The EU must support the people of Eritrea now

Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan.
(Photo: UN News Centre)

The European Union (EU) must support the people of Eritrea after the government of that African country decided to terminate its ongoing EU aid programmes, said Mirjam van Reisen, chair of International Social Responsibility at Tilburg University and director of Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA). 

“Development cooperation between the EU and Eritrea has been stopped after years of pressure by human rights activists. This is a recognition that the EU's approach needs to be shifted from supporting the Eritrean dictatorship to supporting the Eritrean people, specifically the large number of Eritrean refugees suffering in the neighbouring countries, including those in the hands of cruel traffickers in the Sinai desert, whose plight has been given very little attention,” reported Van Reisen in a statement.

“The young Eritreans, who flee abroad to escape the forced military service, must be supported to receive education and to build the future of Eritrea on the basis of educated youth who understand the language of peace and justice,” she added.

“The European Union can no longer close its eyes on the crisis that will be caused by the continuing stream of youth who have no perspective, no education and who have only been taught in the language of oppression and war. The responsibility must now shift to provide decent and adequate resources to educate these youths, as they are the future of Eritrea, so that they can develop livelihoods and skills that will be needed in the new democratic country that will emerge once the Arab Spring will have reached it,” recommended the expert.

“The Arab Spring is the biggest fear of the regime, which has denied the people of Eritrea information on the fate of its former ally Khadafi. Being economical with the truth will not keep it in power for ever. It is only a matter of time that Eritreans will create their own Arab Spring. In the mean time the new generation must be prepared to take responsibilities once the time is there. This should now be the primary objective of the European Union's cooperation to help build a Democratic Eritrea,” said Van Reisen.

These comments come after the EU Delegation in Asmara had received a letter from the Minister of National Development and National Authorising Officer for EU Cooperation, H.E. Minister Giorgish Teklemichael, stating the decision of the Government of the State of Eritrea to terminate all the programmes active under the 10th European Development Fund on 15 November 2011.

The Government of the State of Eritrea has taken this decision in order to fully review and finalize the country's five-year National Development Plan before starting its cooperation with the EU as a partner in the framework of the next European Development Fund, which will begin in 2013.

Several ongoing programs will therefore be cancelled: among these  a programme in support of the agricultural sector (EUR 37 Million), a programme in support of the Community Courts (EUR 5 Million), a programme assisting the training of public servants (EUR 3.4 Million) and a programme for the rehabilitation of Asmara's National Heritage (EUR 5 Million). A further available amount of EUR 68.3 Million would also not be contracted.

The EU Delegation said in a press release that it “naturally respects the decision of the Government of the State of Eritrea, and stands ready to continue dialogue with the Government in the framework of the country's national development plan with the objective to agree on a joint strategy based on the principles enshrined in the EU-ACP Cotonou Agreement. The political dialogue between the EU and the Government will continue unimpeded.”

This report is based on data from the following sources:
Delegation of the EU to Eritrea: