Borrell – EU will be ‘trading partner not donor’ in new deal with Kenya

Planning a “strategic dialogue” between Brussels and the East African state, the bloc’s top diplomat said the EU would no longer be a “giver but a trading partner” with Kenya.

Josep Borrell plans to make the EU and Kenya as ‘strategic partners’ after a two-day visit to Kenya.

“We have a long standing relationship between the European Union and Kenya. But we are no longer the givers of development aid. We are a strategic partner,” Borrell said at a joint news conference with the Kenyan counterpart in Nairobi over the weekend.

“There is no doubt that peace and security in the region and around the world are at stake. And this requires that like-minded countries like the European Union and Kenya join forces to work together in many areas.”

Rachel Omamo, Kenya’s cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, and Borrell signed a joint declaration to formally begin discussions on a strategic dialogue, a guiding document that could turn relations into “common problems”.

The blueprint will cover peace and security in the region, fighting poverty through trade and investment, protecting the environment and fighting climate change, protecting democracy and the rule of law and human rights.

The description of a ‘strategic dialogue’ is similar to a ‘strategic partnership’, which the EU has said it wants to strike with the wider African continent at the EU-African Union summit in February. Borrell said that, for the time being, the EU will prioritize what it describes as ‘like-minded countries’.

The EU is under pressure to present a revised proposal for African states, particularly the likes of China which have financed a series of multi-billion euro infrastructure projects across the continent.

In a warning to China, Borrell said that “financing infrastructure requires credit and has a limit, every country has a limit to its lending capacity and we have to be very careful that we don’t allow countries to do so.” Don’t be tempted to assume debt levels that could be unsustainable.”

The move, less than three weeks before the summit, would pacify critics who expressed concern that European Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron had prioritized only francophone African states in preparation for the summit.

Kenya has been the EU’s main diplomatic partner in East Africa for many years, and the capital Nairobi has one of the bloc’s largest delegations to the continent.

Kenya is the only member of the Six-Nation East African Community to implement an economic partnership agreement with Brussels, with other members of the regional bloc complaining that the trade deal would undermine their hopes of domestic industrialization.

This puts Kenya facing presidential elections in August with South Africa and Ethiopia as a ‘strategic partner’ to replace retired Uhuru Kenyatta.

In an attempt to pick ‘winners’ in Africa, the European Union is taking a page out of former US President Donald Trump’s playbook. Kenya was one of the few African countries set by Trump for a bilateral trade deal, although talks have stalled under his successor, Joe Biden.

However, a two-day visit to Mozambique was canceled after one of the Borrell officials tested positive for COVID-19.

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