MEPs approve key strategy report on troubled Horn of Africa

15-Jan-2013 @ 13:0

Charles Tannock Charles Tannock

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

A comprehensive strategic ground plan for tackling the Horn of Africa's political, humanitarian, criminal and security problems was approved today by the European Parliament.

The detailed report on EU strategy for the strife-torn region was drafted by Charles Tannock MEP, foreign affairs co-coordinator for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

It welcomed the broad thrust of existing European Union strategy for the Horn of Africa, coupling the tackling of security and stability concerns through due process of law, together with a clear humanitarian agenda and delivery of development aid.

The Tannock report promoted a five-pronged programme based on:

 

•Building robust and accountable democracies

•Resolving conflicts and addressing their root causes

•Ensuring that insecurity in the region does not threaten neighbouring states

•Supporting economic growth and poverty-reduction

•Supporting political and economic regional co-operation

 

Welcoming parliament's adoption of the report, Mr Tannock said: "The Horn of Africa is one of the tensest, most conflict-prone regions in the world. The countries of the region continue to be characterised by strife: the many problems include tensions between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, as well as between Eritrea and Djibouti, the absence of rule of law which allows drug-smuggling and piracy to flourish, terrorist activity by the Lord's Resistance Army and Al Qaeda, and on a humanitarian level, famine and dire poverty.

"A stable Horn of Africa is of paramount importance to the global economy. Africa itself presents huge economic potential, and a stable, more economically integrated Horn has much to contribute to the continent at large.

"However, the Horn of Africa has remained problematic in terms of fundamental human rights. Poverty is rife and owing to the particularly bad drought in 2008/9, with resulting famine, it is estimated that over 13 million people are now in need of emergency assistance in the region."

As well as supporting the appointment of an EU special representative to the region, which comprises Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda, the report welcomed EU backing for the African Union military force in Somalia in its fight against Islamist militants Al-Shabaab.

It also insists member states must step up co-operation with Interpol and Europol to trace and confiscate ransom money paid to pirates and says the EU's naval force fighting piracy off Somalia - which is led by British Rear Admiral Duncan L. Potts -  must receive continued support.

Crucially, Mr Tannock stipulates that while boosting security and tackling terrorism and piracy are essential, they must not eclipse the "absolute necessity" of prioritising the eradication of poverty.

He said: "We are now reaching a point in which young people growing up in towns such as Mogadishu have only ever known violence and war. Coupled with an absence of the rule of law, poor prospects will continue to provide fertile ground for encouraging criminal activities, including piracy and drug smuggling, and sustain Al- Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab. Piracy is costing the world shipping industry an estimated £4.1 billion per year; in 2011, 555 seafarers were taken hostage.

"The EU should stand ready to provide financial assistance when required, but the political resources and political impetus must come from within the region itself, led by the Horn of Africa nations.

"Elections in Somalia to replace the Transitional Federal Government, and the near-peaceful split of Sudan into two sovereign states, give rise to the hope that with assistance from international partners, democracy, stability and prosperity will one day be realised for all.  However I do regret that my original text which noted the quest for Somaliland recognition as a state was deleted in Committee as its claims on statehood are very strong both legally and in terms of being a good news story."

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