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Aid with election strings attached

The EU is tag teaming with the US to keep up pressure on Addis Ababa for reconciliation measures ahead of the June election

The European Union will send an election observation mission for June's general elections in Ethiopia, and has restarted sending humanitarian aid to the country, but there are strings attached, warned High Representative on foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, this week.

While conceding that little progress has been made on the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray or a ceasefire, Borrell said that EU election observers would be sent 'unless the situation deteriorates further' and added that a final decision would be made in the coming weeks (AC Vol 62 No 5, Stirring the regional pot and Vol 62 No 8, Eritrea entrenches in Tigray). However, he said that it was 'impossible to imagine' that elections would take place in Tigray.

However, while international pressure on Abiy Ahmed's government continues to ramp up, concrete measures are elusive. Four meetings of the UN Security Council failed to arrive at a consensus after China vetoed a United States and European resolution aimed at sanctioning and condemning Ethiopia over the Tigray crisis.

Borrell and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have been working in tandem for several months, with the EU consistently taking the toughest stance against Addis Ababa in the international community. Ethiopian officials complain that the EU and US are working to destabilise Abiy's government (AC Vol 62 No 7, Abiy gives first ground). For his part, Borrell also said that Abiy's government must agree to a national dialogue process ahead of the elections scheduled for 5 June. 

The polls have been delayed by over a year by the pandemic and the difficulties of organising an electoral roll in a country which, even prior to the conflict in Tigray, had a large refugee population.

The EU did, however, sign off on €53 million of humanitarian aid for Ethiopia, the first time that it has turned on the aid tap since suspending funding in December after complaining that emergency supplies were not reaching those in need in and around Tigray.

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