EXCLUSIVE Interview with EU Envoy to Somalia Michele Cervone D’Urso

Miche dursoGoobjoog News has conducted exclusive interview with European Union Special Envoy to Somalia Michele Cervone D’Urso on a wide range of issues, from humanitarian aid, to stabilization efforts.

1. What is your overview of the state of the nation in Somalia?

Somalia is on the move and the Somali people are fighting to believe that is progressing, Somalia is changing. We have seen huge changes in the past few years. We finally have due process, the political process in moving forward.

Challenges are there. It is not easy both at central and regional level however the overall trajectory is still positive although we still have fragile centre and fragile region; institutions have been established and hopefully we’re all thinking on a new political participation in 2016. Th picture is positive but the challenges remain security wise the government has to be able to take hold of the territory. But Al-Shabaab is far from defeat

It is upon all of us, the Somali forces, AMISOM, international partners. We must develop a strategy to try to reduce the control of Al-Shabaab in the rural areas and enhance the control of the government and regional authorities.

The final challenge which I think we are trying to address is delivery. The government is party to make difference to unite the people. There is delivery; finally we see government schools, clinics. More and more has to be done and efforts need to be stepped up all through south and central Somalia.

2.The joint Famine Early Warning Systems Network/FAO report notes that over 730,000 people are at a risk of starvation in Somalia unless urgent measures are put in place to avert the crisis. Is there any deliberate action by the EU to address this perennial challenge?

Food security and famine has indeed been a structural problem in Somalia. We have quite a comprehensive plan channelled through both our development and humanitarian aid programmes. In terms of humanitarian aid, this year we are setting up our systems to be in the villages; to help farmers to be able to respond to shocks. We are also focusing much more in emergency preparedness and response.

We also have our human arm European Commission’s Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection ECHO which is doing well in these areas. Echo is focused primarily in food assistance both in terms of cash and food vouchers. Although humanitarian effort is not enough.

Somali farmers are the best anywhere; we have to give those fishing rods, the tools they need so that they can be able to produce for their own and we are focusing so much on that. In terms of overall, over 50 million Euros was donated for food security and resilience it will make change the lives Somali people.

Somalia hasn’t been able to export to the EU market but we believe with the review of the Cotonou Agreement, Somali farmers can be able to export to the EU market.

3. Many donor countries, key among them the EU block pledged over $2.4 billion in the 2013 Brussels Conference 2013 for Somalia but concerns have been raised, including by Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud early last year that many donors were yet to honour their pledge. How far has the EU gone on this and in support of which sectors?

But I think the most important thing is not the pledges or even the contract signed but it is about what different are we making among the Somali people. In the Brussels conference it was about the process, giving effect to the New Deal Instruments, construction of state.

Two areas:

  1. Basic survival functions of the state= civil service, security, the police
  2. Support to troubled areas in southern Somalia stabilization
  1. Somalia is set for universal elections in 2016 but observers locally and internationally have cast doubt on the viability of such a huge task given the situation in the country from security to capacity of institutions to manage the process. What is the EU’s projection on this historical event?

Its history in the making in Somalia and the Brussels conference set out timelines clearly for this. No more talks of extension. This is an opportunity for the people of Somalia to participate in the choice of the leaders. Time is however very short. We’ve got only about 17 months because the elections in September 2016. It is very important to set up the independent electoral commission, commissioners are nominated. We are in support in providing resources, technical support. We should not be naïve about the security situation. There have been elections in fragile states; we have to learn from such experiences. We must make sure the largest possible numbers of the Somali people are given the opportunity to choose their leaders

4. Are there any plans, technical or financial by the EU to support the elections in 2016?

Financial Support is the top priority; we are going to technical and financial support in the range of tens of millions of Euros to support the electoral process.

5. Is there any role the EU plays/will in the development of a competent security force in Somalia?

We offer Military and Police Support, We train the Somali National Army, We also base focus upon the Coast Guard and help the Somali government in setting up a coast guard

We support the government to develop capacity to tackle terrorism and clan clashes

6. The Somali government has made significant strides in the federalization process in the country but not without challenges. Does the EU play a part in facilitating the process?

We provide technical and political support, we support of regional entities as they form the basic structures of the state such as the regional assemblies and state governments.

The center should not too quick and the periphery should not go too quick; they should move hand in hand

The challenges are enormous; the center is still developing and sometimes it takes time to for the top to move to the bottom and the bottom to up.

We have to build a sense of trust while keeping to the global objectives to achieve a effective federal system in Somalia.


7. The termination of remittance money services by the American Bank, Merchants Bank of California has and is expected to pose adverse effects on the lives of millions of Somalis including concerns that some dependents might be vulnerable to terrorism. Is the EU involved in any way to negotiate with the American government to reverse the decision?

Despite the closure of the remittance services from the UK last year, the remittance rate has not gone down significantly as anticipated.

Our challenge therefore is to support the process to regularize money transfer services

We are working closely with the UK government, the IMF and the World Bank to try and see what is the most effective way to send money to Somalia; to license money transfer money transfer operators.

Goobjoog News

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