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Parliamentary questions
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20 March 2020
Answer given by Ms Urpilainen
on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-000132/2020

1. The sentence quoted in the New York Times article attributed to the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)(1) does not refer to the EU-funded project ‘Reconnecting Eritrea and Ethiopia through rehabilitation of the main arterial roads in Eritrea’. This Roads Project is implemented and monitored by UNOPS. The sentence referred to the overall Eritrean road construction programme which remains under the responsibility of the Eritrean government. UNOPS rectified this in an email sent to New York Times.

2. Programs funded under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) are implemented under legal standard requirements. They follow strict monitoring and evaluation procedures(2). Concerning the Roads Project, the EU and UNOPS monitor the project closely, including via a tripartite dialogue between the Red Sea Trading Corporation(3), the EU Delegation to Eritrea and UNOPS. The EU Delegation and UNOPS carry out regular field visits to inspect the materials delivered, get updated by the construction company on the implementation of the project, and discuss related issues of interest. The EU-funded project only finances the procurement and supply of material and equipment — the EU does not pay for labour. The EUTF team provided detailed information on the EU cooperation with Eritrea and monitoring measures in place to the Development Committee (DEVE) of the European Parliament, committing to provide advance information concerning future project proposals. On 14 February 2020, the EUTF also hosted an NGO(4) roundtable to discuss about Eritrea.

3. The EU has consistently deeply regretted the practice of the indefinite National Service (NS). The Government of Eritrea stated the necessity to reform the NS towards a modern civil service. The best way to increase chances of reforming it — and therefore addressing root causes of forced migration — is to engage with the Government on human rights issues. The past isolation policy did not work as neither political dialogue nor EU development cooperation moved forward. The EU continues to push the Eritrean authorities to reform the NS in line with the International Labour Organisation Convention C29(5) and C105(6). In parallel, development projects targeting decent job-creation and economic development are essential, as they will facilitate the ability of the Government to demobilise people from the NS and remove the main push factor for migration from Eritrea.

(1)‘The agency is not monitoring the implementation of the project’
(3)The Government Procurement agency in charge of procurement for infrastructure works
(4) Non-governmental Organisation
(5)‘Forced Labour Convention’
(6)‘Abolition of Forced Labour Convention’. It should be highlighted in this context that Eritrea has ratified in the meantime all eight fundamental ILO Conventions. The last one on the worst forms of child labour C182 will enter into force in Eritrea on 3 June 2020. This is in line with the zero tolerance policy of the European Commission towards child labour in trade policy and external action. The EU strongly supports ILO through EU funding to promote and enforce the International Labour Standards in partner developing countries .
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