Bilateral sideline meetings during the AU Summit week
Commending South Sudan’s Referendum
Somalia remains a major topic for the AU
East African Standby Force ministers hold a council session
Ethiopian Pastoralist Day celebrated for the 13th time
The Diaspora/Foreign Ministry meeting last week
Repetition by others doesn’t make HRW’s claims any more accurate
Core principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethio-Spanish relations
Bilateral sideline meetings during the AU Summit week
On the sidelines of the AU’s Executive Council meeting, on Thursday and Friday, and of the Assembly of the Union, there are always numerous bilateral meetings between visiting ministers, observers and Heads of State and Government. Among the outside visitors this year will be President Sarkozy of the French Republic and Mr. Ban ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Others who have been here this week include Mr. Kevin Rudd, the Foreign Minister of Australia, Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Chinese Special Envoy and Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister and Mr. Takeaki Matsumoto, Japanese State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. All three have had meetings with Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, as did South Africa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Australia’s Foreign Minister came to Ethiopia to open Australia’s new embassy in Addis Ababa, and in discussions with Prime Minister Meles earlier in the week he said Australia was committed to deeper political engagement with Africa on a range of issues. Prime Minister Meles urged the Australian government to support Africa’s development efforts, pointing out that it was one of the G8 countries that should support Africa’s growth. Mr. Rudd who welcomed Prime Minister Meles’ role in raising African issues in international negotiations and at international fora, said Ethiopia was playing an important role in advancing African issues including climate change. He noted that this was one of the issues, along with trade liberalization and poverty being addressed by Australia and Africa bilaterally and multilaterally. Australian investment in Africa’s resource sector is about twenty billion US dollars, and more is in prospect, and Mr. Rudd said Australia was determined to use its expertise to help Africa. He also noted the importance of international vigilance to deal with terrorism, stressing that Al-Shabaab continued “to pose a threat in Somalia, more broadly in Africa and well beyond its borders”.
In his talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Mr. Rudd said Australia would continue to support Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan. Australia was now committed to engage Africa, and Ethiopia, more particularly in the areas of agriculture, in livestock development and dry-land farming, and in education including vocational training and post-graduate programs. His government was committed to increase the number of scholarships available to Africa from the current figure of 400 up to 1000 by 2013. Australian support for health, especially child and maternal care would be expanded. Australia has particular expertise in mining and it intended to encourage investors from Australia to invest in Africa, and in Ethiopia, in the mining sector. The minister also noted that his government would be making budgetary support available for demining activities in Ethiopia. Mr. Rudd extended an official invitation to Ato Hailemariam to visit Australia. Ato Hailemariam thanked the Minister and through him the Government of Australia for Australia’s commitment to support and work with Ethiopia. He noted the focus on transformation of technology in the Growth and Transformation Plan and emphasized the importance of capacity building in agriculture and industry. He thanked the Australian Government for its support for the Ministry of Health, and hoped that Australia would continue to support Ethiopia’s efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goal for Health. The ministers also discussed regional issues and Ato Hailemariam detailed the position of Ethiopia on relations with Eritrea, the Sudan, Somalia and the Nile Basin Initiative.
Ato Hailemariam met South Africa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on Thursday. The two ministers discussed a wide range of bilateral, continental and international issues. They affirmed their existing cooperation was excellent but agreed that there was need to build on bilateral relations to further expand existing cooperation. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane reiterated that both countries should continue to work together in regional as well as continental issues of mutual concern. This was complimented by the convergence of ideas at the highest level of leadership that concern the African renaissance. The ministers also exchanged views on Cote d’Ivoire, the Sudan and Somalia, emphasizing the need for the AU to handle the issue of Cote d’Ivoire in a manner that would help the people of that country to live in peace. The problem was complicated and unless due attention was given it could escalate and lead to further disintegration in the country. The ministers also underlined the need to properly understand what had gone wrong in Cote d’Ivoire, and agreed that the AU Summit should take concrete measures to prevent further escalation. On Sudan, they appreciated the measures taken to hold the referendum as scheduled in a free and fair manner, and the courage of President Omar Al-Bashir had shown in supporting it.
