Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

EU preparing to lift Burundi sanctions, despite warning

  • The EU used to be Burundi's biggest aid donor (Photo: European Commission)

The EU is preparing to resume budgetary aid to Burundi, despite NGOs' reports of ongoing human rights abuses by the government there.

"The EU and its member states recognise the positive developments made by the Burundian government with respect to human rights, good governance and the rule of law, and commitments taken in its roadmap ... towards further improvements in these areas," an EU spokesperson told this website.

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EU ambassadors on the ground in the East African country had recommended the step and there was already a preliminary agreement by diplomats in the EU Council in Brussels.

"This means that EU financial aid to the Burundi administration and institutions could be resumed, in addition to development cooperation targeting the population ... which have continued since 2016," the EU said.

A related blacklist of four Burundian officials could also be lifted "in the coming months", although talks on that step were at an earlier stage.

The developments come after the EU and Burundi resumed a "political dialogue" in February, which had been on hold for five years following a political crisis after the last elections in 2015.

The past five years saw the country's economy almost collapse, while its rulers turned their back on Europe, which it accused of imperialism.

But the new dialogue "marks an important step towards the possible normalisation ... of relations", the EU spokesperson said.

"The constructive climate that prevailed during this political dialogue augurs well for future discussions" and for "concrete and measurable commitments by the Burundian authorities" for further improving the situation in the country.

The EU used to be the biggest aid donor to the former Belgian colony, paying out some €60m a year before sanctions were imposed.

A coalition of 12 NGOs recently warned in an open letter to EU foreign ministers that it was too soon to roll back the punitive measures, however.

"The EU should not rely on promises of human rights reforms from the Burundian authorities, and insist instead that they meet concrete benchmarks," the NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists, said.

"Dozens of new torture cases have been documented since the 2020 elections", they said, pro-government militias are still meting out violence, while journalists and human rights activists are too scared to do their jobs, they said.

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