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A regional policy partnership for the Horn of Africa

The Commission proposes a strategic partnership between the European Union (EU) and the Horn of Africa to promote peace, security and development in the region. The strategy provides for a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention that will tackle the sources of instability. It also provides a political framework for concrete regional initiatives by the African Union (AU) and the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) to find lasting solutions. In addition, it provides the framework for structured dialogue between the EU and the countries of the Horn of Africa.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 20 October 2006 - Strategy for Africa: An EU regional political partnership for peace, security and development in the Horn of Africa [COM(2006) 601 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The Horn of Africa, which consists of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, is one of the poorest and most conflict-prone regions in the world.

The importance of the Horn of Africa for the EU

The EU plays an important role in the Horn region, where it is the main provider of development and humanitarian assistance.

At the same time, the EU has an interest in the stability of the region. The Horn is embroiled in a regional system of insecurity in which conflicts and political crises feed into and fuel one another The crises in the border region between Eritrea and Ethiopia and in Somalia, together with the conflicts in Sudan and the north of Uganda, create instability and insecurity in the region. The instability is further reinforced by illegal migration and trafficking of arms and drugs, as well as refugee flows.

Nevertheless, the stability of this region is important for the EU in view of its proximity to the Red Sea, which is a crucial waterway for trade with Saudi Arabia - the world's largest oil producer.

Regional dimension and dynamics

The major conflicts reflect the interconnections characterising the region. These are related to the fact that most of the borders are unstable and many are contested. In addition, this factor undermines relations between countries sharing a common border, with some States providing support to armed groups fighting in neighbouring States.

The crises in this region have several cross-cutting regional issues in common, i.e.

  • interdependence between insecurity, poverty and governance. The marginalisation of certain communities is reinforced by the warlords and the business community who benefit from war economies. In addition, authoritarianism, militarism and the interference of external powers contribute to instability and conflict;
  • religious fundamentalism has taken advantage of weak state institutions to spread. It is also strengthened by the grievances wrought by poverty and conflicts and the influence of extremist fundamentalist ideology;
  • migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are numerous throughout the region. These populations are not only a source of regional instability, but also vulnerable and easily exploited by traffickers and criminal networks;
  • proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons (SALW) contribute to the presence of warlords, militias and criminal networks and also serve as an enabler of terrorism;
  • insecurity of border and peripheral areas;
  • competition for access to natural resources (such as water, timber, fish and fertile land), which are suffering from the consequences of desertification and climate change. In particular, access to limited water resources is of strategic importance. Specifically, five of the seven countries of the Horn share the Nile basin, which is at the centre of potential regional tensions;
  • structural food insecurity mostly affects nomadic pastoralists and agri-pastoralists. Depletion of the natural resources and degradation of pasture areas are potential causes of ethnic tensions and conflicts;
  • the high number of transhumant and cross-border pastoralists are communities which are often marginalised and alienated;
  • the demographic upsurge increases pressure on limited natural resources still further.

Work programme to improve the political stability of the region

The Commission proposes to enhance the partnership between the EU, the AU and regional organisations by means of the following measures:

  • enhancement of cooperation with the IGAD, focusing on three main areas: peace, security and governance; pastoralism and food security; and institutional development;
  • building Africa's capacities for conflict prevention, mediation and deployment of military peacekeeping operations, with active participation of the AU;
  • fostering of regional integration in the countries of the Horn, in particular by integrating the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East Africa Community (EAC) in any long-term strategy to establish peace in the region;
  • supporting African efforts to monitor and improve governance.

In addition, the dialogue between the EU and the Horn must take account of key country-level strategic issues with potential regional ramifications, i.e.:

  • factoring into the dialogue of the interests of the supporters and opponents of the peace process in Sudan, with particular attention paid to the Darfur crisis;
  • putting cross-border state support for armed groups on the political agenda of the EU and the countries of the Horn;
  • finding solutions to border demarcation issues, particularly in relation to the Ethiopian/Eritrean border;
  • taking account of the role of Kenya and Djibouti in regional stability;
  • the participation of Somalia's neighbouring countries in the Somali peace process, in which they can play a stabilising role;
  • taking account of the regional dimensions of the conflict in northern Uganda in the peace process.

Finally, regional cross-cutting and cross-border concerns should be addressed on the basis of three pillars:

  • improved governance and security, and enhanced dialogue between cultures;
  • enhanced development, trade, security and political participation, and improved management of migration and refugees and prevention of SALW proliferation;
  • improved programmes to address competition for natural resources.

An enabling environment for a successful partnership

The Commission proposes accompanying measures for the successful implementation of the partnership. These measures concern both the EU and the countries of the Horn of Africa.

In particular, the EU must:

  • promote information-sharing and consultation between EU Member States and EU institutions;
  • promote the International Partners Forum (IPF) as a forum for dialogue with IGAD;
  • facilitate political dialogue (Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement) with key actors, with a strong emphasis on regional issues;
  • tackle issues concerning the Horn of Africa with Egypt, the Arab Gulf States, the League of Arab States, and Central and East Africa;
  • enhance dialogue and coordination with the USA, Norway, Japan, Canada, Russia and China, as well as with the United Nations;
  • strengthen integration into development programmes of human and social rights and gender, demographic issues and the environment;
  • take account of regional and cross-cutting issues in EU strategies and programmes concerning the countries of the Horn region. In addition, the national and regional strategies of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) for the period 2008-2013 must dovetail with the regional political partnership for the Horn.

For their part, the countries of the Horn must:

  • obtain a coordinated position among Member States, the IGAD Secretariat, regional players and civil society organisations;
  • be open to dialogue on key regional challenges and be engaged in identifying the drivers of change;
  • allocate adequate resources for the dialogue and the work programme;
  • address sources of conflict and promote cross-sectoral cooperation;
  • implement relevant institutional reforms.

The implementation of the partnership starts in 2007 and will be the subject of a joint review in the following two years.

Background

The regional political partnership proposed in this Communication builds on two strategies already being implemented by the EU: the European Consensus for Development and the EU-Africa Strategy. This partnership is in particular a test case for applying the EU-Africa strategy.

 
Last updated: 22.06.2007
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