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ACKNOWLEDGING INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY:

THE NEED FOR A REVISED EU STRATEGY

ON DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION IN ERITREA

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

1. Introduction. 1

2. The Legal Framework for EU-Eritrea Cooperation. 3

3. What is wrong with EU-Eritrea Relations?. 6

4. Respect for the UN Charter and International Law.. 9

5. Effective Parliamentary and Civil Society Scrutiny as a Remedy. 11

6. Concluding Remarks. 13

 


 

 

ACKNOWLEDGING INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY:

THE NEED FOR A REVISED EU STRATEGY

ON DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION IN ERITREA§

 

 

Daniel R Mekonnen* and Mirjam van Reisen**

 

1. Introduction

The European Union (EU) is one of the leading global actors in development cooperation, particularly via its Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), established in 2007, and the Cotonou Agreement[1], signed in 2000.

Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU or the Treaty of Lisbon)[2] provides that developing countries can benefit from financial support aimed at the eradication of poverty. The DCI governs the EU’s development agenda in all developing countries. It provides financial support for thematic policy areas with resources provided through the General Budget of the EU.

In addition to these, the Cotonou Agreement governs EU relations with ACP countries in a range of areas, including bilateral cooperation between governments and trade. ACP refers to the group of countries known as the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. The resources for bilateral cooperation between ACP countries and the EU are provided through the European Development Fund (EDF). As one of the 79 ACP countries, Eritrea is a beneficiary under the EDF.

EU law contains binding provisions in relation to all aspects of its external relations, which guide the scope and extent of its foreign policy instruments. Given that the EU’s existence is based on a legal agreement between the EU Member States, the legal framework of the EU is particularly important. The Lisbon Treaty has strengthened the competence of the EU in external relations by increasing the scope of its competence in diplomacy.

This paper discusses development cooperation between the EU and Eritrea. EU-Eritrea diplomacy, trade and development cooperation are governed by essential treaty obligations. EU development cooperation in Eritrea is to be directed, among other things, by respect for human rights and democratic accountability, which are all severely lacking in Eritrea. In the 10th EDF, which covers the years 2009 to 2013, the EU has allocated €122 million in development aid to Eritrea. Under the previous EDF (2002–2007), Eritrea received €88 million from the EU.

Based on the above, the authors argue that the case of Eritrea reveals apparent contradictions in the actions of the EU in its implementation of its treaty obligations to promote human rights, respect for the rule of law and democratic accountability. It is contended that the EU’s support to the Government of Eritrea, despite evidence of human rights violations, lack respect to the rule of law and absence of democratic institutions, is a violation of its own laws. Moreover, given that support is provided in agreement with, and aimed to directly support, the Government of Eritrea, the EU could be regarded as condoning the violations of international law by the Government of Eritrea and complicit with its human rights violations. By ignoring UN Security Council Resolution 1907, which imposes stringent sanctions against Eritrea, the EU’s support could also be construed as violating the UN Charter and international law.

In this discussion paper, the authors argue in favour of a revised policy for development cooperation by the EU with Eritrea to fulfil its international social responsibility, and that this policy should be supported, among other things, by effective and active European Parliamentary scrutiny. The authors also call for the EU to strengthen positive aid measures, such as helping refugees and supporting democratic organisations of the Eritrean diaspora, while reducing direct support to the Government of Eritrea, such as bilateral aid, until the Government of Eritrea can improve conditions so that essential criteria (respect for human rights, democratic accountability, and the rule of law) can be met, as stipulated by the main EU treaties and the Cotonou Agreement.

