EU calls on Ethiopia to accept ruling on Eritrea boundary

The European Union has called on Ethiopia to accept the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) ruling made 15 years ago delimiting the border between the two countries.

Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, announced the EU position in a declaration on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the boundary commission ruling, which controversially awarded the town of Badme to Eritrea rather than Ethiopia.

Between 1998 and 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia waged a bitter war, which began in the rural town of Badme. Although the practical and strategic significance of the town is minimal, it is symbolically important as much blood was spilt over the town.

The EEBC boundary commission was set up by the Algiers peace agreement of 2000. It consisted of two commissioners each appointed by Eritrea and Ethiopia and a fifth commissioner, serving as the president of the commission, selected by the other commissioners. The EEBC presented its ruling on April 13th, 2002, at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, giving some disputed areas to Ethiopia and others to Eritrea.

While Eritrea accepted the EEBC’s ruling in its entirety, Ethiopia accepted the decision only “in principle” while demanding that the demarcation process be conducted “according to international norms” and also after a negotiation to resolve outstanding issues and to normalize relations. Only then would Ethiopia be willing to permit the handover of Badme and other border areas to Eritrea.

Eritrea, on the other hand, says the EEBC ruling was meant to be “final and binding” and wants Badme handed over before and not after talks on normalization of relations.

Mogherini is urging both sides to accept the decision of the boundary commission, which has lingered without implementation for 15 years. “The EU is convinced that the parties have all to gain from a full implementation of the provisions of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s decision,” she says.

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“In this regard, the EU encourages all concrete steps that could lead to finally demarcating the border in accordance with the EEBC decision and to move to a phase of building constructive and peaceful relations.”

The European Union, which witnessed the Algiers deal, is willing to consider paying for the boundary demarcation process and for any other measures that could improve Eritrean-Ethiopian relations.

According to Mogherini’s statement, the EU is concerned that the present stalemate puts regional stability at risk, with negative consequences on international trade and economic development.

In the meantime, Ethiopia’s government has claimed consistently that Eritrea has continued to breach the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and other elements of the Algiers Agreement by engaging in a range of activities to destabilize Ethiopia. Poor relations between the two countries continue to be a significant factor in regional geopolitics in East Africa and the Horn of Africa.