Borrell: Tanzania agreeing to sign EU trade deal is good news

Tuesday February 08 2022
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG


EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell spoke to Aggrey Mutambo on the bloc’s relation with the East African Community and why this is changing

The European Union is going ahead with the Economic Partnership Agreement with Kenya yet it was originally intended to be between the EU and the East African Community. How will the EU balance the desire to promote regional integration while implementing a bilateral arrangement?

The agreement was negotiated and agreed on in 2014 with the whole region, the East African Community. But we encountered bad news that one country (Tanzania) decided not to sign it.

It was not our fault but we found ourselves unable to ratify the agreement because the African side lacked unanimity and we have been pushing for this unanimity without results.

Because there was no possibility of going region-to-region, we decided with the Kenyan government to go for the bilateral agreement. This requires a different legal instrument and we have been working on that.


In the meantime, since 2014, we have new rules and these require that any trade or economic agreement be accompanied by a strong commitment on climate and environmental issues, which is not a bad thing, especially for Kenya.

I expect that we will be advancing on this issue.

President Uhuru Kenyatta told me that, finally, it seems that we could have an agreement for the whole region because the new government in Tanzania is accepting to sign the agreement. If this is the case, then it is good news. I think the next European Union-African Union meeting in February will be a good occasion to test whether the region wants to go together.

Ahead of the EU-AU Summit, Africans raised a number of issues such as visa rules and immigration as well as shortage of vaccines. What is the EU’s proposal to deal with them?

Whatever criticisms that may be, the European Union is the biggest donor of taxes in the world. Maybe it is not enough but we have been doing much more than any other donor.

In Africa, the problem today is not only to have the vaccines but to have capacity to administer them.

I have been told by the Kenyan authorities that they have sufficient stock of vaccines for the time being.

We have done much more than anyone else. We accomplished our commitments by the end of last year.

But we know that it is not enough and more has to be done, in particular to boost the production of vaccines in Africa by Africa for African people. We have been doing that also but this is not the answer for this pandemic; it is for the next pandemic.

For this we have to accelerate the work of Covax (the global Covid-19 vaccine distribution facility) but I refuse the criticism against Europeans that we are not fulfilling commitments.

You said the EU is no longer going to be a donor, but a business partner. How will this arrangement benefit, say, Kenya?

Our will is not to be a donor, sending cheques. Kenya and other developing countries have been needing financial support. Now we want to engage on specific projects with specific resources, providing leverage in the financial sector in order that the money that we put on the table creates an opportunity for private investment.

The financial support that we can provide with our public money will never be sufficient to meet the immense needs of financing the development of a million-revenue size country like Kenya. We have to engage the private sector.

When we put a Euro on the table, it has to create an investment because the level of risk is lower and the opportunity is bigger.

We have been contributing, also, to the financing of infrastructure and we have to take care of one thing: Too much debt.

Financing infrastructure requires debt and debt has a limit. Every country has a limit on their debt capacity and we have to be careful not to push any country to assume levels of debt that can be unsustainable.

What lessons have you learnt from the current format of EU-Kenya relations that have informed the need for change?

We are upgrading our relations with Kenya. Until now, only Ethiopia and South Africa had been considered strategic partners.

Now it is time to come to Kenya to also be considered a strategic partner, which means building stronger links in the fields of security, economic development and sustainability.

On these three axes, we have been meeting the working groups to launch this process.

Terrorism continues to be a threat everywhere and in particular in the Horn of Africa. We know that terrorism is also growing in parts of the Sahel and to the Indian Ocean coast of Africa, from Somalia to the south in Mozambique.

It means that (with) Kenya, a country with whom we have strong links in the fight against terrorism (we can go further to) exchanging intelligence and participating in a lot of efforts that can be multidimensional in order to be partners in this very difficult fight.