Why the EU has a stake in the stability of the Horn of Africa

Yesterday, I met the EU Special Representative for to Horn of Africa, Alexander Rondos. We had a long discussion about the challenges facing a region where 60% of the population is younger than 25 years old. This region of 250 million inhabitants hosts 10 million internally displaced persons and 4.6 million refugees. It is home to Ethiopia, the fastest-growing economy in the world during the last ten years.


What we have today and for the period ahead is a collision between fundamental change in the Horn as a new young generation takes over politics and an equally fundamental change in the external environment of the region where we see a proliferation of new actors influencing the politics, security and economy of the region. The months ahead will be marked by a series of elections, the consolidation of fragile transitions and growing – and sometimes competing - foreign interference. 

Elections will take place in Ethiopia and Somalia. They will represent important tests for both countries. Somalia is a country where the EU has invested enormously, in terms of state building and development. But also in terms of security: we have 3 CSDP missions on the ground. More than 22,000 military and law enforcement personnel from Africa are participating in AMISOM (the African Union Mission in Somalia) which the EU has been supporting since its creation with almost €2 billion.

In Sudan, the transition to civilian control is not guaranteed. Preserving the acquis of the peaceful revolution of last year should remain at the top of our agenda. In South Sudan, the stalemate continues to threaten a fragile peace agreement which hasn’t yet delivered what people of South Sudan expect and what their leaders committed to do. Last but not least, the politics of the countries around the Red Sea requires constant attention. 

In such a context, I am convinced the EU needs to step up its engagement. Look at a map of Africa, and you will easily understand: the Horn of Africa is located between the Sahel and the Red Sea. It gives you an idea of the strategic theatre we are talking about. Any deterioration in one country will affect its neighbours and have huge ramifications across borders, including for us in Europe. This region is not far from Europe, whether we think about the risks or the opportunities.

I plan to visit the region at the beginning of March to get a better picture of the situation and the role the EU can play.

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