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Civil Society meets EU officials over rights situation in Eritrea

Network of Eritrean Civic Societies


Feb 15, 2007 — In order to further update and consolidate its relation with the European Union, the Network of Eritrean Civic Societies in Europe (NECS-Europe) has been appealing since December 2006 for a meeting to the European Council, the European Commission as well as to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) in Brussels. The request was replied by the authorities of the European Council for Human Rights and the European Council on Refugees and Exile. In January a date was set by the EU Human Rights Council to meet the delegates of NECS on the 14.02.2007.

On the 14th of February 2007, delegates representing NECS-Europe met officials from the EU Human Rights Council and the ECRE in Brussels.

NECS delegates were welcomed by Mrs. Audrone Perkauskiene, Council member for External Politico-Military Affairs and Mr. Jean-Christophe Belliard cabinet member for Human Rights and head of the Horn of Africa section, in the office of Mr. Javier Solana, Secretary-General, High Representative for the CFSP.

The objective of the delegation was to update the EU Human Rights Council on current Eritrean human rights situation and strengthening the relationship of NECS with EU Human Rights Council and other organs. Moreover, it was to appeal to the EU to get support for the efforts being made by members of NECS and other Eritrean civic Societies.

NECS submitted all relevant information to the Council. The delegates exchanged views especially on the current political situation in Eritrea and its impact on the people inside the country.

During the discussion Mr. Jean-Christophe Belliard, a cabinet member of the EU Council, stated “The EU does not speak with Eritrea” when he started explaining to the delegates on the recent visit to Eritrea by European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Mr. Louis Michel. Instead, the visit of Mr. Louis Michel to Eritrea was primarily focused on the situation of Darfur in Sudan. The relation with President Isayas Afeworki has been at its ebb since 2004, simply because the Eritrean president does not communicate with any delegate of the European Union, stated Mr. Belliard. He mentioned the expulsion of the Italian Ambassador, EU representative in Eritrea, when declared Persona Nongrata by President Isayas Afeworki.

Despite the diplomatic blunder, the EU has been trying to maintain the door open for dialogue and communication with the government of Eritrea. Unfortunately, the response has been negative so far from the Eritrean side. It was only when the president of Eritrea is in need of financial support does he responds to EU calls.

Moreover, the solution for the current political and economic instability in Eritrea is hard to be easily answered according to Mr. Belliard. He further underlined that the EU is very worried about Eritrea which is becoming a unique case while the whole of the African Continent is registering substantial moves towards democratization, human rights and good governance. Eritrea is going in the opposite direction, a regression leading to a full fledged totalitarianism. He expressed his concern to NECS delegates that a smooth transition was preferable to any unexpected happening in the country. He was eager to hear any structural solution from the Eritrean side.

NECS learned that Mr. Belliard and others in EU are well aware on the scenarios of power control by the actors in the countries of Horn of Africa. In general, the current Eritrean situation is, of great concern to them as it is politically unstable and unpredictable situation. European Union look seriously at the situation of the Horn of Africa. Although problems of this region are very complicated similar to the situation in the Middle East with a different connotation, the situation in the Horn has to be tackled without delay and with care.

Furthermore, NECS delegates had the opportunity to raise the issue of Eritrean refugees with the representatives of European Council of Refugee and Exile (ECRE) in their office in Brussels. The delegates stressed on the precarious Eritrean refugee problems in Europe and also in Libya. The NECS delegates made a common understanding with ECRE to work together in highlighting the problem of Eritrean asylum seekers in EU states and to present the case to the attention of the EU Human Rights Council.

ECRE is aware that many refugees from Africa, especially from Eritrea are facing deportation from Libya.

NECS has been appealing against the unlawful deportation of Eritreans from Libya. NECS expressed to ECRE that the tragic situation of Eritrean refugees has not received the necessary attention by the European countries. Instead, the EU states are creating a preventive atmosphere whereby migrants would be hampered from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in the feature. The ECRE is advocating against this policy and is working with other concerned organization like UNHCR to appeal for the rights of refugees.

Finally it was a mutual understanding to periodically upgrade and review the exchange of ideas. Mrs. Audrone Perkauskien also accepted the request by the delegates for a regular update.

Coordinating Committee NECS-Europe

Brussels 14-02-2007