European Parliament (EP) to fury, back in mid-July, gossip observed…

It could only be a misunderstanding, which led to a delegation from the European Parliament (EP) to fury, back in mid-July, gossip observed.

Led by Barbara Lochbihler of Germany, and with Jörg Leichtfried of Austria, Jacek Protasiewicz of Poland and Jean-Jacob of France making up the team, the mission from the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights had an uplifting start here in Addis. Their time began with a cordial conversation with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. This dialogue was followed by talks with Brehane G. Kirstos, state minister for Foreign Affairs, and Shiferaw Teklemariam (PhD), minister of Federal Affairs – an agency which oversees all prison centres across the country.

The discussion with Shiferaw had indeed gone well, with a request to visit the Kality prison facility fully granted, gossip disclosed. The cordiality did not last long, however. The Minister got suspicious of the mission’s intent after Lochbihler and her colleagues requested permission to visit Reeyot Alemu, a dissident opposition activist serving a jail term accused of plotting terrorism, claims gossip. For a senior official of a government, which claims there is no prisoner they are aware of in Ethiopia, the mission’s request to visit a particular inmate spelled trouble, according to gossip.

Visit they did, to Kality, although they were denied access to a particular inmate, gossip disclosed. Neither were prison wardens genial in their reception, but did nothing to stop the EP mission from touring the facility. This animosity was possibly the source of resentment for Lochbihler and her colleagues, claims gossip.

But, if the Ethiopian authorities believed that this was a resentment that would go no further, an angry statement to the press, which mission members gave in Addis, was an unpleasant surprise, gossip disclosed. In the eyes of the decision makers in Brussels, theirs was a conduct that should not be left unpunished, gossip claims. Thus, came the unfolding signals in the form of retaliation from the European Commission (EC), whose officials are answerable to Parliament, rather supposedly, claims gossip.

Some of the ongoing projects financed by the EC have now been put on hold, including a five million dollar grant approved earlier , to be channeled to couple of newly formed ministries, gossip disclosed. The EU-Ethiopia development partnership has a long history, since the signing of the Lome Convention, in 1975. Refurbished in the year 2000 in an ACP-EU partnership pact, signed in Cotonou, Benin, the ambition of the partnership is pronounced as one that is to eradicate poverty “through sustainable development, democracy, peace and security”. With no aid coming conditionality, according to gossip.

Gossip has gathered that there was confidence in the Administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam and funding would be disbursed soon enough. Its senior officials have planned their major activities for the current Ethiopian fiscal year based on this financing. Brussels’ decision to freeze this grant came as an unpleasant surprise to Ethiopian authorities. They were confident that a point of no return had been reached after the signing of the arrangement had been finalised, gossip revealed.

To their dismay, an official letter was sent to the major funding recipient ministries stating the cancellation of the funding. The reason for the cancellation was explained to these ministries as a “procedural difference between the financing requirements put on Sufian Ahmed, minister of Finance & Economic Development (MoFED)”, gossip disclosed.

Published on August 11, 2013 [ Vol 14 ,No 693]



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