Federal Council explores feasibility of limited expansion of cooperation with Eritrea

Press release, 02.11.2016

According to a report adopted by the Federal Council during its session on 2 November 2016, ten years after Switzerland discontinued international aid to Eritrea, Switzerland will explore, through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the possibility of relaunching development programmes in this country. What is envisaged at this early stage is not to reopen a cooperation office in Eritrea but the possibility of carrying out pilot projects with a limited budget (CHF 2 million per year) aimed at improving prospects for young people in the country itself through job creation and vocational education and training measures.

© Keystone

Through this new commitment by the SDC, which is targeted and limited in scope, Switzerland is taking a step to encourage the launch of a genuine process to ascertain the readiness of the Eritrean government to establish a partnership with Switzerland, based on genuine dialogue, aimed in particular at improving the human rights situation in Eritrea. For the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs this will also be an opportunity to test Eritrea's willingness to establish transparent and effective operational conditions that could pave the way for a larger development programme.

The Federal Council's strategy towards Eritrea is based, first and foremost, on offering that country a balanced partnership. The Federal Council wants not only to maintain a dialogue but to give fresh impetus to this dialogue in order to bring about positive change on a gradual, step-by-step basis. Concrete efforts are required from both sides: Switzerland can contribute to Eritrea's development through targeted projects, and Eritrea can contribute by improving its human rights record and its approach to migration issues and economic development.

Switzerland is continuously monitoring the situation in Eritrea and continually re-evaluating its asylum and removal practices, adapting them accordingly. In May 2015, the State Secretariat for Migration produced a reference report on Eritrea and published an updated edition of it after a mission to Eritrea in June 2016. Exchanges with the Eritrean authorities are under way, and Swiss government representatives regularly travel to Eritrea. Switzerland is also working to ensure respect for human rights via the instruments of the Human Rights Council. It is currently exploring the possibility of working in Eritrea in collaboration with the UN. In order to increase the chances that this process will succeed, it is important that international efforts in Eritrea be coordinated as much as possible. For this reason, the Federal Council has been in contact with various stakeholders to ensure concerted action with European countries that have a common vision and shared interests with Switzerland with respect to Eritrea.

The report approved by the Federal Council was drawn up in response to Postulate 15.3954 by National Councillor Gerhard Pfister.

Report (de)(pdf, 236kb)

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