Sudan & the EU

Dr. Jalal Al Digair, Assistant to the President of the Republic listens to the speech of Ambassador Tomas Ulicny, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Sudan speaking at the Nobel Peace Prize Reception hosted by the EU Delegation


Sudan is the country with the third largest area and the ninth biggest population in Africa. This has resulted in one of the most diverse populations in the African continent. Just like Europe, Sudan is united in diversity of languages, religions, cultures and ethnic groups.  
After Sudan's independence on January 1st 1956, the country underwent a long wave of political and security instability.  This led to three democratic regimes, three military coups and two popular uprisings.   As a result, protracted conflicts and peace, dictatorship and democracy, insecurity and stability have fluctuated throughout modern Sudanese history and have marked the nature of EU-Sudan engagement since 1977.

A New Page in Relations

Ali Ahmed Karti, Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomes the European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs during his visit to Khartoum in May 2010

By the beginning of 1999, EU-Sudanese relations had transformed into a new stage of engagement and gradual normalization of relations began due to three main reasons.

Firstly, the Sudan experienced a period of political change in the 1990s. The government of Sudan realized that the civil war had exhausted the country and began peace talks with Sudan's People Liberation Movement (SPLM). Secondly, the Sudanese government had undergone political and constitutional developments which led to the holding of elections, the adoption of a multiparty democracy and the National Assembly to pass an interim constitution of Sudan. All these factors led Sudan to review its foreign policy with the aim of striking a balance between continuity on the one hand and adapting to volatile international circumstances on the other, which was spelled out in the first interim constitution of 1998.

In parallel, the exploration of oil and economic prospects in agriculture, mining and tourism have caused Sudan to move away from isolation.

Most importantly, the Sudanese foreign policy reviewed and improved its regional relations by normalizing its affairs with Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Chad and Eritrea, thereby enhancing the prospect of stability and cooperation in the region of North and the Horn of Africa.  In parallel, Sudan has shown considerable will to cooperate with the international community in global concerns like international crime, terrorism and illegal trafficking. This new shift in the foreign relations of the Sudan particularly with neighboring countries and a number of European and Asian countries has led to renewed contacts with the EU.

European Union Ambassador Tomas Ulicny is received at the Republican Palace by H.E. Mr. Musa Mohamed Ahmed, Assistant to the President to discuss the visit of the European Ambassadors to East Sudan in November 2013

These developments in Sudan's regional, economic, political and peace talk climate have led to the intensification of contacts between the Sudan and the EU. Sudan is now seen as a troubled nation that requires a new approach and cooperation rather than isolation.

The EU tools to approach Sudan were, from the beginning, engaging in critical political dialogue with the government and continuing humanitarian aid. As a result, the EU began in 1999 to take a more pro-active, integrated approach, combining dialogue and leverage, in order to create conditions for improved stability and peace.

As of November 1999, the EU and the Sudan have been engaged in formal political dialogue aimed at addressing concerns about human rights, the peace process with the South, rule of law, and democratization. Moreover, the dialogue was followed by parallel discussions in March 2002 and 2003 with the SPLM as a means for the EU to address concerns of the civil war, human rights and humanitarian relief with the SPLM also present. The key aim of the Sudanese-EU dialogue is to take advantage of mutual understanding in order to positively contribute to the reconstruction of relations and development of Sudan. Such efforts are based on understanding the needs of the Sudanese government to assist the people of Sudan in achieving these aspirations. This makes trust building a key rationale of EU-Sudan engagement.

The European Union support to the CPA

The European Union sent a sizeable observation mission to monitor the general elections in 2010 and the referendum in 2011. The two democratic processes were a major pillar of the signed Comprehensive Peace Agreement

The European Union was a witness to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM). In 2005, the agreement brought an end to the long civil war between North and South Sudan. Since then the EU objective was to assist both parties to achieve and maintain peace dividends by fully applying the CPA. The implementation of the CPA has become the main political objective dominating EU-Sudanese relations after 2005. The EU has played an important role in the successful implementation of the agreement by:

1.    Continuing cooperation projects in both North and South Sudan.
2.    Continuing political dialogue and consultation with all the Sudanese parties to promote democratic transformation, good governance and respect for human rights.
3.    Providing technical assistance and consultation for CPA Partners to maintain peace in both South Sudan and Darfur.
4.    Appointing a special envoy known as the European Special Representative (EUSR) to follow up and facilitate the implementation of the peace agreements.
5.    Supporting United Nations Agencies and missions to implement projects and peacebuilding processes.
6.    Continuing the largest humanitarian aid effort to war affected areas.
7.    Supporting the 2010 election process in Sudan and the 2011 self-determination referendum of Southern Sudan.


