This month saw the Sudanese flag flying at the European Union’s Headquarters in Brussels on November 11th for the visit of the head of Sudan’s new interim government. Sudan's Prime Minister Dr Abdallah Hamdok travelled to Brussels on Sunday, accompanied by two of his Ministers and other officials. He met with several EU Commissioners and discussed his government’s plans with representatives of the Sudanese community in Belgium.
Hamdok arrived at the invitation of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini. He briefed EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs on the political developments in Sudan, the ongoing efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace, normalisation of relations with the international community, and the government’s efforts to address economic issues.
The meeting witnessed a series of progressive talks enhancing Sudan's relationship with the European Union, after 30 years of forced isolation under former president General Omar Albashir. During his meeting with Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Hamdok praised the EU's supportive stance towards Sudan whilst affirming the commitment of his government to implement the goals of the December Revolution.
Seeing Sudan’s’ flag flying freely over one of the most prominent and respected political places in the world is indeed a “sight for a sore eye” and a true win for the new government. Some analysists explained to 7Dnews how they viewed this visit as an unlocking of the relationship between Sudan and the European Union.
The meeting on Monday garnered both political and financial support for Khartoum, with the European Commission declaring their willingness to finance a total of €55m in humanitarian aid to Sudan in crisis relief and with the last of the 28 European countries announcing their support for the interim government.
According to the Commission, “there are around 8 million people in dire need of help and humanitarian aid, 6.3 million of which have no access to food, with about 1 in 6 children suffering malnutrition”. The financial support will be devoted to supporting different projects, for limited-income families, children, pregnant women, immigrants, refugees and others.
A delegation representing the European Union arrived last October in an official visit to Sudan to explore the means of supporting the interim government. Among them were Koen Doens, Director for Development Coordination for East and Southern Africa, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, and Alexander Rondus, the Special Representative of the European Union for the Horn of Africa.
According to Sunna, the Sudanese news agency, on October 30th the European delegation pledged €466m in support for the interim government, in a meeting with Asmaa Mohammed Abdallah, Sudan’s minister for foreign affairs. According to the agency, this financial support will come as grants of €200m, €141m, €100m and €25m for humanitarian aid.
The intensive meetings with Federica Mogherini and the Commission were followed by a speech at the parliament where Hamdock stated some of the challenges and hardships that Sudan is facing at the moment, accompanied by a Q&A segment where he answered questions about the political situation in Sudan.
Maya Kucianic, spokesperson for the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy Commissioner, said in a statement at a press conference that the EU ministers “have renewed the European Unions’ commitment towards supporting the interim government in Sudan”. She explained that they exchanged ideas with the Sudanese prime minister and confirmed that “the European Union is willing to provide the financial support needed to complete the process of transferring power and ensure economic reform”. The ministers also stressed the need to ensure a peaceful and full power transfer in the country and safeguard the role of young Sudanese people and women in that transformation.
Kucianic added that the Sudanese situation is “inspirational for every country in Africa and the whole world”.
Sudan’s Prime minister concluded his meetings in Brussels, praising the role that the European Union is playing in supporting the interim government that he has been heading since last August. He confirmed his government’s growing interest in building a progressive partnership with the European Union and expressed Khartoum’s commitment to pursue a balanced foreign policy, while improving further collaboration with the outside world.
Hamdock then asked the European Union to remove the country from the US list of countries supporting terrorism in a bid to overcome recent challenges.
He pointed out that “the government’s priorities now lie in the need to put an end to the war, building sustainable peace, tackling the economic crisis, and ensuring proper reform in different institutions within the country.” He then explained how his government has been both enhancing and strengthening women’s participation in all governing processes, endorsing the EU’s efforts to support the people in Sudan.
A professor of international relations at Bahri University in Sudan, Mohamed Ahmed Shaklya, said the most prominent outcome that the visit had garnered for Sudan, was the ability to return the country firmly back as part of the international community, and help the country break free from the lasting isolation that it had undergone at the hands of those who used to control the government and Omar Albashir, the “Muslim Brotherhood” and “Al Qaida”.
In his statement to 7Dnews, Shaklya said, “The political gains have out-weighed the economic gains during Hamdock’s visit to Brussels. So far, countries in Europe have been slightly sceptical about offering financial assistance to Sudan, in light of their existence on the blocked terrorist list as a country that supports terrorist acts.”
He added that the European Union will provide political support for Sudan concerning the removal of its name from the terrorist list, but as for the financial support, he confirmed the EU has no intention of providing more than humanitarian aid.
According to Shaklya, the European Union is more concerned with removing Sudan from the terrorist list than Sudan's’ itself as they cannot go against decisions that would contradict those by the US. However, he explained that the EU would maintain their support towards the politics, the demands and the transformation that have been taking place in the country.
Retired Sudanese ambassador, Al Trarefi Ahmed Karmno, said that this event was the first time Sudan had ever had such a crucial part with prominent European country’s representatives. This meeting showed the significance of the support the EU is giving, which ignites hopes of restoring the country to its former glorious role at home and internationally.
In his statement to 7Dnews, Karmno pointed out that the prime minister’s visit to Brussel was successful and that it had managed to ensure all the financial support needed to improve the economic situation in Sudan, along with similar promises to remove Sudan from the list of countries harbouring terrorism, and ensuring a long-lasting peace for Sudan.
He then continued by saying that there are “countless variables in Sudan as we speak. So far there have been no terrorist attacks since the toppling of Al-Bashir regime, and we are looking forward to the help provided by the EU in reviving our economy and in encouraging more opportunities to integrate with the global economy, at a time when all other international financial institutions are exercising caution when dealing with us”.
The Prime Minister was accompanied to Brussels by Madani Abbas, Minister of Industry and Trade, Lina El Sheikh, Minister of Labour and Social Development, Mekki Mirghani, Planning Undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, and Ali Bakheet, Director of the Prime Minister's Office.
On Sunday evening, Hamdok met with representatives of the Sudanese community in Brussel where he stressed that the achievement of a comprehensive, just, and sustainable peace, along with health, education, and capacity building were top priorities, in addition to youth and unemployment issues, for the government.
As for the tackling of the economic crisis, Hamdok said that the crisis could be overcome, “if the economic system is managed wisely and knowledgeably”, and that the government intends to create a favourable climate for the return of young people from abroad to contribute to nation building.
Translated by Nariman Mohamed