2. The Legal Framework for EU-Eritrea Cooperation

As with other ACP countries, EU development cooperation with Eritrea is governed by the Treaty of Lisbon, binding sub-Treaty regulations as well as the Cotonou Agreement. This reality is recognised in the Country Strategy Paper (CSP) for Eritrea, which states explicitly that the “[ Lisbon] Treaty and the Cotonou Agreement provide the legal basis for [EU] cooperation with the ACP countries”.[3] One of the most important guiding principles of the Treaty of Lisbon in this regard is Article 208, which obliges the EU to design its development cooperation “within the framework of the principles and objectives” of its external action. The EU’s principles and objectives of external action are defined in Article 21(1) of the Treaty of the European Union[4] as follows:

The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

The obligation to respect the principles of the UN Charter and international law is repeated in Article 3(5) of the Treaty of the European Union. This is preceded by the cardinal principles in Article 2 of the same Treaty, which define the founding values of the EU as “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”. Article 208 of the Treaty of Lisbon stipulates the main aim of EU development cooperation to be the “eradication of poverty”.

The legally binding EU Regulation on the establishment of the DCI[5] refers to respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic principles (Preamble 6) as fundamental to the achievement of the objectives of development cooperation:

A political environment which guarantees peace and stability, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democratic principles, the rule of law, good governance and gender equality is fundamental to long-term development.

Preamble 11 of the EU Regulation on DCI further identifies these as essential elements on which partnership and cooperation agreements are based.

The Community and its Member States have concluded partnership and cooperation agreements with some of these partner countries and regions aimed at making a significant contribution to the long-term development of the partner countries and the wellbeing of their people. The essential elements on which these partnership and cooperation agreements are based are the common and universal values of respect for, and promotion of, human rights, fundamental freedoms, democratic principles and the rule of law.

ACP countries have access to funding provided under this Regulation in thematic areas. The ACP Sugar Protocol is also included under this Regulation.

The Cotonou Agreement also governs EU-Eritrea relations on development cooperation. One of the guiding principles of the Cotonou Agreement is Article 9(1):

Cooperation shall be directed towards sustainable development centred on the human person, who is the main protagonist and beneficiary of development; this entails respect for and promotion of all human rights.

Respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including respect for fundamental social rights, democracy based on the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance are an integral part of sustainable development.

The overall purpose and scope of the Cotonou Agreement is defined in Article 1 as to “consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, good governance, gender equality and related instruments of international law”.

In both the Treaty of Lisbon and the Cotonou Agreement respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic accountability are among the fundamental principles that should underpin ACP-EU cooperation. The Cotonou Agreement provides for mechanisms by which the ACP-EU commitment to development cooperation can be evaluated on the basis of regular political dialogue, as stipulated in Article 8(4) of the same agreement. One of the mechanisms stipulated by this Article is the “regular assessment of the developments concerning the respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance”. Article 8(2) of the Cotonou Agreement states that the objective of political dialogue is to prevent recourse by one of the parties to the non-execution clause; by implication, this means that if one party is not satisfied with the performance of the other, that party has recourse to the non-execution clause. This possibility is also clearly stipulated in Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement and the first three articles in Annex VII of the same agreement.

The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty to which the EU Member States and the ACP countries are party, and cooperation based on this treaty is essentially a government-to-government relationship. The country programme (Country Strategy Paper or CSP) describing cooperation between the EU and Eritrea is approved by the governments: the Government of Eritrea and the EU Member States through a Member States Committee. Linked to the CSP is the budget described in the National Indicative Programme (NIP). The budget authorisation for implementation is provided by the National Authorising Officer in Eritrea, usually a member of the government or a government official charged with this responsibility.

The CSP for Eritrea emphasises the eradication of poverty and sustainable economic development, among other things, as core elements of EU-Eritrea development cooperation. In addition to the founding treaties of the EU and the Cotonou Agreement, the European Consensus on Development is also recognised in the CSP for Eritrea as providing the general policy framework for EU development cooperation. The document envisages development cooperation in terms of Europe’s core democratic values such as respect for human rights, democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.[6]

The Government of Eritrea has been accused by internationally reputed organisations of severe and systematic human rights violations and of lacking democratic institutions. Some of these shortcomings are described in the CSP for Eritrea. However, the CSP for Eritrea does not assess whether or not the described reality constitutes a favourable legal and political environment for respect of the principles set out in the Treaty of Lisbon or the progressive realisation of the objectives of development cooperation. The CSP also does not address how development cooperation will contribute to the eradication of poverty in a country where people living in poverty have no recourse to a judicial or political system capable of responding to their complaints. The lack of verification in the CSP of whether the conditions in Eritrea allow for the implementation of EU treaty principles and objectives constitutes a major omission. It raises the question of whether or not, and if so how, the European Commission has satisfied itself of the ability of the Government of Eritrea to respect the key principles and objectives of development cooperation.

