News / Africa

    EU Appears Poised to Resume Development Aid to Eritrea

    Eritrean refugees wait in a hanger to depart to Sweden.  The EU hopes to reduce the number of Eritrean migrants and refugees through aid programs aimed at stabilizing the country.Eritrean refugees wait in a hanger to depart to Sweden. The EU hopes to reduce the number of Eritrean migrants and refugees through aid programs aimed at stabilizing the country.
    x
    Eritrean refugees wait in a hanger to depart to Sweden.  The EU hopes to reduce the number of Eritrean migrants and refugees through aid programs aimed at stabilizing the country.
    Eritrean refugees wait in a hanger to depart to Sweden. The EU hopes to reduce the number of Eritrean migrants and refugees through aid programs aimed at stabilizing the country.

    Eritrea reserves some of its harshest criticism for Western nations and often has strained or hostile relationships with its neighbors.  So it may come as a surprise that Eritrea is improving its ties with the European Union.

    Evidence of this is in a program known as the 11th European Development Fund, which may allocate $229 million over the next six years for projects in Eritrea relating to renewable energy, energy efficiency and economic governance.

    The allocation has not been finalized and the money has not been released, officials stress.  But in recent years, the program has funded small-scale projects in Eritrea, including using solar panels to power irrigation in rural areas, and has supported community courts to improve the legal system.

    Christian Manahl is the head of the European Union Delegation to Eritrea. “Concerning the relations between the European Union and Eritrea, we have had difficult times, but in the last couple of years, the relations have improved considerably," he said. "We have a solid cooperation program which is ongoing now."

    Although the EU has funded projects in Eritrea since independence in 1993, when the work focused mainly on post-conflict reconstruction, Eritrea suspended its cooperation with the EU in 2011, a year when it expelled nearly all foreign aid agencies working in the country.

    Manahl says the Eritrean government has since reviewed its position.  "I am convinced the government has come to the opinion that we can have a mutually beneficial relationship based on the cooperation program that we can agree upon on both sides," he said.

    EU Wants to Investigate Alleged Abuses

    The two sides do, however, continue to have disagreements. One of these is Eritrea’s continued refusal to allow U.N. representatives to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.

    A U.N. Commission of Inquiry and Human Rights recently accused the government of extrajudicial killings, forced labor and stifling free speech and freedom of religion.  Groups like Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have documented similar abuses and harshly criticized the government for years.

    Eritrea has long rejected the allegations, and criticized the commission’s report for relying on politically-motivated testimony instead of independently conducted research.

    Manahl says the EU delegation regrets that U.N. investigators have "not had the opportunity to visit the country."  He said he and other EU officials believe that "anybody who visits the country is in a better position to give a more objective, a more complex picture of the reality here."

    "We do have, of course, a dialogue with the government of Eritrea on human rights issues," he adds. "This is an important part of European foreign policy and it is in Eritrea as it is in any other country.”

    Stable Eritrea = Fewer Migrants

    The EU has a vested interest in seeing Eritrea stabilize. Along with Syria and Afghanistan, the nation is one of the top refugee-producing countries in the world , and hundreds of thousands of migrants have ended up on European shores or died crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

    A spokesperson for the EU said development assistance will be all the more important if Eritrea abolishes life-long military service and young people are able to join the job market. “We must offer them an alternative to fleeing the country, with all the dangers it involves,” she said.

    Similarly, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica of Croatia believes investing in Eritrea is money well-spent by the EU. "We need to assist people with concrete programs that address concrete needs of the people,” Mimica said in an email to VOA.

    Manahl stressed that economic progress in Eritrea will be a stabilizing factor for the region and European countries.

    “It is in our interest and it is in the interest of Eritrea that the young people have a perspective here for their future and that we create conditions that they stay here in their country," he said. "We have nothing against migration, but we would like to have migrants who leave in channels that do not expose young people -- actually thousands of young people -- to consider the risks on the journey to Europe."


    Salem Solomon

    Salem Solomon is a journalist and web producer at Voice of America’s Horn of Africa Service, where she reports in English, Amharic and Tigrigna. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Poynter.org, Reuters and The Tampa Bay Times. Salem researches trends in analytics and digital journalism, and her data-driven work has been featured in VOA’s special projects collection.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora