3 April 2011

East Africa: EAC Talks With Europe On Pact Stall Over Sida Funds

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations between the East African Community and the European Union are reported to have stalled, EAC sources said.This follows an objection by the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) to the use of funds mobilised by the secretariat from a development partner to facilitate the process.

The regional assembly, currently meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, is particularly objecting the use of funds from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) to finance the process. It argues that using a grant from Sida to finance the talks would not only compromise the negotiations to the partner states' detriment," but would as well prejudice and weaken any stronger stance the latter may adopt on the negotiations."

EAC council of ministers, the policy organ of the Community, deliberated on the stalled talks during its just-ended 23rd extra-ordinary meeting in the Rwanda capital. An EAC spokesperson affirmed that the two organs of the Community, the secretariat and Eala, its legislative arm, have differed on the funding of the talks which have dragged on for years.

"The negotiations stalled as a result of the objection by Eala members to the use of funds mobilised by the EAC secretariat from Sida to facilitate the process," a senior official affirmed. He added that the council has requested the regional MPs to reconsider their position on the Sida grant amounting to $ 3.48 million estimated to cover the process.

He said the EAC-EU EPA talks would remain stalled for the time being until Eala approved the expenditure of the grant for the purpose or until money is sourced from elsewhere. Eala has recommended to the council that the partner states should directly allocate funds to finance the process directly from their national budgets.

The $ 3.48m from Sida was initially meant to cater for, among others, supporting the EAC capacity building for defining trade negotiations through research and studies. The money was also intended to cover the costs of organising negotiation meetings and sessions, technical support to the EAC secretariat, sensitisation and public awareness of EPAs, project management, monitoring and evaluation.

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