Kenya and the European Union on Friday launched vital talks to elevate their ties beyond aid and focus on issues of long-term peace and development.
At a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and visiting EU top diplomat Josep Borrell Fontelles signed a joint declaration to formally begin discussions on a Strategic Dialogue, a guiding document that could turn relations to “common problems.”
Mr Fontelles, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, arrived in Nairobi on Friday, just three weeks before the EU hosts African delegates in Brussels for the EU-AU Summit. But while the bloc wants to build ties with the entire continent, Mr Fontelles said the EU will first work with 'like-minded countries.'
“We have been having, the European Union and Kenya, a long standing relationship. But we are no longer the donor of development aid. We are a strategic partner,” Fontelles told a joint press conference in Nairobi.
Peace and security
“There is no doubt that peace and security is at stake in this region and the whole world. And this requires that like-minded countries like the European Union and Kenya join their forces in order to work together in many fields.”
The Strategic Dialogue, he said, will “bring concrete results, because it will focus on delivering on commitments, actions, investments, and sharing objectives among our people.”
Those commitments will target long-term peace and security in the region, fighting poverty through trade and investment, environmental conservation and fighting climate change, defending democracy and the rule of law, and human rights, “as well as many sectors in Kenya’s priority development agenda,” Ms Omamo said.
The EU has traditionally been one of Kenya’s biggest donors; supporting programmes for justice, humanitarian support for the displaced as well as in education. On Friday, Mr Fontelles launched the Kenya-European Union Cooperation programme.
Meant to last until 2027, the programme targets environmentally responsible investments in Kenya, human development and digital inclusion through computer literacy and internet service provision.
It will cost $361 million in the initial four years. It will deal with projects meant to preserve peace and stability “with a special focus on women and youth,” the dispatch said.
The final document from the Strategic Dialogue will guide the ties between the EU and Kenya for the next five years.
Ms Omamo said technical teams from both sides will draft agreements on peace and Security and Stability, Sustainable, Inclusive Development and SDGs and Economy, Trade and Investment, the three main pillars under discussion.
But while it is entirely bilateral, Ms Omamo said the pillars will be related to the goings-on in the region, including the humanitarian issues, security incidents and regional cooperation.
“We need partnerships in all of our countries to tackle challenges of the day in a spirit of collaboration and in a spirit of partnership,” she said.
“We have a common spirit towards development…and for countries that are able to deliver development goods to their people…. that was the spirit of our conversation and they are in line with our conversation of the Strategic Dialogue.”
The EU and Kenya have implemented a trade pact which was initially meant for the entire East African Community but which saw member states raise fears of a possible obstruction to nascent industries.
Mr Fontelles also met President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi.