Why not nail a New Year’s resolution in 3 minutes today?

There was a seminar/conference at the European Parliament back in November, which I wished I had attended.  It had an interesting guest list; was organised by the European External Policy Advisors (EEPA) consultancy, who do a lot of work in the human rights space; and was hosted by Judith Sargentini MEP, a Dutch Green politician.

At its heart was a paper by the EEPA Director and an Irish academic, which I would heartily recommend you read.  It’s called Acknowledging international social responsibility: the need for a revised EU strategy on development cooperation in Eritrea - and it’s only 14 pages….

Daniel Medonnen and Mirjam van Reisen suggest that the European Development Fund money (122 million euros) sent to Eritrea constitutes a violation of the EU’s own laws.  I’m not an academic or a lawyer, so I’m not going to get involved in that debate – but its interesting to see it laid out.

As I’ve argued previously, it must be very difficult for the EU to monitor how this money is spent and the progress of the projects it is meant to fund.  But I believe strongly that there must be a way that development aid can be sent to Eritrea, and European citizens reassured that the money is getting to the right people, and not just propping up the Isaias regime. 

I’m just not confident that anyone in the Commission or in the EU delegation to Eritrea is thinking about it.    (It’s difficult to establish if the latter are actually still functioning as an institution.  The welcome page on their website hasn’t been updated since 2007, and they haven’t replied to an email I sent on 30 November asking for some very basic information.)

The paper concludes by calling for improved parliamentary scrutiny, which I wholeheartedly agree with.  However, it is also up to all of us to keep up the pressure on MEPs and Commission officials.  I’m afraid that its a dreary fact of both politics and playgrounds that he who shouts loudest gets the most attention.  I hope that everyone will write to their MEP drawing this matter to their attention.  You can do this easily with this excellent website.

Please include some personal information (e.g. “I’m one of your constituents,  and work as an accountant for a small publishing company in Milton Keynes. ”) and a sentence as to why you are interested in Eritrea.

Then – and I don’t want to put words into your mouths - add something like this:

“The Isaias regime in Eritrea terrorises its people, rapes women, destroys families, steals money and property, and tortures those who stand up against it.   

Can you help me to find out what guarantees the EU have been given that European Development Fund money granted to Eritrea has reached those in need, and prevented the Isaias regime from perpetrating more human rights abuses? 

More specifically, would you be able to ask the Commission on my behalf when the operational review process outlined in the 2009 EU-Eritrea agreement will begin, and how stakeholders will be consulted during it?”

Its that simple, and will take you about 3 minutes…..

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