From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Apr 05 2009 - 07:44:57 EDT
DEVELOPMENT AID Eritrea - EU to approve €122m in funding for Eritrea
By Tobu Vogel
02.04.2009 / 04:55 CET
Eritrea to be given development aid despite the country's poor human-track record.
The EU was last night (1 April) set to approve €122 million for Eritrea from the European Development Fund, despite concerns raised by several member states about the impoverished country's human rights record. Diplomats and European Commission officials left little doubt that the funding would be approved. The EU is Eritrea's largest donor by far.
EU governments' representatives were originally scheduled to approve last week (25 March) a country strategy for Eritrea drafted by the Commission, under which the country would be granted €122m until 2013. But to avoid pre-empting a discussion about the political situation in Eritrea by the EU's working group on Africa, which took place on the same day, they delayed the decision until yesterday (1 April). The Commission will be able to start implementing the country strategy if no member state opposed it by the end of the day.
The decision was preceded by a campaign in Swedish newspapers for journalist Dawit Isaak, a dual citizen of Sweden and Eritrea who has been imprisoned in Eritrea without trial since 2001. Reporters without Borders put Eritrea last in its reports on media freedom for 2007 and 2008, just behind North Korea. The European Parliament demanded Isaak's release in a resolution adopted in January and asked the EU to reconsider its approach to Eritrea unless progress was made. A diplomat said that the Swedish government had provided a positive response to the Commission's strategy, however.
A spokesperson for Louis Michel, the European commissioner for development aid, said that while the human rights situation in Eritrea was of “great concern” to the Commission, “engagement is the best response and we keep our policy under review”.
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