EU threatens Meles Zenawi over Diplomats’ expulsion

October 22nd, 2006 Print Print Email Email

BRUSSELS: Sun Oct 22,(Reuters) – European Commission aid chief Louis Michel told Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Saturday the expulsion of two EU officials from the Horn of African nation endangered EU-Ethiopian relations. “He expressed the strongest regrets of the EC about the way in which the two officials were treated, which appears to have broken the rules governing their diplomatic rights, privileges and immunities,” Michel’s spokesman said in a statement.

“Commissioner Michel went on stressing that this incident is bound to damage the relationship between the EU and Ethiopia and will and cannot remain without consequences,” Amadeu Altafaj added.
Ethiopia asked two European Union officials to leave the country on Friday, saying the pair had been caught “red handed” trying to smuggle two wanted Ethiopians out of the country in their car.
An Immigration Authority statement said the Italian and the Swede, both staff with the European Commission in Addis Ababa, were stopped at the Moyale border post with Kenya, about 785 km (490 miles) south of the capital.
“Since their action violated diplomatic status and the legal norms of the country, the two diplomats have been asked to leave the country,” the Ethiopian immigration statement said.
It did not name the officials or specify the crimes the Ethiopians were suspected of committing. The two Ethiopian suspects were in custody, it added.
Altafaj said the Commission has had no confirmation that an arrest warrant has been issued for one of the two Ethiopians being detained, local EC staffer Yalemzewd Bekele.
“Louis Michel urged the Ethiopian authorities to ensure that all the rights of Yalemzewd Bekele are fully respected,” he said.
Michel and Meles agreed to talk again on Monday.
Ethiopia receives the lion’s share of European development aid to sub-Saharan Africa, amounting to 2.2 billion euro between 1975-2006.
The EU halted direct budgetary aid to Ethiopia after scores of people were killed in post-election violence last year.

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