August 8 , 2020
By FASIKA TADESSE ( FORTUNE STAFF WRITER )
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has called all of its mission heads and ambassadors to foreign countries to return for a two-week consultation to discuss the country's 10-year strategic plan for foreign relations.
Beginning August 17, 2020, the consultation will be held inside the meeting hall adjacent to the Office of the Prime Minister.
Expected to be in place from 2020 to 2030, the foreign relations plan is one of the strategic documents drafted by the National Planning & Development Commission. During the past few weeks, the Commission has held 11 consecutive consultations on the plans that are designed for each sector.
The consultation will be attended by ambassadors and consulate generals from 66 missions and embassies across the six regions. Along with the ambassadors, the state ministers and all level director generals at the Ministry, as well as former ambassadors, will attend the meeting.
The consultation, which is expected to be chaired by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), is being held at a time when the standoff between Ethiopia and Egypt has grown tense in relation to the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Admitting the summer season is usually when diplomats are called for an annual seminar, Dina Mufti, the spokesperson at the Ministry, declined to confirm the agenda and the meeting itself.
During the seminars, the ambassadors from the six regions, namely neighbouring countries, Asia, Africa, the United States, the Middle East and Europe, will present annual reports along with their new year's plan, which is followed by discussions and group work. The meetings are concluded after mission heads and ambassadors are given focus areas and directions.
However, this year's annual meeting will focus on deliberating on the new foreign relations strategic plan that the country will follow in the coming decade.
A foreign policy expert who asked to remain anonymous said that it is very difficult to discuss a strategic plan without having a foreign policy or guidelines in place.
Last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had revised the foreign relations policy that replaced the previous two-decade-old document. The revised policy emphasises economic diplomacy and regional integration. It also revised some articles about Eritrea following the reconciliation of the two countries. It was planned to replace the former Foreign Affairs & National Security Policy & Strategy that was adopted in 2002.
The Policy, which excluded the National Security Policy part, was tabled to the Council of Ministers for approval, but it is not yet approved.
"It's also very difficult to design a foreign relations strategy without having a clear national policy that safeguards the country's security," the expert said. "The country needs ideological guidelines and principles."
During the meeting, the ambassadors should consider this issue, according to him.
Unlike previous years, the country is currently vulnerable since its diplomatic relationships between neighbouring countries are eroding, according to the expert, saying Ethiopia's diplomatic relationships with Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Djibouti have weakened over the last two years.
"Since the reconciliation with Eritrea wasn't institutionalised," said the expert, "it couldn't bring about a regionally integrated agenda."
The relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea should be normalised and should also be properly examined during the discussion and the strategic plan as well, according to him.
"What is highlighted in the document doesn't reflect what is on the ground," he said. "Ethiopia is losing its role as the region's powerhouse to other countries, and its relationships with neighbouring countries are weakening."
The 10-year strategic plan should address all the outstanding issues and faultlines, the expert recommended.
PUBLISHED ON Aug 08,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1058]
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