Hence it is pertinent to ask: is the EU living up to its commitments under the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Consensus on Development, the EU Regulations on DCI, and the Cotonou Agreement? We believe the answer to these questions is no, as explained below.

3. What is wrong with EU-Eritrea Relations?

The following are some of the sad realities boldly stated in the CSP for Eritrea. Since independence in 1991, Eritrea has been ruled without a constitution and its Government has never published a national budget. The country had a transitional National Assembly, but this supreme national deliberative body has not been convened since 2002. The CSP also describes Eritrea as an “administratively and fiscally centralised” state.[7] There is also a total absence of independent civil society organisations in Eritrea. The CSP for Eritrea clearly states that civil society organisations in the country, such as the National Union of Eritrean Women, are affiliated with the ruling party. Although the CSP does not explicitly say, it alludes to the fact that there are currently no independent civil society organisations in Eritrea. What are currently present in Eritrea are GONGOs (government-operated NGOs), set up or maintained by undemocratic governments as “independent organisations” to disguise foreign aid and pay lip service to civil society participation.[8]

In addition to what has been stated in the CSP for Eritrea, the authors would like to add the following observations on the state of affairs in Eritrea. Eritrea is a country whose government now finds itself at odds almost with all of its neighbouring countries, regional and continental organisations such as the Inter-governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU), and with the UN Security Council. As a result of this, on 23 December 2009, the Eritrean Government was hit with the stringent UN Security Council Resolution 1907, which imposes travel bans on Eritrea’s top political and military leaders and freezes their assets.

In a report published in September 2010, the International Crisis Group (ICG), one of the leading global think tanks on human security, described Eritrea as a country on the brink of becoming another failed state in the Horn of Africa. In a region that has already produced one failed state in the last 20 years, the possibility of Eritrea becoming another failed state is not far-fetched. ICG’s warning is apparent in the following paragraph:

All this is necessary to prevent another failed state from emerging in the Horn [of Africa]. That outcome is otherwise distinctly possible given the widespread lack of support for the government within the country and the deteriorating state of the army, whose ability to either sustain Isaias Afwerki’s regime or to successfully manage regime transition is increasingly questionable.[9]

A long list of credible sources can be cited to support claims about the alarming level of political repression, economic meltdown and excessive militarism in Eritrea. This includes the periodic reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Oslo Centre Peace for Human Rights, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC), the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Global Hunger Index, the Basic Capabilities Index, and others.

In addition to the above accounts, the issue of child soldiers, forced labour and mass exodus of the young generation are some of the most pressing challenges in Eritrea.[10] A report leaked from the Office of the State President in February 2009 reveals shocking figures of underage military conscription in Eritrea. According to this report, in 2007, the Eritrean Government forcefully enlisted 3510 underage conscripts, made up of 1911 male underage conscripts and 1599 female underage conscripts.[11] These children were enlisted in the twenty-first round of the national military service programme (NMSP), which takes place approximately every six months in the Sawa Military Training Camp. Although this report cannot be taken as conclusive, the information would appear to corroborate the widespread understanding that children are being recruited for military service forcefully.

As regards the twenty-second round of the NMSP, which concluded in June 2009, official government sources indicate that the majority of participants in this round were born in the post-independence era, which would mean that all such recruits were underage children at the time of conscription. Forty per cent of the trainees in this particular round were female conscripts.[12] Witnesses report that in several instances girls have been obliged to perform sexual services for military commanders; if they become pregnant, these girls are dispelled from military service with no option but to undertake the dangerous journey to leave the country illegally without any means of support.[13]

In addition to growing concerns about underage military conscription, there is a widespread practice of forced labour in Eritrea, posing additional challenges for human rights and democratisation efforts in the country.[14] The allegation of the widespread use of forced labour for public projects is linked to the observation of the absence of a working population due to the indefinite military conscription. A reasonable concern, therefore, is whether or not forced labour is involved in the implementation of EU development programmes in Eritrea. Given the possibility that children are recruited by the military, this concern extends to the potential implementation of EU development programmes by children through forced labour.

