President Kenyatta witnessed the signing of a joint declaration on the Kenya-European Union strategic dialogue by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo and visiting EU foreign policy Chief Josep Borrell.
The declaration, signed at State House Nairobi, will guide bilateral Kenya-EU negotiations in three main areas; peace, security, and stability; sustainability, including implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s); and the economy, trade and development.
The Standard caught up with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell at the tail end of his official visit to Nairobi.
Kenya, an anchor state in the region is going into an election. What are the EU’s expectations or fears?
I have been following the electoral campaign and the people seem motivated, there is a strong participation in the rallies.
Democracy is presenting peoples alternative and people choosing among them and the more participation there will be, the better democracy will be functioning.
The European Union hopes the election will go on a very orderly way and we have been offering to the Kenyan government a possibility of sending an electoral observer mission with our best will though we haven’t gotten a concrete answer but time is running out.
We will very much like to help but at the disposal of the Kenyan government.
President Uhuru Kenyatta announced his willingness to tackle corruption during his first term in 2013. Are you satisfied on the fight against corruption?
On Friday I was visiting a Kenyan court in Nairobi and had an engagement with the Kenyan Chief Justice who is determined to fighting corruption, I know it is a problem in many countries and the Kenyan government is trying to fight it but the problem is not over. We participate with our funding and programmes to try and give advice on this important task.
Tell us more about the signing of a joint declaration between EU and Kenya to formally begin discussions on a strategic dialogue, that will focus on peace, security and stability.
We are looking forward to strengthening our relations with Kenya. Until now, only Ethiopia and South Africa had been considered as strategic partners and now it is time to come for Kenya and consider it as a strategic partner which means building stronger links on the fields of security, economic development and sustainability. Something particular about security, terrorism continues to be a threat everywhere and especially in the Horn of Africa — the nest of terror.
Kenya has a common border with Somalia and we know jihadists go up from the Sahel to the Indian Ocean especially the coastal part of Somalia.
It makes Kenya, a country that with whom we have to have strong links in fighting terrorism and exchanging intelligence.
On the economic side, in order to build a stronger relationship, we have increased by about 30 per cent the amount of our financial aid to Kenya.
During your joint presser with the Kenyan Foreign Minister, you said the EU will no longer be a donor but a trading partner with Kenya. How will this arrangement benefit Kenyans specifically without making them look dependent?
Kenya and other developing countries have been needing financial support, but we now want to engage on specific projects with specific results, providing leverage with the financial sector. The money that we put on the table creates an opportunity for the private sector.
We have been contributing to the financing of the infrastructures and we have to consider one thing, too much debt. Financing infrastructure requires debt and it has a limit, every country has a limit on their debt capacity and we have to be very careful not to push countries to assume level of debts that can be unsustainable.
European Council President Charles Michel during his visit to Kenya last year expressed the EU’s willingness to conclude trade talks between Europe and the East African Community. Any progress towards the implementation of the economic partnership agreement?
We are advancing on it. In 2014 we agreed to economically pact with the community and we were ready to sign but some member states of the EAC declined to sign and ratify the agreement so we had to stop the process and started thinking on bilateral agreement with Kenya which was very much keen of signing.
Since 2014, we have a new rule at the EU demanding a stronger commitment on climate change and environmental issues and sustainability. If president Kenyatta will be able to woo his regional counterparts to sign and ratify the agreement in his capacity as the EAC Chairperson, it will be the best thing but if he is unable, we will go on bilateral agreement with Kenya.