On 22 September 2015, State Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Berhane met a visiting delegation from the EU, led by the Deputy Head of Delegation, Mrs. Terhi Lehtinen, and Ambassador of Netherlands Lidi Remmelzwaal, Permanent Representative to the AU.
The discussion covered the need for a comprehensive response by the European countries to the current problems of migration and refugees, and the importance of enhancing cooperation with Ethiopia, with Horn of Africa countries and with the whole of the African continent. State Minister Ambassador Berhane emphasized that Migration and mobility of people would, of course, continue now that the world has become a village with the emergence of globalization; and addressing the issue was an opportunity as well as a challenge for strengthening bilateral ties with EU countries. He underlined possible joint solutions within the framework of globalization shared Ethiopia’s interest in the problem as the largest host of refugees in Africa. Ambassador Berhane pointed out that Ethiopia has not changed its policies as a result of the current refugee crises. Its existing open-door policy remained the same and it welcomed and could handle refugees from many countries. The number was now approaching a million and some problems were emerging, including devastation of forests and green fields in areas where the refugees were settled. He said Ethiopia shared the concerns of the EU in concrete terms. Indeed, if it had not been able to manage the issue properly, it might have been more affected than the EU countries, since the region remained unstable.
Mrs. Lehtinen noted that the migration or mobility issue was the priority area of discussion for the EU. She said partnerships are needed with African countries to help minimize the challenges comprehensively. The delegation itemized some of the specific projects the EU is implementing to provide support for African states to address mobility and migration and asked for further suggestions on cooperation.
Ambassador Berhane emphasized that the two main areas of crisis that resulted in peoples’ migration were the Horn of Africa and the instability in the Sahel region. He stressed the difference between economic migrants and refugees. At one level, Europe should consider mobilizing and expanding investment in emerging Africa, to enable Africans to live in Africa. With regard to refugees, Ambassador Berhane said the refugees from different countries should be treated with reference to the reality of the situation in their country. Some, for example, were driven to migrate because of war and conflict, others left because of the lack of good governance. More generally, the State Minister listed a number of priority areas for cooperation and partnership between EU and Ethiopia which could include training, education and capacity building as well as public service and awareness creation in rural areas to help deal with illegal human trafficking.
The two sides agreed to discuss these partnership options further and continue similar discussions in other meetings including the EU-Ethiopia Article 8 consultations.