South Africa

Ethiopia may lose EU budget funding due to Tigray conflict

Ethiopia — EU officials are considering suspending budget support to Ethiopia because of the month-long conflict in the Horn of Africa nation’s Tigray region.

The EU has provided €815m of budget support to Ethiopia in the past seven years. Officials meeting later this month to consider an additional €90m transfer may delay the funding because of the impact the violence has had on human rights, said two EU officials with knowledge of the discussions, who asked not to be identified as they aren’t authorised to speak publicly.

Any decision to reduce aid that finances about 13% of the nation’s budget would strain an economy already struggling to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the conflict. Economic growth is forecast to slow to 1.9% this year from 9% in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“The EU will take further decisions on budget support for Ethiopia in light of developments on the ground and based on a specific request by the government,” Ana Pisonero Hernandez, a spokesperson for the European Commission, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “No decision has been made yet as to a potential €90m budget support measure before the end of 2020”

Billene Seyoum, the spokesperson for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent by text.

Ethiopia budgeted for 36.8-billion birr ($960m) of grants in the 2019/2020 fiscal year, according to finance ministry documents. That compares with a total revenue estimate of 289.8-billion birr.

“Ethiopia’s international partners are unlikely to withdraw their assistance completely, but they will probably take some concrete measures to demonstrate their concerns about the government’s hard-handed response to the situation in Tigray, including its impact on civilian populations,” said Stephen Brown, a professor in political science at the University of Ottawa.

Fighting that erupted in Tigray on November 4 has resulted in heavy casualties and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarčič will fly to Ethiopia on Tuesday to urge peace minister Muferiat Kamil to end a blockade on international aid organisations accessing Tigray.

“I wish to urge the Ethiopian authorities one more time to enable full and unrestricted access of humanitarian workers and humanitarian aid to all areas affected by fighting,” Lenarčič said on Monday. Ethiopia hosts the second-largest refugee population in Africa.

Lenarčič will travel to neighbouring Sudan on Wednesday, where more than 45,000 Tigray residents have sought refuge from the conflict.


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