Due to alarming levels of political repression, economic meltdown and excessive militarism, Eritrea has also become one of the leading refugee-producing countries in the world. Despite its small population of around 4 million (out of which around 1.5 million are said to be outside of the country), Eritrea’s alarming record of human rights violations has caused it to be ranked as the second largest source of refugees in the world (in absolute numbers). By end of 2008, Eritrea produced 62 700 new asylum seekers around the world. The simplest arithmetic model translates this into 5225 refugees per month. In this regard, Eritrea was preceded only by Zimbabwe which had 118 500 new claims in 2008. Even failed or chaotic states, such as Somalia and Iraq, which have greater population numbers than Eritrea, were preceded by Eritrea in relation to refugee outflow.[15] In a society which is feeling the country in such unprecedented scales, it is difficult to imagine the ultimate beneficiaries of development cooperation, which in the normal course of things should be a population disengaged from mass exodus. There is a failure on the part of the EU to acknowledge this sad situation in Eritrea, creating an undue burden on the people who have had to flee Eritrea. In some cases, the EU’s policy has resulted in Eritrean refugees being refused asylum and sent back to countries who have poor records on refugee protection. In several instances, Eritrean asylum seekers have also been deported from some European countries to Eritrea. The EU needs to ensure that it is adequately informed in order to address the challenge in a realistic way and be able to take humane measures according to its obligations under international law.

There is lack of political and judicial institutional mechanisms in Eritrea to raise concerns about human rights violations in the country. The EU could be potentially condoning the perpetration of human rights violations in Eritrea, given its support to the Government of Eritrea allowing it to continue such practices. The European Commission does not address in the CSP how it is ensuring that it does not contribute to, or aggravate, human rights violations in Eritrea. Moreover, the CSP does not give credible evidence that the support provided by the agreement with the Government of Eritrea can effectively contribute to the eradication of poverty. Therefore, there is a need to determine if EU development cooperation with Eritrea is contravening EU law.

4. Respect for the UN Charter and International Law

Another important benchmark to gauge EU development cooperation with Eritrea is the EU’s commitment to respect for the principles of the UN Charter and international law, as stipulated in Articles 21(1) and 3(5) of the Treaty of the European Union. There is no more important reference point in this regard than UN Security Council Resolution 1907, which imposes stringent sanctions against Eritrea.

Resolution 1907 has serious political implications in relation to the unrealistic stance of the EU with regard to its relations with Eritrea. Resolution 1907 is mainly an outcome of Eritrea’s flawed diplomatic policy, an approach that is described by the ICG as one that favours war as a foreign policy and is notoriously known for its “alarming tendency of fight first and talk later”.[16] Most importantly, as a restrictive measure mandated by Chapter VII of the UN Charter, Resolution 1907 is a binding decision and a reflection of the inviolability of the principles of the UN Charter and concomitant international law, to which the EU has vowed its allegiance. At a practical level, the EU has also committed itself to implement the restrictive measures of Resolution 1907 by the Council of Europe Decision adopted on 1 March 2010.[17] While this has an inevitable bearing on the position of the European Commission on Eritrea, the Commission is yet to clarify the impact of this on its development cooperation with Eritrea.