On Wednesday, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn held talks with Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Chinese Special Envoy and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs. They discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral relations between Ethiopia and China and looked at projects being carried out by Chinese companies and at ways to improve the speed of project completion. The ministers agreed that Ethiopia and China have strong bilateral relations especially in investment, tourism and cultural matters, and discussed ways to further strengthen existing bilateral relations and cooperation. Topics discussed included political and economic co-operation, climate change, regional and international issues. Ato Hailemariam noted that relations between Ethiopia and China were based upon adherence to the principles of mutual respect, non interference in each other’s internal affairs and peaceful co-existence. China’s aid and assistance to Ethiopia, he said, could above all be described as practical assistance to help Ethiopia escape from the poverty trap and assist its endeavors to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It was most closely involved in infrastructural development, including roads, hydroelectric power, telecommunications, and manufacturing. Ethiopia, he said, would never forget the generosity and the commitment that China has given to Ethiopia, and its dependable friendship. Mr. Zhenmin expressed his thanks to the people and Government of Ethiopia for the hospitality he and his delegation had received. He expressed his appreciation of the steady economic and social growth of Ethiopia, and he promised China would continue its support.
Ato Hailemariam Desalegn also met with Mr. Matsumoto, the Japanese State Secretary of Foreign Affairs to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues. They reiterated their governments’ appreciation of over 80 years of diplomatic relations and of the current level of bilateral cooperation and mutual understanding. Both, however, expressed the need to cooperate further on economic diplomacy, to make Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan a success through technology transfer and transform the basis of Ethiopia’s economy from an agriculture-base to an industrial base. Mr. Matsumoto said the new Japanese cabinet wanted to enhance their longstanding relations, and the Japanese Government had submitted a new Draft Cooperation Agreement to the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. On regional issues, Mr. Matsumoto appreciated the role Ethiopia played in regional peace and security. He insisted, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, that North and South Sudan must be helped to resolve any issues peacefully, and he reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to work with IGAD and Ethiopia to that effect. On Somalia, he noted that Japan had provided substantial financial assistance for the training of TFG forces in Djibouti. He said there was a widely shared view that Somalia was important both for the region and the international community. It was important that IGAD, the AU and the UN operated in a concerted fashion. Japan, he said, will continue to support the peace process in Somalia and collaborate with all parties. Mr. Matsumoto also invited Ato Hailemariam to attend the TICAD IV ministerial meeting due to take place in April/May. The Deputy Prime Minister has accepted the invitation.
Ato Hailemariam thanked Mr. Matsumoto for his speech at the opening session of the Executive Council of the African Union, displaying Japanese solidarity with Africa. He took the opportunity to commend the work on the Millennium Bridge, a monument to Japan-Ethiopia bilateral relations, to appreciate the technical cooperation shown in TVET, the Kaizen project, a prerequisite in industrial transformation and Japanese assistance in other sectors. He assured Mr. Matsumoto that the proposed Draft Cooperation Agreement will be quickly dealt with. Ato Hailemariam applauded the Japanese Government’s decision to increase its ODA to Africa through TICAD. On regional issues, the Deputy Prime Minister agreed on the need for peace in Sudan, emphasizing that Ethiopia shared a border both with the South and the North. Whatever affected the Sudan also affected Ethiopia. Sudan was a priority to which Ethiopia gave serious attention. He reiterated that the CPA remained the only framework for resolving problems. On Somalia, Ato Hailemariam underlined the need to increase the numbers of AMISOM to 20,000 and the importance of assisting the TFG financially and logistically.
