Ethiopia and EU agree on monitoring elections

April 13, 2010

AFP, ADDIS ABEBA — Ethiopian authorities and the European Union signed accords Tuesday allowing EU observers to monitor May’s general elections in the Horn of Africa country, officials said.

“The decision to send a full-fledged observation team was taken last week by (EU foreign affairs chief) Baroness Ashton,” the EU representative in Ethiopia, Dino Sinigallia, said during a signing ceremony with the electoral commission.

“The mission will be composed of approximately 200 persons,” Sinigallia added, and will have a budget of 7.2 million euros (9.8 million dollars). “A request was sent by the Ethiopian government on October 8, 2009.”

The Dutch head of the EU mission is due to arrive in Ethiopia on Wednesday. Thijs Berman, a member of the European Socialist Party in the European Parliament, has already headed a team to monitor elections, in Afghanistan in 2009.

“The elections in Ethiopia will be observed by international standards,” another European diplomat told AFP Tuesday.

The general elections are planned on May 23.

The polls will be the first at national level since the vote of 2005 saw the opposition to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi win the highest scores on record.

But that election was followed by bloodshed. Some 200 people were killed in clashes triggered by opposition claims of fraud.

The European Union, particularly mission chief Anna Gomez, then denounced irregularities in the polls, leading to high tension with the Ethiopian authorities