Resolution 1907 was adopted by the UN Security Council on two major grounds: (a) because of Eritrea’s involvement in the Somalia Civil War in contravention of a number of UN Security Council resolutions and (b) because of Eritrea’s failure to peacefully resolve a border conflict with Djibouti. As is well known, Eritrea’s relations with its neighbouring counties have always been troubled. Since independence in 1991, Eritrea has clashed with four of its five immediate neighbours, namely Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. The only immediate neighbour with which Eritrea has not clashed is Saudi Arabia. Eritrea is currently involved in a proxy war with Ethiopia fought in Somalia, a country that does not even share a common border with Eritrea.[18] As a result, Eritrea has amassed an “unrivalled record of international provocation”[19], which finally led to the adoption by the UN Security Council of Resolution 1907 in December 2009. The measures adopted by Resolution 1907 include targeted financial sanctions, travel and aviation bans and an arms embargo against Eritrea and its military and political leadership. The level of indignation felt by the international community against the Eritrean Government is apparent from the antecedents of Resolution 1907. The Resolution was first initiated by IGAD and subsequently backed by the AU before it was finally endorsed by the UN Security Council. It is described as the first ever to be formally initiated by the AU against its own member state since apartheid in South Africa, thus becoming one of the most exceptional resolutions in the history of the UN.[20]

As previously described by one of the present authors, this sad development is a rude awakening to the EU’s flawed foreign policy on Eritrea.[21] This is particularly true as it came only three months after the EU approved development aid of €122 million to Eritrea, in disregard of continued warnings by concerned stakeholders such as Eritrean diaspora activists and human rights groups.

Given the stringent sanctions of the UN against Eritrea, the EU may at some stage find itself contradicting the requirements of Articles 3(5) and 21(1) of the Treaty of the European Union. To avoid this, the EU needs to revise its policy and methodology in relation to development cooperation in Eritrea. As such, Eritrea provides a test case for the EU’s external policy under its expanded competence provided under the Treaty of Lisbon, and of the capacity of the newly established European External Action Service to strengthen policy in this area.

5. Effective Parliamentary and Civil Society Scrutiny as a Remedy[22]

There is no doubt that the EU needs to revise the terms and conditions of its external relations with Eritrea. The question is how should this be done? The EU has not clearly articulated the objectives of its development cooperation with Eritrea as its engagement fails to fulfil essential criteria of respect for human rights, democratic accountability and the rule of law in Eritrea, as stipulated by the main EU treaties and the Cotonou Agreement. The EU’s continued and unrealistic engagement with Eritrea is seen as the only factor legitimising a government whose sources of legitimacy have been severely eroded internally and externally.

One of way of improving EU-Eritrea relations is through the strengthening of European Parliamentary scrutiny of EU-Eritrea development cooperation. The authors align this recommendation with ongoing efforts at the EU level to make the European Parliament a meaningful actor in the approval of the EU’s CSPs. If there are significant doubts as to whether the CSP of Eritrea is within the legal parameters set by the EU legal provisions, the European Parliament has the right and obligation to check with verification by the European Court of Justice (Article 218 of TFEU). Earlier cases of doubt about whether cooperation programmes remained within established criteria and objectives have been brought by the European Parliament to the European Court of Justice for a ruling.[23]

In addition the European Parliament has an obligation to assess whether or not spending by the European Commission is within the law. This process of discharge takes place on an annual basis. The European Court of Auditors provides technical support to help the European Parliament in its process of discharge and questions raised as to the legality of spending under the EU cooperation programme. As a result, EU-Eritrea cooperation could be subject to a more detailed opinion by the European Court of Auditors.

Thus far, the European Parliament has been feeble in terms of its political weight and ability to challenge the European Commission’s modus operandi for development cooperation and to hold the Commission accountable for its core principles and objectives. The authors believe that it is imperative for the European Parliament to have real political scrutiny over development cooperation with the developing world, particularly in countries such as Eritrea, which are stretched to the level of breaking point due to an extremely closed political culture and anti-democratic system of governance.

In addition to the above, the following are also important steps for an improved EU-Eritrea development cooperation. Article 2 of Annex IV of the Cotonou Agreement stipulates that development cooperation programmes are to be designed by the concerned ACP State and the EU “following consultations with a wide range of actors in the development process”. In the case of Eritrea, the phrase “a wide range of actors” should be understood to include Eritrean diaspora communities. Eritrea has one of the largest diaspora communities proportional to its population (anecdotal figures put the Eritrean diaspora at more than 1.5 million out of a total population of 4 million). Thus far, there has not been any meaningful involvement of these actors in the negotiation of the CSP and NIP for Eritrea, particularly in the negotiation process, which was finalised on 2 September 2009. This is despite persistent calls from such groups of excluded actors, one of which is the Eritrean Reference Group working under the auspices of Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA).[24] It is incumbent upon the EU to devise a strategy that ensures proper representation of, and consultation with, this important segment of Eritrean society.

