"Somalia has been without a functioning state for 22 years" and its new government urgently needs EU assistance to help it build "strong state institutions", Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told MEPs on the Development and Foreign Affairs committees on Thursday. EU humanitarian aid "helped to save millions of lives" in Somalia but a new approach is now needed to consolidate the Somali state, he said.
"Somalia is in the same situation as Europe was in 1945," Mr Mohamud said, "with extremism, terrorism and piracy" on top. For the past two decades it has lacked a functioning state, with the result that only 25% of children go to school. This has made it only too easy to recruit the young for criminal activities, he underlined.
"We must give hopes to these boys," Mr Mohamud said, outlining the government's plans to provide basic services such as education, water supply and police in all 18 Somali regions. "National reconciliation and social development must continue to take priority," agreed Jose Ignacio Salafranca (EPP, ES).
"The amount of ransoms demanded by pirates has grown more than sevenfold since 2007," said Nirj Deva (ECR, UK). He singled out failure to prosecute captured pirates as one of the major flaws in efforts to stop the piracy "industry."
President Mohamud replied "piracy is declining," thanks to the EU naval forces engaged in the EU-NAVFOR ATALANTA operation. He also said that the Somali authorities were mobilising community elders and civil society to negotiate with pirates and asked for further EU assistance to reform the judiciary.
Human rights and women's rights: test case for the new government
MEPs praised the successes of Mr Mohamud's government, but emphasized that its international credibility depends on how effectively it protects human rights. "The case of journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim is a test case," said Ana Gomes (S&D, PT). Mr Ibrahim was arrested for interviewing a woman who said she was raped by government security forces.
"A newly-elected President needs to reassure his citizens, and especially women, that they are safe in the streets," added Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL). MEPs also inquired about investigations of killings of journalists in the country.
"We have zero tolerance of the killing of innocent people, rape of innocent women and corruption," replied President Mohamud, adding that a special task force had been set up to look into the killing of journalists and the special security forces charged with committing rape.
Building good neighbourly relations
"The Somali state is no threat to anyone," President Mohamud replied to the many MEPs asking about Somalia's relations with its neighbours. In the region "70% of budget goes to the military and only 2% to delivering services. We want to reverse that," he stressed. A new joint cooperation commission with Ethiopia, which is to deal with security, trade, cultural and educational exchanges, would meet in Mogadishu soon, he added.
The European Parliament adopted on 15 January a non-binding resolution on the Horn of Africa, drafted by Charles Tannock (ECR, UK), in which it called on international donors not to concentrate aid on Mogadishu's federal institutions at the expense of the country's regions. MEPs also said that long-term stability in the Horn of Africa can only be built on strong and accountable democratic institutions.
In the chair: Elmar Brok (EPP, DE)