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Why did the EU change its Stand on the Dispachment of Observatory Mission to Ethiopia?

Avatar: Hagos Gebreamlak
Hagos GebreamlakMay 22, 2021
Current AffairsAnalysis Election
Why did the EU change its Stand on the Dispachment of Observatory Mission to Ethiopia?

On March 3, 2021, the European Union made an announcement that surprised many and got the attention of international media. Josep Borrell, the high representative of the EU, announced that the EU canceled its Election Observation Mission (EOM) for the sixth Ethiopian general election which is scheduled to take place at the end of the coming month. The EOM abandoned its plan to send an observatory mission citing disappointments and concerns.

Differences with Ethiopian authorities on key parameters and failure by the Ethiopian government to fulfill conditions were the main driving factors for the EU’s decision to cancel the mission, according to the high representative. In his statement, Josep Borrell asserted that the EU regrets the refusal on the fulfillment of standard requirements for the deployment of the EOM that include the independence of the Mission and the import of mission communications systems.

In its statement, the EU added that it is disappointing that the EU has not received the assurances necessary to extend to the Ethiopian people one of its most visible signs of support for their quest for democracy.

As a response to the statement by the European Union regarding the cancellation of EOM to Ethiopia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) issued a press statement, which read as"it’s very unfortunate to have learned that the issue of communications equipment was put forth as a deal-breaker for the EU to observe one of the most hoped-for democratic elections in the country's history.  "Demand has come as a surprise to the Government of Ethiopia, as none of these elements were a bone of contention in past elections, the statement added.

The MFA announced that these two requirements by the European Union violate the sovereignty of Ethiopia and endanger national security.

Later on, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) claimed that the EU revised its decision to cancel the dispachment of EOM to Ethiopia and reconsidered sending a mission

Ambassador Dina Mufti (Image source: link)

Addis Zeybe has looked into and carefully checked the issue. Also asked the European Union’s Foreign Affairs and Security Policy about the controversy.

Will the EU send its EOM for the upcoming Ethiopian general elections?

The EU did not reverse its decision to cancel the deployment of its election Observation Mission to Ethiopia. According to the information Addis Zeybe obtained from Gesine KNOLLE, Press Officer for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU, the Ethiopian government has not agreed to the key parameters the EU stated are necessary for the deployment of the EOM. Despite the claim of the MoFA, the EU has not received any official assurances and stated that an EU EOM is now no longer possible to deploy to Ethiopia.

Why did the EU Cancel the Deployment of EOM to Ethiopia?

The EU canceled the plan of sending a delegation of the EOM for the upcoming elections because of disagreement by the Ethiopian government to allow the EOM to issue public statements before the end of the electoral process and the import of satellite phones. The EU had requested permission to issue preliminary findings the day after the elections and its recommendations in about two months after the elections. It stated that the import of satellite phones is necessary to guarantee the independence and security of the experts.  The EU stated that these two conditions are standard requirements necessary to deploy the EOM. 

What Type of Mission will the EU Deploy to Ethiopia?

As the Ethiopian authorities failed to fulfill the two mandatory requirements, the EU has expressed its willingness to deploy an Election Expert Mission (EEM) that doesn’t need any of the two standard requirements.

The EEM is a small team that consists of four to six experts. EEM is not an observation mission rather a technical mission. This technical mission will be able to issue an assessment of the elections at the end of the electoral process.

With invitation by the Ethiopian government, the EU had deployed Election Observation Missions to Ethiopia during the 2005 and 2010 general elections. The missions made an assessment of the electoral process and issued recommendations to the Ethiopian government.

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A PIECE BYHagos Gebreamlak

BA in Political Science and Interantional Relations, Addis Ababa University and Tigrinya Factchecker