Commending South Sudan’s Referendum
The successful completion of the voting and the huge turnout in the referendum conducted in South Sudan has raised the hope that this outcome will finally conclude the protracted war that has been going on in the Sudan, in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 in Machakos, Kenya. The processes as witnessed by all the observation teams from IGAD, the African Union, the European Union, the Carter Center and others have been declared free, fair and credible according to all international standards. Given the short period of time it had to organize the referendum, and the lack of any infrastructure which could have produced an efficient process, the South Sudan Referendum Commission did a most impressive and commendable job. It is not surprising its work has been warmly applauded both in the Sudan and internationally. Equally, the success of the process came because both parties were committed to what they signed at Machakos. Both parties made it easy for the people of South Sudan to cast their votes freely under the mantra: “vote wisely”.
Now what remains is the formal announcement of the result which will be on February 14th. Whatever the outcome, and the result already seems clear, both parties have emphasized that they are ready to accept the result and to move forward to the next steps. After the announcement of the result, assuming the result is as expected, the SPLM will prepare a draft Interim Constitution to take effect on July 9th, the date on which the six year CPA interim period expires. This is expected to be followed by legislative and presidential elections.
There are still a number of major issues outstanding. It is important that these unresolved matters should make progress as soon as possible. They include border demarcation and the possibility of “soft borders” between North and South if appropriate, a new oil revenue sharing agreement, citizenship and the future of Abyei region. Some of these are difficult issues but there is no doubt solutions can be found if the two parties work seriously to strengthen their future relations as partners. The result of the referendum will also of course have a very considerable effect on the North where details of the future of South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions remains to be settled through a popular consultative process.
There is no doubt that peace and stability in the Sudan have a very real impact on whether the region and indeed Africa more widely can resolve its problems and become peaceful. The international community must encourage both parties to continue their cooperation as well as their commitment to the full implementation of all aspects of the CPA. The US said this week that it is willing to begin steps to normalize its relations with Sudan as soon as the final results of the referendum are announced. A State Department spokesperson said that this would include the process of removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism though the process would take several months.
Encouragingly, on Tuesday this week in his first public address since the vote, Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir pledged support for a new southern state: “Secession has become a reality, but we will not be sad….we will support the new Southern state and will hold on to its stability because we are neighbors and will remain friends.”
The IGAD summit which will be convened on the sidelines of the 16th African Union Summit later this week will discuss the referendum. It can be expected to strongly commend both parties for their successful and timely holding of the referendum. It will also encourage both to work to accomplish the remaining tasks that the CPA laid down for the post referendum arrangements.
strong Somalia remains a major topic for the AU
Following an invitation extended by Abadula Gemeda, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Ethiopia, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament, visited Ethiopia last week. The two Speakers held extensive discussions on issues of common concern, looking at how to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two parliamentary houses. Sherif Hassan briefed his Ethiopian counterpart extensively on current developments in Somalia and on the challenges the TFG faces as the end of the transition period approaches.
This will be one of the main topics of the Extraordinary IGAD Summit that will consider the issue of Somalia on the sidelines of the AU Summit. The end of the transition doesn’t mean that the Transitional Federal Institutions will all dissolve completely, but IGAD will have to find a mechanism through which it can work out ways to re-strengthen these institutions. The UN Secretary General will also be holding a mini-Summit on Somalia on the sidelines of the conference. According to its charter the mandate of the TFG will end in August, and as Dr. Augustine Mahiga, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, recently made clear the UN will not support any extension. In a press statement Dr. Mahiga announced that a Special High Level Meeting on Somalia will take place in Addis Ababa. The meeting will be jointly convened by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and Dr. Jean Ping, Chairman of the African Union Commission and will review the current status of the peace process in Somalia. It comes at a crucial stage in the Somali peace process with “less than seven months before the end of the transition, and a lot still has to be done” as Dr. Mahiga noted.
In the meantime, Eritrea continues its efforts to undermine all attempts to bring peace and stability to Somalia. The Eritrean Permanent Representative to the African Union made it clear that Eritrea does not support the efforts of the international community to support the Somali government. He suggested that all parties, including extremists, should be brought into the government and that all foreign forces in Somalia should vacate the country. In response, Commission officials reiterated that the African Union Peace Keeping force (AMISOM) was in Somalia in accordance with the Constitutive Act of the African Union to which Eritrea was a signatory. They also wondered whether the Eritrean Representative was demanding the removal of the people from Pakistan and Afghanistan who are known to be fighting alongside Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
East African Standby Force ministers hold a council session
The 7th Extraordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of Defense and Security of Eastern African Standby Force was held in Addis Ababa today. This followed a meeting of the Chiefs of Defense Staffs where views were exchanged on current developments, how best to strengthen the Standby Force, and on ways and means to fill various posts at EASBRIGCOM.
Opening the meeting of the Council of Defense Ministers, Ato Hailemariam emphasized that Policy Organs Meetings were critical in re-asserting the commitment of the region to the vision and mission of the African Union Heads of State and Government’s Protocol Establishing the Peace and Security Council, signed in Durban, South Africa. As the force for the East Africa Region, and as part of the Africa Standby Force, EASF should be seen as providing the framework for force generation. Its future success would be evaluated in terms of what it could achieve in terms of force generation in particular. EASBRIG would continue to be a framework if it could generate the necessary strength, and a lot still needed to be done. Certainly, Ato Hailemariam said, EASBRIG had been making progress in developing its coordination mechanism and in adjusting the memorandum of understanding and the policy framework that guided its existence. There had been challenges and meeting those had meant that EASBRIG was able to create a concrete and viable coordination mechanism to ensure its main objective -force generation. While emphasizing that most of the work had to be done by member countries, Ato Hailemariam underlined the important contributions that friends of ESAF could make to strengthen the organization. He emphasized the need for coordination between EASF and the Regional Economic Community. Following today’s deliberations the revised policy framework and the Memorandum of Understanding will be signed tomorrow at the Summit of East African Standby Force Heads of State and Government. .
The Chiefs of Defense Staffs of IGAD, together with Burundi, have also held an extraordinary meeting to consider developments in Somalia. The Chiefs of Defense Staffs were given an extensive briefing of the situation on the ground by the Force Commander of AMISOM. The meeting, chaired by General Samora Yunus, Ethiopia’s Chief of Defense Staff, discussed how to reorganize the TFG forces and ways and means to create improved coordination between TFG and AMISOM forces. The decisions of the Chiefs of Defense Staffs will be taken up by the IGAD Extraordinary Summit being held on Sunday.
Ethiopian Pastoralist Day celebrated for the 13th time
The Thirteenth Ethiopian Pastoralist Day was celebrated in Jinka town in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State, on Tuesday, January 25th. During the celebrations regional officials, academics and pastoralist leaders as well as farmers attended the occasion. Prime Minister Meles and the President of the Southern Regional State, Sheferaw Shegute, held discussions with representatives of pastoral communities from several different regions: there are large numbers of pastoralists in the Somali, Afar and Oromiya Regional States as well as in the Southern Regional State. The Regional President underlined the importance of the sector for development and affirmed the regional government’s continued commitment towards modernizing the sector. The Prime Minister emphasized that the federal government was undertaking various development projects that would benefit pastoral communities. He said government policy was based on the need to ensure development and good governance in pastoral areas as well as elsewhere, and stressed that the government would continue its efforts to improve pastoral livelihoods, and encourage a more settled way of life.
In Ethiopia there are now a number of livestock research institutions in Debre Zeit, Holeta, Bako, Debre Berhan, and Yabelo as well as some highly specialized veterinary centers located in the regional states where there are significant numbers of pastoralists. Overall, the discussions during Pastoralist Day focused on issues of development, good governance and the establishment of peace, and the celebration also served as a forum for pastoralist communities to share their experiences in marketing and the fattening of animals, and in husbandry. There is no doubt that modernizing and establishing an effective and functional marketing network would help the country as well as the sub- region and the gains to be derived from the sector. The government, like pastoralists themselves, would like to scale-up the sector’s tremendous economic potential. Equally, the celebration of Pastoralists Day is recognition that the regions have done a lot to improve the sector already and are continuing to do so.
There are, of course, large numbers of pastoralists in all IGAD countries, and IGAD is very aware that disputes over pasture, water and other resources have all-too-frequently occurred, often triggering inter-community conflicts within states or even between states. It is this that has led IGAD member states into the initiation of the CEWARN mechanism which is aimed at mitigating such incidents and their effects. In addition to its conflict control mechanisms, CEWARN (the Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism) also has programs to improve pastoralist marketing networks focusing on modernizing the sector. One recent example of pastoral development in the region was the inauguration of the Sheikh Veterinary Center in Somaliland, established to provide modern veterinary service for pastoralists in an area where there are close to three million cattle. It might be added that the recent IGAD Partners’ Forum meeting in Addis Ababa also underlined the importance of the pastoralist sector, and reiterated its continued support to CEWARN within the framework of IGAD.
The Diaspora/Foreign Ministry meeting last week.
On Thursday last week, January 13th, nearly a thousand members of the Ethiopian Diaspora gathered at the Sheraton in Addis Ababa. They came from all round the world and were joined by others engaged in investment activities who had already moved back to Ethiopia. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the government’s five year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and to provide Diaspora input for the Diaspora Engagement Policy Framework currently under process of drafting by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was chaired by Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister who stressed the need to engage the Diaspora on a much wider level both in Ethiopia and where ever they lived. He disclosed government plans to conduct a major outreach program in any cities around the world where Ethiopians resided in large numbers. Ambassador Berhane Gebrechristos, the State Minister, presented the specific questions drawn up to get the input of the Diaspora for the Ministry’s Diaspora Engagement Policy Framework, and underlined the Ministry’s strong conviction as to the importance of bringing the Diaspora on board for the process of drafting this important document.
Participants made it clear they appreciated the government’s development efforts and the new Growth and Transformation Plan and they pledged to demonstrate their full support for its implementation. In the discussions, however, the members of the Diaspora also raised a number of issues that they felt would be serious obstacles to the process of implementing the GTP. They were concerned overall at a lack of good governance, and more specifically, concern over such issues as the proper handling of applications at various offices, the restrictions imposed on the Diaspora over participation in financial institutions, and the difficulty to acquire land for investment or other purposes as well as the end to privileges for the import of duty free items and other issues. Officials representing various ministries and offices, including the Ministries of Finance, Water and Energy, Trade and Revenue as well as the Customs Authority, the National Bank of Ethiopia, the Federal Investment Agency and the Addis Ababa City Administration were also present to explain the way in which their respective institutions handled the issues raised by the Diaspora.
In his concluding remarks, Ato Hailemariam praised the participation of the Diaspora in Ethiopia’s development and urged participants to contribute fully to the Growth and Transformation Plan. They would then be able to enjoy the success that would be available to the country in five years when the plan was completed. Participants, both from government and Diaspora, were pleased by the openness of the discussion; whatever the problems, there was general readiness to work hand-in-hand to find ways to speed up the significant progress Ethiopia has been making in its economic growth.
Repetition by others doesn’t make HRW’s claims any more accurate
The chorus of allegations against Ethiopia’s government over human rights appears to have gathered some momentum once again with the publication of two reports by Human Rights Watch and Freedom House and another report by a little known organization called the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). Human Rights Watch’s report is its usual repetition of its previous reports. As usual, these invariably castigate every political or legislative process in Ethiopia as a deliberate attack on human rights. Indeed, true to form, Human Rights Watch repeats its allegations that administrative structures in Ethiopia which have in fact gone a long way to encourage and ensure participation of the majority of the population in government affairs are actually intended to stifle dissent systematically. Displaying an obvious contempt for indigenous institutions, HRW’s repeated allegations in this regard show just how little understanding it has of the political dynamics in many of the countries it purports to cover in such detail.