There are hopes that the shortcomings identified in this discussion paper may be addressed in operational review processes that take place in the future. Article 7 of the bilateral agreement signed by Eritrea and the EU on 2 September 2009 stipulates that the two parties shall undertake an annual, mid-term and end of term operational review of the instruments governing the development cooperation in light of prevailing needs and performance. One year has already passed since the signing of the bilateral agreement and the authors are unaware of any annual operational review taking place. In addition, the difference between a yearly and mid-tem review is not clear, because the bilateral agreement also says that the mid-term review is to be undertaken in 2010, just a year after the agreement was signed. The Cotonou Agreement includes mechanisms for the “regular assessment of the developments concerning the respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance”. The EU should involve Eritrean diaspora communities in any regular assessments of Eritrea.

If the yearly and mid-term reviews of the CSP and NIP have not yet been conducted, the authors are hopeful that the EU will take into consideration the recommendations made in this discussion paper when these operational reviews are undertaken, presumably at the beginning of 2011. Indeed, what was overlooked in the initial negotiation phase of the 2009–2013 CSP and NIP should not be overlooked in the forthcoming mid-term operational review. If political dialogue between the EU and the Government of Eritrea is not meaningful, the European Commission needs to take recourse to the non-execution clause as provided for in the Cotonou Agreement.

6. Concluding Remarks

The EU is one of the leading global actors in development cooperation. As much as it has become a major player in the eradication of poverty and the attainment of sustainable economic development, the EU’s engagement with Eritrea is seriously undermining its obligations under the Treaty of Lisbon, the Treaty of the European Union, the EU Regulations on DCI, the European Consensus and Development and the Cotonou Agreement. The authors suggest that the EU’s development cooperation in Eritrea should be revised in line with its international social responsibility.

The political situation in Eritrea is replete with factors that lead to alarming levels of individual and collective victimisation, which are a serious threat to human security. As a result, the legitimacy of the Eritrean Government has been severely eroded internally and externally. There is a large amount of information about the poor track record of the Eritrean Government in relation to respect for human rights, democratic accountability and the rule of law. Despite this, the EU continues to send large amounts of taxpayers’ money to Eritrea, a country ruled by a government that the lacks administrative, legislative and institutional provisions necessary for the effective monitoring and evaluation of development cooperation.

Despite the increased levels of development cooperation by the EU, Eritrea has become an isolated nation that always makes it to the top of the list of human rights violators. This small country of 4 million inhabitants has become one of the leading refugee producing countries in the world.

Can the EU, through its development cooperation, contribute to a restoration of respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic accountability in Eritrea? In the last decade, Eritrea regressed rather than progressed in terms of its commitment to respect for human rights, democratic accountability and the rule of law, and there is no evidence that the EU has been able to support actions that create a more conducive environment through its cooperation with this country. The EU’s direct support to the Government of Eritrea, by extension, allows human rights violations and the dictatorship to continue. This is reinforced by the silence around these issues on the part of the EU. The EU needs to strengthen positive aid measures to help refugees and support democratic organisations in the Eritrean diaspora.

Eritrea has put the EU’s foreign policy on development cooperation to a cardinal test. It is evident that the continued flow of large amounts of funds to Eritrea in an unaccountable fashion is an affront to European taxpayers, particularly in the context of the country’s alarming record of human rights violations, including the prolonged detention without trial of thousands of political prisoners, such as Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak. There is an urgent need for the EU to assess its development cooperation in Eritrea in light of its treaty obligations emanating from the Treaty of Lisbon, the Treaty of the European Union, the EU Regulations on DCI, the European Consensus and Development and the Cotonou Agreement.

