Ethiopia and the European Union have conducted on Thursday (June 10) a dialogue as per Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement signed between the European Union and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (“ACP countries”).
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, H.E. Demeke Mekonnen, and EU Ambassador to Ethiopia H.E. Johan Borgstam led the discussion which covered economic and political issues of common concern.
At the onset, Mr. Demeke appreciated the historic partnership between Ethiopia and the EU and noted that the political consultation was a fitting component of the strategic engagement between the two sides.
He also appreciated the commitments of the Team Europe Initiative for support of Africa’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Union’s financial and in-kind support to developing countries, including Ethiopia to help them fight the pandemic.
Speaking about cooperation on the economic front, the Deputy Prime Minister pledged to give due attention to bottlenecks to foreign investment in the country.
He also urged the EU’s support to the implementation of Ethiopia’s homegrown economic reform agenda which, according to him, needs serious commitment and participation of all stakeholders, including private businesses.
In their discussion about the overall situation in Tigray, the Deputy Prime Minister provided updates on the issue of Humanitarian access, withdrawal of Eritrean troops, and efforts to hold perpetrators of alleged Human Rights violations and atrocities accountable.
In this regard, he said an email notification is the only requirement to access the region and most parts of the region are now accessible where the government has created a conducive environment to speed up the delivery of food and non-food supplies to the needy people in the region.
In the areas where the safe movement of humanitarian cargos is strained, military escort has been taken as the right measure and last resort to get access and reach people who need support, he added.
Despite the improved access, the government is still the main player in addressing the needs of the majority of the people who need support, he said stressing the need to scale up support in this regard.
Regarding ongoing agricultural activities, he said the region cultivates up to 950,000 hectares apart from the mechanized farm, and approximately 70 percent of the land is cultivated with the government providing improved seeds and fertilizers so far.
However, the Deputy Prime Minister said to meet the demand for seeds and fertilizers in the region, the government needs urgent support to transport such products from ports to intended destinations.
Noting the encouraging investigations carried out by domestic independent institutions and the joint Ethiopia-UN initiative to investigate alleged atrocities in the region, Mr. Demeke informed the Ambassadors that more than 4,000 regional police officers participated in refresher training and are now on duty as part of an effort to return the region into normalcy.
Adding on this, the Deputy Prime Minister mentioned that the military justice system has so far investigated and brought to military courts 60 soldiers who have been suspected of committing rape or killed civilians.
In addition to the trials underway, he said three soldiers have already been convicted and sentenced for rape while one soldier has been convicted and sentenced for killing a civilian.
The investigation for Maikadra has been completed and the judicial process has begun at Federal Courts in Maikadra and Axum, he said adding that Investigation regarding Axum is being finalized.
The Deputy Prime Minister also addressed the concerns of the European Union over the presence of Eritrean troops in the region mentioning that the process of evacuating the troops has already begun as per the agreement between the two countries to withdraw troops phase by phase from the Ethiopian Territory.
Finally, in their discussion on the upcoming general elections, the Deputy Prime Minister stressed that the Government is committed to making sure that the upcoming election is one of a kind in the country’s political history given the various measures that have been taken, including freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and various legal and structural reforms on matters related to electoral activities.
Article 8 Dialogue is conducted every year between the EU as a group and ACP countries individually as provided for in Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement.