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Ethiopia, EU sign €650m cooperation agreement

Ethiopian Finance Minister Ahmed Side (L) and Jutta Urpilainen, the EU commissioner for international partnerships, in Addis Ababa, on Oct. 3, 2023.   -  
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Cleared / AFP


Ethiopia and the European Union signed a cooperation agreement worth 650 million euros ($680 million), on Tuesday (Oct. 3).

Jutta Urpilainen, the EU commissioner for international partnerships, announced the agreement during a press conference with Ethiopian Finance Minister Ahmed Side in the capital, Addis Ababa.

“It is time to gradually normalize relations and rebuild a mutually reinforcing partnership with your country,” said Urpilainen, describing the aid package as “the first concrete step” in this process after a cease-fire ended the war last November.

The EU aid package was initially worth 1 billion euros ($1.04 billion) and was due to be given to Ethiopia from 2021 to 2027, but it was suspended after fighting broke out in the northern Tigray region in late 2020. 

Ethiopi's PM Ahmed said the aid would help boost Ethiopia’s post-war recovery and facilitate badly needed economic reforms at a “critical juncture” for the country.

“This strategic partnership is now back on track,” he said.

Direct budgetary support to Ethiopia’s government remains however suspended and will not be restored until “very clear political conditions” are met, Urpilainen said

She added that a program from the International Monetary Fund was also needed first.

Ethiopia is currently negotiating with the Washington-based lender seeking support for the country's economic reforms.

Urpilainenwas set to meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission.

The Tigray war killed unknown thousands and was characterized by massacres, mass rape and allegations of enforced starvation. The EU has long insisted it would not normalize relations with Ethiopia until there was accountability for these crimes.

U.N probe

Ethiopia has launched its own transitional justice process, which human rights experts say is flawed. 

The EU supports the implementation of the peace deal "through the national dialogue, as well as also accountability and transitional justice", said Urpilainen, a former Finnish finance minister. 

The U.N. probe has said all sides committed abuses, some amounting to war crimes.

The EU’s aid pledge to Ethiopia came a day before the deadline for renewing the mandate for the investigation at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

On Tuesday, the U.N. experts warned that more independent investigations into Ethiopia’s “dire human rights situation” were needed due to the “overwhelming risk of future atrocities.”

“There is a very real and imminent risk that the situation will deteriorate further, and it is incumbent upon the international community to ensure that investigations persist so human rights violations can be addressed, and the worst tragedies averted,” said Steven Ratner, one of the U.N. experts.

A report by the U.N. panel last month cited “grave and ongoing” atrocities in Tigray and questioned Ethiopian officials' commitment to delivering true accountability.

Last week Human Rights Watch said the EU should submit a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council calling for continued investigations into atrocities.

“Not doing so would be renouncing its own commitments,” the rights group said.

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