different parties aimed at creating a wider democratic space and productive talks are underway. He also noted Government’s move in the devaluation of the country’s currency as a way to “prop up exports”. The Minister has also responded to questions from members of the diplomatic community.
On the 10th of October 2017, Ethiopian State Minister Mr. Mebrahtu Meles met with Luxembourg Minister for Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance Romain Schneider to discuss the current Ethiopia-Luxembourg relations.
During his trip in Addis Ababa, Mr. Romain Schneider also participated to the African Microfinance Week in Addis Ababa. ADA, a Luxembourg NGO, supported the organization of the event, as well as various governments including the Ethiopian and Luxembourg government.
Mr Schneider said his country Luxembourg was a major supporter of inclusive finance, because it is hosting the European Platform for Microfinance, the Microinsurance Network, the Inclusive Finance Network and the Luxembourg Microfinance Development Fund.