In a difficult hearing for the European Commission, EU Parliamentarians asked why aid was being given to Eritrea to fund road building that clearly violated Europe’s pledges to uphold human rights.
You can see the full hearing of the EU Development Committee here.
The Committee heard from a number of experts, including Laetitia Bader of Human Rights, who pointed out powerfully that: “…it appears that the EU has chosen to accept the risk of indirectly supporting forced labor by engaging in a construction project – one of the most abusive sectors – and accepting that not even the most basic checks and balances are in place. The EU should do better. Measures should be put in place to ensure that EU funding and other activities do not contribute to the abusive system of forced labor in Eritrea.” [see full statement below]
Replying to points raised by the Green MEP, Michele Rivasi among others, the EU Director for EU-African Union relations, West and East Africa, Sandra Kramer, made a number of concessions.
She accepted that:
- “more of the same” is not acceptable to the EU and the Eritrean government must make progress on key issues, including indefinite National Service
- alternative strategies do exist for the EU and these are currently being considered
- human rights are a “core principle” in all EU programmes.
The MEPs said that they will pursue a visit to Eritrea by Development Committee members to inspect the situation for themselves. Sandra Kramer promised the EU Commission’s support this.
Reinhard Frauenfeld head of UNOPS, which is overseeing the purchase of the road-building equipment for the EU, remarked that there was “a lot of engagement” with the government of Eritrea, but “little to show, so far” in terms of improvements in the country’s human rights.
Source: Human Rights Watch