Despite its efforts to identify its latest claims over the misuse of aid for political purposes as a new discovery, even the most superficial of readings reveals that HRW has nothing to show for its near hysterical calls to stop development aid to Ethiopia. Indeed, it is clear that HRW’s apparent crusade to see development aid to Ethiopia stopped altogether isn’t getting any significant traction, and for the very good reason that the people to whom the claims were addressed have been largely able to see just how tendentious and specious the allegations were. HRW’s bullying tactics do not appear to sit well even with other critics of the Ethiopian government. Its repetitive stop-aid-to-Ethiopia mantra has even reached the point where HRW officials have been making the rounds to European capitals, bombarding the ears of any politicians who care to listen.
The latest report by Freedom House, a self-declared advocate of liberal democratic ideals, betrays the same prejudices and missionary proclivities that HRW has unabashedly flaunted in public in the name of human rights. Freedom House is one of those NGOs which make it their business to issue report cards on countries’ democratic credentials based on their own invariably Euro Western-centric criteria without the slightest interest to take into account social, cultural and historical differences that might one way or another impact on the development of political institutions in those countries. Its near-Manichaean characterization of countries as free, partially-free and not free is perhaps the most defining hallmark of its blanket generalizations about the complex interplay of economic, political and social factors. According to Freedom House, Ethiopia has “declined from partly free” to “not free” mainly because of the most recent election, which Freedom House claims “was patently fraudulent”. This is bizarre even by HRW’s standards. The usual previous allegation was largely about the political space having been constrained before the election.
To make up for the complete lack of evidence for such claims, the authors of Freedom House’s report inserted some of the oft-repeated allegations from organizations like HRW. The Charities and Civil Societies Proclamation is classified as being mostly responsible, of course. No body knows where the numbers come from when one looks at the ratings given almost haphazardly to a country’s status on, say, civil liberties in the absence of any valid data to buttress the claim. What is strange, however, is that Freedom House presents its findings as though the result of some scientific work of mathematical objectivity. To those who claim to possess the monopoly of truth, objectivity is the natural corollary!
IDMC, which describes itself as “a leading international body that monitors conflict-induced displacements”, joins in this chorus with its own claim that “human rights violations and conflicts are still problematic in Ethiopia.” For an organization of little international acclaim, IDMC makes even bolder, if curious, claims that are, as so often in these cases, exceptionally generous when it comes to citing astronomical figures. According to the group, human rights violations have resulted in between 300,000 and 350,000 internal displacements during the later months of 2010. All this, according to the report, is supposed to have happened in Gambella and the Ogaden. This is a particularly farcical claim in light of events in these regions during the last year, and the substantial developments in the Ogaden area in particular. Certainly, whatever some of the external opposition might claim, there have been minimal incidents in the last few months. In fact, this number could only have been plucked out of thin air. It might be added that IDMC does also suggest that rebels might have played a role in causing such problems, and that should be to its credit: it is all-too-seldom for example that HRW, despite a plethora of evidence, is prepared to acknowledge that its major sources of information can and do invent figures or facts.
This nod to reality, however, is no more than a brief digression. Almost immediately, the IDMC goes on to accuse the government of precipitating the ‘crisis’ by “marginalization of Somali Ethiopians” through economic intervention and by its “scorched earth” policy in the Ogaden. In a surprising coincidence this is exactly the same claims as HRW makes. Indeed, it is almost verbatim, and there is more to suggest this is not entirely a coincidence. IDMC acknowledges, if only fleetingly, that the government has embarked on ongoing peace efforts in the Somali region. It then adds ONLF claims that fighting continues in the region while admitting that any figures it produces are “difficult to verify because of the government’s reluctance to allow humanitarian agencies to conduct country-wide assessments.” It adds, for good measure, that “whilst the government has continued to limit access to diplomats, NGOs and journalists to the Somalia region”, since 2007 the Charities and Societies Proclamation has “hindered independent human rights monitoring and reporting.”
We are back to HRW claims again. HRW has this habit of making allegations and then repeating then until it ends up believing them, Freedom House is then prepared to use the allegation as proof positive that Ethiopia is indeed backsliding into autocracy. The likes of the IDM pick up the slack and offer yet more ‘evidence’ that both HRW and Freedom House can later refer to in order to substantiate the very allegations they have created and recycle ad infinitum.