At a time when Eritrea has been hit by stringent UN Security Council sanctions, the EU needs to revise its relations with Eritrea so as to save itself from contradicting its commitment to respect for the principles of the UN Charter and international law, and to ensure that it fulfils its international social responsibility and treaty obligations. In light of the current debate, strengthening European Parliamentary scrutiny over development cooperation is one of the most effective remedies. In the upcoming operational reviews, the EU is expected to revise its strategy and grasp the opportunity missed during the initial phase of its engagement in the 10th EDF. The involvement of important stakeholders, such as Eritrean diaspora actors, in the negotiation of the terms and conditions of development cooperation is another vital factor. The authors also believe that the EU should invoke the non-execution clause in the Cotonou Agreement if the Eritrean Government does not take concrete steps to meet its commitment in relation to respect for human rights, democratic accountability and the rule of law.

Questions over the legality of spending under the EU development cooperation programme with Eritrea should be subject to a more detailed opinion by the European Court of Auditors during the annual process of discharge by the European Parliament. In the event that all such options prove ineffective, it would be advisable for the European Parliament to obtain the opinion of the European Court of Justice on the viability of the bilateral agreement signed between Eritrea and the EU on 2 September 2009, as stipulated in Article 218 of the Treaty of the European Union.

 



§ A discussion paper presented at the European Parliamentary Hearing on ‘Eritrea: Refugees, child soldiers and European policy’, 29 November 2010, Brussels. The authors welcome comments and input, which can be sent to the email addresses mentioned below. The authors thank Susan Sellars-Shrestha for her advice and editorial assistance on this paper.

* Bank of Ireland Human Rights Fellow, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway; email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

** Professor of International Social Responsibility, Tilburg University, and Director of Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA); email: M.vanReisen@uvt.nl; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

[1] Partnership Agreement between the Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States on the One Part, and the European Community and its Member States, on the Other Part, signed in Cotonou, Benin on 23 June 2000, revised in Luxemburg on 25 June 2005. Available at: http://www.acpsec.org/en/conventions/cotonou/accord1.htm (accessed 25 November 2010).

[2] European Union (2008) ‘Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union’. Official Journal of the European Union, 9 May 2008 (C 115/47). Available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2008:115:0047:0199:EN:PDF (accessed 25 November 2010).

[3] See Eritrea-European Community Country Strategy Paper and National Indicative Programme, for the Period 2009–2013, signed on 2 September 2009, p. 5 (hereinafter ‘CSP for Eritrea’). Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/development/icenter/repository/scanned_er_csp10NEW_en.pdf (accessed 25 November 2010).

[4] European Union (2008) ‘Consolidated version of the Treaty of the European Union’. Official Journal of the European Union, 9 May 2008. (C 115/13). Available at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2008:115:0047:0199:EN:PDF (accessed 25 November 2010).

[5] European Parliament and European Council (2006) ‘Regulation (EC) No 1905/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation’. Official Journal of the European Union, L 378/41, 27.12.2006.

[6] European Union (2006) ‘European Consensus on Development’. Official Journal of the European Union, 2006/C 46/01, 24 February 2006. Available at:

 http://ec.europa.eu/development/icenter/repository/european_consensus_2005_en.pdf (accessed 25 November 2010).

[7] CSP for Eritrea, note 3, p. 7.

[8] Mekonnen, D.R. (2007) ‘The abolition of female circumcision in Eritrea: Inadequacies of new legislation’. African Human Rights Law Journal 7(2): 408.

[9] ICG (2010) Eritrea: The siege state, Africa Report No. 163, 21 September 2010, p. ii.

[10] The discussion on this issue draws on Mekonnen, D.R. (2010 forthcoming) ‘Transitional justice implications of the use of child soldiers in Eritrea’. In: Parmentier, P. et al. (eds) Rehabilitation and Reintegration of War-Affected Children. Antwerp: Intersensia.

