Garowe ‚Äî A high-level European Union delegation visited Puntland region in northern Somalia on Thursday, as the EU prepares to host the Brussels conference for Somalia in September, Garowe Online reports.
The 10-member EU delegation included Mr. Nick Westcott, EU Managing Director for Africa, Mr. Marcus Cornaro, Deputy Director for Development Cooperation of the European Commission, Amb. Michele Cervone, the EU’s Special Envoy to Somalia, and Amb. Etienne de Poncins, Head of Mission for EUCAP Nestor maritime security initiative.
Puntland Cabinet ministers received the EU delegation at Garowe airport, and the delegation was escorted to the State House, where they met with Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole and Vice President Gen. Abdisamad Ali Shire.
After meetings at the State House, the EU delegation had meetings with the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission, the registered political associations, and civil society representatives.
Prior to arriving in Puntland capital of Garowe on Thursday, the EU delegation visited Mogadishu where they met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and Hargeisa where they met with Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo.
Puntland participation at New Deal conference
President Farole thanked the EU visiting delegation for coming to Puntland for consultations ahead of the New Deal conference in Brussels.
“We are pleased to receive this high-level EU delegation here in Puntland. We discussed a number of important issues for Puntland and Somalia, including the upcoming New Deal conference for reconstruction and development of Somalia,” said President Farole.
The president said Puntland government plans to submit its priorities, to be incorporated into the New Deal conference agenda.
“Puntland is completing its Second Five-Year Development Plan and we have shared a briefing paper with the [EU] delegation. The Development Plan includes Five Priority Sectors and Eight Cross-Cutting Issues, including HIV/AIDS and the effects of khat drug,” said President Farole, adding that “security is the priority of priorities” for Puntland.
On Puntland’s participation, President Farole said: “Puntland is ready to attend the conference with its own name and status. Media reports said [Somali] President Hassan Sheikh [Mohamud] said the Federal Government, Puntland, and Somaliland will attend the conference. But Puntland can only attend when its weight is recognized.”
President Farole noted that Puntland were historically neglected in terms of economic development, adding that “families who resided in southern Somalia for centuries returned and rebuilt Puntland and hosted hundred of thousands of fellow Somalis from southern Somalia who found safe refuge and shared with the host community meager resources in Puntland”.
“We hope that the Federal Government recognizes and fulfills its national responsibilities,” President Farole added.
‘EU to expand cooperation with Puntland’
Speaking for the EU delegation, Mr. Nick Westcott, the EU Managing Director for Africa, thanked the Puntland government and leadership for receiving the EU delegation in Garowe.
“We discussed the state of European Union partnership with Puntland on the development programs that are underway. We are pleased with the progress that has been made and the scale of those programs,” said Mr. Westcott.
“Secondly, we looked at expanding our cooperation in the security area, particularly maritime security and begin a discussion of deeper cooperation, given the importance of Puntland in the fight against piracy throughout the Somali region and the seas adjacent,” Mr. Westcott added.
Speaking about the Brussels Conference to be held on Sept. 16, Mr. Westcott said: “We discussed ways in which Puntland’s priorities can be embedded in the New Deal Compact. We look forward to Puntland’s participation as part of the Somali delegation.”
On Puntland’s democratization process, Mr. Westcott said: “We discussed the democratization process that will continue. We recognize your [Puntland] pledge that the democratization process will continue and we indicated our willingness to continue supporting an inclusive and transparent political process that will lead in due course to full democratization here in Puntland. Thank you again for your hospitality and time and we look forward to maintaining a lively and continuing partnership with Puntland in the future.”
Puntland was founded in 1998 as an autonomous state in a federal Somalia. The region has been relatively stable and has contributed to helping rebuilding the Somali nation-state after the state collapse of 1991.