Core principles of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Ethio-Spanish relations
The main objective of any state in its relations with other states is to direct and influence these relations for its own maximum advantage; but at the same time it has the responsibility of formulating its foreign policies towards other states and managing its relations in the interest of global peace and security. The Government of Ethiopia believes that Ethiopia’s foreign relations with the rest of the world should be directed towards creating an atmosphere to encourage market opportunities, investment, technical support and technology transfer as well as soliciting grants and loans to finance the country’s development endeavors; eliminating, or at least, reducing external security threats; minimizing the negative effects of globalization; and resisting external threats and reducing vulnerability, with democratization being a key element. Following these basic foreign policy objectives, set since the establishment of the federal form of Government in Ethiopia, Ethiopia’s foreign relations with the rest of the world, including Spain, have grown rapidly.
Ethiopia and Spain established diplomatic relations in 1951 and the opening of Spanish Embassy in Addis Ababa followed in 1962. The relationship between Ethiopia and Spain today, following the introduction of the current Foreign Policy Strategy, has seen steadily strengthening trends in all areas. The relationship has been consolidated by many high level visits. Recent visits to Spain by Ethiopian officials have included Prime Minister Meles in July 2010, Ato Seyoum Mesfin, former Foreign Minister in March 2009, and by Dr. Tekeda Alemu, former State Minister for Foreign Affairs in March 2004 and in July 2007 as part of the regular political consultations between the two foreign ministries. Visits by Spanish officials have included visits by Prime Minister Jose Zapatero in January last year, Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in January 2008, and by Mr. Ricardo Martinez, Director General of “Casa Africa” (African House) in December 2008. During the visit of Ato Seyoum to Spain in 2009 an agreement on the mutual protection and promotion of investment between the two countries was signed.
Apart from the regular political consultation program between the Foreign Ministries of the two countries, Ethiopia values its relation with Spain. It regards Spain as one of its major partners for economic cooperation; Ethiopia is a priority partner country for Spain. A three-year (2008-2010) Development Cooperation Agreement was signed in January 2008 with an allocated resource of 30 million Euros. Ethiopia has also started to benefit from the 528 million Euros Spanish Fund, channeled through the UN system to developing countries to assist in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
However, trade and investment relationships between Ethiopia and Spain are not as strong as they might be. At present, Spanish investment in Ethiopia amounts to no more than 14.8 million Birr. Given the growing investment and trade opportunities now available in Ethiopia, and the traditional relationship that has existed for the last 60 years between the two countries, Ethiopia believes that this relationship could be strengthened and expanded considerably. Indeed, it is Ethiopia’s firm belief that the bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed between the two countries on 17th March 2009 should encourage significantly greater Spanish investment in Ethiopia. Ethiopia, while continuing its own efforts to attract more investors of Spanish origin, would also like to see the Spanish Government taking additional measures to encourage its citizens to invest in Ethiopia. Indeed, having put in place the necessary mechanisms to encourage intensive investment, Ethiopia has made it clear it is ready, as always, to welcome any initiatives by partner countries, including Spain, to establish their own specific Industrial Zones in Ethiopia.
One of the main interests of the Government of Spain in the Horn of Africa is the stability of the sub-region to which it attaches great importance. Spain commits about 50,000 Euros per year to IGAD’s capacity building program for peace and security. It should also be recalled that Spain recently took a commendable measure to allocate 30 million Euros over the next three years for the African Union’s capacity building. These financial contributions are a clear testimony of Spain’s interest to work with Africa and with the regional body (IGAD). Spain, through the EU and together with other members of the international community, is also actively involved in the fight against piracy and terrorism, elements in which Ethiopia, of course, continues to have strong involvement and a considerable stake; Spain has deployed naval units along the coast of Somalia and Gulf of Aden under the EU deployment against piracy since April 2009. Ethiopia remains strongly convinced that Spain will continue to work with Africa and with IGAD on issues of regional and international concern.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs