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Relations between the EU and Burundi are currently governed by the Cotonou Agreement, the aim of which is to build a global partnership. Article 8 of this agreement requires regular political dialogue.
The EU delegation, along with the EU countries, therefore maintains a political dialogue with the Burundian authorities on issues of mutual interest.
These discussions focus mainly on supporting the crisis recovery process, consolidating peace, strengthening democracy and combating poverty.
Since the end of 2014, the dialogue between the EU and Burundi has intensified in accordance with the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement.
However, in 2016 the EU decided that the government of Burundi was no longer adhering to the basic principles of the partnership as defined in the agreement, and a Council Decision of 14 March 2016, under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement, suspended direct financial support to the Burundian administration (including budget support), although support for the public, regional aid and humanitarian aid were maintained.
In both 2010 and 2015, the EU deployed an election observation mission (the 2015 mission was withdrawn partway through the process).
Burundi's economy is dominated by the agricultural sector (coffee, tea, cotton, livestock). It is therefore highly vulnerable to shocks related to weather conditions and, for exports, to price changes. Agriculture represents approximately half of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), and most of the population earns its living from subsistence farming.
GDP growth is weak. The factors that are holding up economic development and any significant increase in per capita income are:
A large proportion of the EU's contribution was intended for macro-economic support. For about ten years, the EU had been supporting the government of Burundi in its peacekeeping efforts and its work to stabilise public finances, rebuild government and public services, improve economic governance and implement sectoral policies. Between 2004 and 2015, around EUR 196 million was provided in budget support.
Since the appropriate measures were adopted under Article 96, the EU has been providing support as directly as possible to the people of Burundi through projects including a EUR 40 million health support programme that provides direct funding for healthcare and EUR 15 million in support for nutrition and fertiliser subsidies.
Burundi's foreign trade is structurally loss-making and the coverage of imports by export income is still very low (around 20 %). The main exports to the EU are coffee, tea, cotton and ores.
In 2015, imports from the EU represented EUR 110 million—25 % of total imports—compared with only EUR 25 million of exports to the region (mainly coffee), which was equivalent to 28 % of total exports.
The trade deficit is mainly a result of the lack of diversification in exports, which are dominated by basic products with little added value that are extremely vulnerable to price changes.
As a Least Developed Country (LDC), Burundi has preferential access to the EU market, in accordance with the "Everything but Arms" (EBA) rule. An Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and the East African Community (EAC), of which Burundi is a member, is due to be signed soon.
The EU is Burundi's principal development partner. For the period 2014–2020 (11th European Development Fund [EDF]), it was planned that EU aid would focus on the following areas:
As a result of the decision made under Article 96, EU aid is being used exclusively to support the people of Burundi directly.
The EU is also funding more social projects in various areas, such as: