East African heads of state have jointly agreed that the EAC members who have not signed the European Union-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) should not do so pending clarification of contentious issues that have been highlighted in the agreement.
In a joint communique of the EAC Heads of Summit in Dar es Salaam last weekend, the presidents said the new chair Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been mandated to reach out to the EU within one month to communicate the EAC's decision.
If an acceptable solution is not reached with the EU within the next six months, the chairperson, working with the Council of Ministers, is expected to explore the use of variable geometry in the implementation of the EPA by EAC member states.
"I have been mandated to harmonise the vision of the EPA within the EAC," said President Museveni while addressing the Summit.
He added that an agreement will only be reached with all members of the EAC on board, and not a few countries. He said there is no way the EAC can move forward until the issue of sanctions against Burundi, is resolved.
Only Kenya and Rwanda have signed the EPA agreement while Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda are yet to sign. The summit also agreed that the EU sanctions on Burundi should be discussed alongside the EPA discussions.
"Burundi is a member of the EAC. How can they sign the EPA with the European Union when they are still under sanctions," said President Museveni, adding that the EU should negotiate the trade deal with EAC and not with single member states.
The EAC heads of state also declared the Community a common higher education area in order to harmonise and enhance the quality of education in the region. The heads of state directed the council to operationalise the transformation.
The move will enable partner states to recognise academic certificates from universities and higher learning institutions in the region, and students will be able to transfer credits.
The leaders noted with concern the decline in intra-EAC trade and directed the Council of Ministers to resolve the outstanding non-tariff barriers and give a report to the 19th summit.
The presidents looked at a report on the roadmap for the accelerated integration of South Sudan into the EAC and noted the steady progress for the integration of the country into the community. They also looked at a verification report on the admission of Somalia into the EAC and directed the Council to follow up on the matter and report to the 19th summit.
The presidents assented to the EAC Customs Management (Amendment) Bill 2016, the EAC Supplementary Apropriation Bill 2016, and the EAC Appropriation Bill 2016.