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German Foreign Minister Maas on motions on Ethiopia/Eritrea

15.10.2018 - Article

Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in response to the motions on Ethiopia/Eritrea on October 12, 2018 in the German Bundestag

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaking in the Bundestag about an extension of the Bundeswehr’s mandate to counter IS
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaking in the Bundestag about an extension of the Bundeswehr’s mandate to counter IS© dpa

What we’re presently witnessing in the Horn of Africa truly gives us cause for hope. Some are even talking of an African miracle. The peace agreement between Ethiopia and its Eritrean neighbours really is quite remarkable, especially when you look at developments there during the last few years.

But what is more, it will improve the lives and the future prospects of people in East Africa and far beyond. It is in East Africa’s fundamental interest as well as that of the Gulf states on the east coast of the Red Sea. 

However, the peace agreement is also in our interest: it means that a crisis-stricken region is slowly regaining stability – with all the opportunities which this can have for trade, business, migration and the fight against terrorism and organised crime. 
That is of great importance to Europe, and thus also to Germany. I’m therefore delighted that the German Bundestag is addressing this today. 

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy has achieved something which was virtually inconceivable: he has broken political taboos within his country. He has triggered what could be described as reform euphoria in his country and initiated a reconciliation process with arch enemy Eritrea. Judging by everything we’re seeing and hearing, there’s a tangible will for change in the country, especially among young people, who know what all this means for them and their prospects for the future.

This process and those responsible for it should be able to count on our support. In providing this backing, we’re building on our decades-long commitment to Ethiopia and the long-standing special relations between our countries. At the end of the month, Prime Minister Abiy will be taking part in the G20 Investment Summit in Berlin, which will mainly focus on economic exchange among our countries.

All in all, however, we have to remain realistic. Political and social transformation cannot be achieved overnight – we know that from our own experience. Abiy faces huge challenges: poverty, a growing population, rapid urbanisation as well as ethnic conflicts, which have resulted in four million people becoming displaced. Despite the positive developments, the situation in the country remains permanently tense due to these challenges.

Reforms similar to the bold ones being carried out in Ethiopia have not been initiated in Eritrea so far. On the contrary, there’s still no strategy to indicate how an orderly opening up within the country could look.

I therefore don’t think it’s a good idea to exert maximum public pressure at this point. We should encourage the reform forces and call for an opening up within the country in an appropriate manner. We’re currently exploring concrete ways of doing this.
Especially within the European context, we have suitable means and measures. However, we’ll also be able to continue influencing developments in the region when we take up our seat on the UN Security Council next year. We’re determined to do just that.
The German Government is already engaged in many different ways in crisis management and preventive diplomacy in the Horn of Africa.

For example, we are supporting regional measures to resolve the problems regarding water supply and the River Nile. We’re playing our part in the mediation efforts in the Darfur conflict and in South Sudan, a country plagued by civil war. In Somalia, we’re supporting the development of federal state institutions and functioning police structures. In this way, we want to help strengthen the African Peace and Security Architecture on a durable basis so that it can master the crises and conflicts on the continent, if possible through Africans’ own efforts.

© FFO


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