The European Union support to Darfur

Darfuri Women sing in a camp for internally displaced to celebrate and welcome the European Union Heads of Missions in Sudan who came to Al Fasher in North Darfur in 2012 to visit the European funded humanitarian and peacebuilding projects implemented by the UN agencies

The United Nations have described Sudan's western region of Darfur region as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.  The crisis was the result of a conflict that broke out in 2003 when rebels in Darfur took up arms, accusing the government of neglecting the region. The government responded with a counter-insurgency campaign which prolonged the conflict.  The violence in the region resulted in thousands of casualties, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, and negatively affected the neighbors of Sudan.

A combined United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) was deployed in 2007 to help restoring peace and stability to the troubled region, which is the size of France.

H.E. Catherine Ashton, the former Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy speaks to H.E. Mr. Ali Ahmed Karti, Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs as H.E. Mr. Nhial Deng Nhial, South Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs at a meeting with International Cooperation

Since the conflict started in Darfur, the EU has played an important role in supporting the peace and stability in Darfur.  The European Union:
1.    Issued a number of statements and resolutions calling for the restoration of peace, justice, reconciliation and stability in the region.
2.    Supplied the biggest humanitarian operation to Darfur and Chad to support internally displaced people (IDPs) and people affected by the war.  The projects are implemented by the United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other international organizations.
3.    Provided financial, personnel, logistical and technical support to the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to help stabilizing the situation in Darfur since December 2007.
4.    Provided political and technical support to the Abuja and Doha talks' peace process as well as the African union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP).
5.    Provided development aid to safe and secure areas in Darfur to ensure long term assistance and strengthen the dividends for peace.
6.    Continued to coordinate with local, regional and international partners and forums the implementation of peace, justice and human rights in Darfur.

The European Union support to East Sudan

A woman in East Sudan inspects the harvest from a European union funded food security project in East Sudan

On 14 October 2006, the Eastern Front and the Sudanese government signed an Eritrean mediated deal known as the Asmara Agreement.  It brought an end to the military conflict in East Sudan.  The European Union continues to encourage all parties to fully implement the agreement and to give peace, stability and development in East Sudan a chance.  The European Union supports East Sudan through the following:
1.    Implementing development projects in the three states of East Sudan in the areas of food security, rural development, health and education.
2.    Continuing to engage with countries in the region regarding the importance of cooperation on issues of illegal migration, refugees, illegal trafficking and smuggling.
3.    Continuing to follow up with the signatories of the Asmara Agreement to persuade them to continue implementation of the agreement and uphold peace.

The Relations Today

At the European Parliament in 2007, the Human Rights Activist Salih Mahmoud Osman gets awarded with the Shakarov Prize

Today, supporting the fragile political scene in the Sudan is critical. The referendum conducted in 2011 to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement resulted in Southern Sudan choosing independence from the North. On July 9th South Sudan became an independent country.  Consequently a new political map was created. 75% of the verified oil reserves of the former Sudan remained in South Sudan.

There can be no military solution to the conflicts in Sudan but the fighting continues in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and the Blue Nile.  Peace building is needed to save East Sudan from a similar fate.  In the capital, the political forces initiated a call for the National Dialogue to move towards democracy, human rights and good governance. The EU supports a holistic approach to Sudan's multiple challenges and the need to tackle comprehensively the political, economic and social causes of persisting conflict. This is why, the EU – Sudanese relations in the coming phase will include:

The EU supports a holistic approach to Sudan's multiple challenges and the need to tackle comprehensively the political, economic and social causes of persisting conflict. This is why, the EU – Sudanese relations in the coming phase will include:
1.    Continued support for comprehensive, inclusive and transparent forums to achieve peace in all regions of Sudan. The National Dialogue is a desirable format of such a forum, if accompanied by confidence building measures and an environment that is conducive to dialogue. This includes the release of political prisoners, guarantee of human rights, an end to conflicts and humanitarian access to crisis regions.

2.    Continued provision of technical and development cooperation and support in the areas of human rights, civil society, good governance, rule of law, conflict resolution, health, education, environment, rural development, infrastructure, and food security.
3.    Continued provision of humanitarian assistance to the conflict zones in Sudan while changing the focus from humanitarian aid to sustainable development when the security situation allows. Access has to be granted.
4.    Uninterrupted support for regional initiatives by Sudan’s neighboring countries to prevent conflict, fight human trafficking and other trans regional crime as well as to improve border management.