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Call from Eritrean Communities in Europe to European Union for positive engagement with Eritrea

By Eritrean Communities in Europe

This document is prepared by Eritrean Communities in Europe to call the European Union for positive engagement and meaningful partnership with Eritrea. The Eritrean communities in Europe are a highly organised social network comprising of first, second and third generation migrants who live and make important contributions across the European member states. There is a high concentration of Eritreans who hold the citizenship of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and also new arrival Eritreans who make up our communities.

This paper highlights the important issues that pre-occupies our communities and also consists of current state of affairs that is frequently distorted and misrepresented in the media and by some organisations who recycle wrong information about Eritrea.

We are Certain the relevant authorities in European Union will heed our call and take appropriate measures to serve the interest of both EU and Eritrea.

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Executive Summary

Recently, the European Union and the Government of Eritrea signed an agreement in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, to jointly fund a solar energy facility in the Southern Region of Eritrea. This is the result of a long engagement between the European Union and Eritrea and the expansion and consolidation of their relations.

Eritrea, despite all the hurdles thrown in its path the last decade and half, has proven to be a reliable partner in development, peace and security in the Horn of Africa. One could see this in what happened during the post-independence years, from 1991 to 1998, the only period in Eritrea’s modern history the nation was not a target of external aggression--in the many constructive partnerships it established with the United States, the European Union, and many other nations on issues ranging from counterterrorism to peace-building, from regional cooperation and integration to regional and international peace. Or, in the determined effort the nation exerted in the fight against terrorism that was taking root in neighboring Sudan where Osama bin Laden had set up shop to launch his global criminal enterprise.

Unfortunately, many of these partnerships were put into question when this young African nation in 1998 became the target of an all-encompassing foreign aggression and a massive and well-funded disinformation and defamation propaganda war. In fact, there was nothing that was not tried to destabilize and marginalize the Red Sea nation the last decade and half. These include the imposition of unjust sanctions in 2009 and 2011 based on fabricated charges. The action represented another chapter in a long history of injustice against the people of Eritrea. U.S. foreign policy for the Horn of Africa has been generally devoid of fairness and justice—always skewed to favor Ethiopia, and always at the expense of the region in general, and especially Eritrea and the Eritrean people in particular.

Once again, Eritrea has overcome these hurdles and has hit its stride. Eritrea, with exemplary social cohesion and harmony among its 50% Christian and 50% Moslem population and the experience, the organizational capacity, a battle-hardened and peacetime-tested leadership, has the determination to play such a role. Eritrea’s more than 1000km Red Sea coastline serves as a firewall against the spread of extremism and terrorism. At a time when the Arc of Crisis, encompassing the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, is in constant turmoil, with many once strong nations trying to prevent total national collapse, Eritrea is enjoying relative peace and stability.

Eritrea’s outstanding achievements in other areas include the establishment of a solid foundation for its economy, putting in place of a grass-roots participative system of governance, making more strides in the empowerment of women, and in the areas of human security, dignity and development. The Eritrean economy, which its enemies expected to collapse six months after they launched the 1998 border war, is on a launch pad poised to take off. The peaceful, politically stable and corruption-free environment, together with a liberal investment law and strong commitment by the government to develop its nascent mining industry has attracted more than two dozen companies from around the world.

In the education sector, Eritrea is embarking on an ambitious program to expand educational services to meet the skilled-human power needs of the country and its economy. Kindergarten, elementary, junior, secondary, as well as higher education is free for all Eritreans. As a result, the growth of access to education in Eritrea since independence has been truly remarkable. At the time of Eritrea’s independence there was no institution of higher learning. The only institution that existed in Eritrea, the University of Asmara, was closed and dismantled by the Ethiopian military government and moved to Southern Ethiopia by the late 1980s. Eritrea, today has 8 colleges in different parts of the country, accommodating the needs of about 17,000 Eritrean youth and graduating around 3,000 students every year. Between 2008 and 2012, these colleges graduated nearly 14,500 students with degree and diploma.

The role of Eritrean women in the fight for and after independence is nothing short of remarkable. They were integrated into the ranks of the freedom fighters and fought alongside the men on the front lines. They made up 30 percent of the country’s combat forces. The EPLF treated men and women as equals; women served as platoon commanders, commandos, assault troops, tank and truck drivers, mechanics and doctors. Since independence, they have been on the forefront in the struggle to consolidate and broaden women’s rights and develop the nation in all areas of Eritrea’s national life. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is criminalized.

It is for these reasons that Eritrea is one of the few African countries that have met MDG2 (Achieving universal primary education), MDG3 (Gender equality and empowering women), MDG4 (Child Health) and MDG5 (Maternal Health), MDG6 (Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases), and MDG7 (Ensuring environmental sustainability). The Africa Research Institute says, “Eritrea is on track to achieving six of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

As in all other sectors of development and like in any other country, there are, however, numerous challenges and problems that the Government continuously works to address. The Government of Eritrea is committed to further consolidate and broaden the progress achieved in the promotion and protection of human, social, political, and economic rights of all its citizens.

Finally, looking through this window of achievements, the future of this young nation looks very bright and promising. Eritrea will liberate itself from poverty, ignorance, and other barriers to development. A true partnership and engagement with the European Union will undoubtedly help to bring on a meaningful change on the lives of Eritreans.

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