[11] ኣሰና.ነትሜጀር ጀነራል ተኽላይ ሃብተስላሴ ናብ ቤት ጽሕፈት ፕረዚደንት ዝለኣኾ ውሽጣዊ ጸብጻብ (Asena.net ‘Internal report of Major-General Teklay Habteselassie to the Office of the President’). [Online] Available at: http://asena.delina.org/images/presidentteklay.pdf (accessed 4 February 2009). This is a leaked report sent from the commander of the Sawa Training Camp to the state President, Isaias Afwerki. The report illustrates that, as compared to previous rounds, the majority of conscripts in the twenty-first round are very young. This is particularly mentioned on page 4 of the report. The English translation of the report is available at: http://www.arkokabay.com/news/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=254:translation-of-the-report-of-the-commander-of-the-sawa-military-training-camp-to-the-office-of-the-eritrean-president&catid=46:documents&Itemid=101 (accessed 25 November 2010).

[12] This is according to a speech by the Eritrean President given at the graduation ceremony of the twenty-second round of the NMSP. See: Shabait.com News. ‘Participants of 22nd Round National Service Graduate’, 28 June 2009.

[13] Bailliet, C.M. (2007) ‘Examining sexual violence in the military within the context of Eritrean asylum claims presented in Norway’. International Journal of Refugee Law (2007), 19: 471­–510.

[14] On the pervasiveness of forced labour in Eritrea, see generally Kibreab, G. (2009) ‘Forced Labour in Eritrea’. Journal of Modern African Studies, 47(1): 41–72.

[15] UNHCR (2009) Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons, p. 16.

[16] ICG (2010), note 9, pp. 5, 20–25.

[17] Council of Europe (2010) ‘Council Decision 2010/127/CFSP, concerning restrictive measures on Eritrea’. Official Journal of the European Union, 1 March 2010. See also Council of Europe (2010) ‘Council Decision 2010/414/CFSP’. Official Journal of the European Union, 26 July 2010, amending Council Decision 2010/127/CFSP.

[18] On this issue, see generally Mekonnen, D.R. and Tesfagiorgis, P. (2010 forthcoming) ‘Dealing with the causes and consequences of the 1998–2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian border conflict: The need for a holistic approach towards transitional justice’. In: Sharamo, R. et al. (eds) Regional Peace and Security in the Post-Cold War Horn of Africa. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.

[19] Meyers, N. (2010) ‘Africa’s North Korea: Inside Eritrea’s open-air prison’. Foreign Policy, July/August 2010. Available at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/06/21/africas_north_korea?page=0,0 (accessed 25 November 2010).

[20] Meyers, N. (2010), ibid, for example, writes: “It was the first time the African Union had ever supported sanctions against one of its own members.”

[21] van Reisen, M. (2010) ‘A new year, a new treaty, but the same old problems?’ European Voice, 14 January 2010.

[22] Some paragraphs of this section draw on van Reisen, M. (2010) ‘Strengthening European Parliamentary scrutiny of EU development cooperation in geographic strategy papers, multi-annual indicative programmes and strategy papers’, EEPA Briefing Paper, 16 November 2010.

[23] See, for example, Commission v Council, European Court of Justice, C-91/05, Judgement of 20 May 2008; Parliament v Commission, European Court of Justice, C-403/05, Judgement of 23 October 2007.

[24] See, for example, the following calls made by some of the members of the Eritrean Reference Group at EEPA and the Director of EEPA at different times: Mekonnen, D.R. (2009) ‘Controversies on EU’s Country Strategy Paper for Eritrea’. New Europe, 1 March 2009; van Reisen (2010), note 17.


Comments 

  1. #1 Shiden Merhawi
    2011-12-0708:10:55 Dr Rezene on EU aid to Eritrea,
    I read the content with interest. Dr Rezene must be writing a thesis for another doctrate diploma by trying to make a very convincing argument by compiling a bunch [censored] sensitive issues such as female rape and forced expulsion and under age military conscription: issues that member countries [censored] the EU would definitely consider serious if they intend to absorb it without private investigation. I am sure this will gain Dr Rezene a post in the forthcoming ruling body expected to take power in Eritrea with the help [censored] Woyane. You want to bring hunger, poverty and other malice to the people [censored] Eritrea. If this happens it will be only if you and your kind were in power—God forbid.
    I wish you use your doctorate degree for the benefit [censored] the Eritrean people instead [censored] their detriment. Please check our soul again. God forgive you.
    Shiden

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