Sudan is the country with the third largest territory and the ninth largest population in Africa. Just like Europe, Sudan is united in diversity of languages, religions, cultures and ethnic groups.
A New Page in Relations
By the beginning of 1999, EU-Sudanese relations had transformed into a new stage of engagement and gradual normalization of relations began due to three main reasons.
Firstly, the Sudan experienced a period of political change in the 1990s. The Government of Sudan realized that the civil war had exhausted the country and began peace talks with Sudan's People Liberation Movement (SPLM). Secondly, the Sudanese government had undergone political and constitutional developments which led to the holding of elections, the adoption of a multiparty democracy. All these factors led Sudan to review its foreign policy with the aim of striking a balance between continuity on the one hand and adapting to volatile international circumstances on the other, which was spelled out in the first Interim Constitution of 1998.
Most importantly, Sudan reviewed and improved its regional stands by normalizing its relations with Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Chad and Eritrea, thereby enhancing the prospect of stability and cooperation in the region of North and the Horn of Africa. In parallel, Sudan has shown considerable will to cooperate with the international community in global concerns like international crime, terrorism and illegal trafficking. This new shift in the foreign relations of the Sudan particularly with neighboring countries and a number of European and Asian countries has led to renewed contacts with the EU.
In parallel, the exploration of oil and economic prospects in agriculture and mining caused Sudan to move away from isolation. Sudan is now seen as a troubled nation that requires a new approach and cooperation rather than isolation.
As a result, the EU began in 1999 to take a more pro-active, integrated approach, combining dialogue and leverage, in order to create conditions for improved stability and peace.
As of November 1999, the EU and the Sudan have been engaged in formal political dialogue aimed at addressing concerns about human rights, the peace process with the South, rule of law, and democratisation. Moreover, the dialogue was followed by parallel discussions in March 2002 and 2003 with the South Sudanese 'SPLM as a means for the EU to address concerns of the civil war, human rights and humanitarian relief with the SPLM also present.
The key aim of the Sudanese-EU dialogue is to take advantage of mutual understanding in order to positively contribute to positive relations and development of Sudan. Such efforts are based on understanding the needs of the Sudanese government to assist the people of Sudan in achieving these aspirations. This makes trust building a key rationale of EU-Sudan engagement.
The European Union support to Peace in Sudan
The European Union sent a sizeable observation mission to monitor the general elections in 2010 and the South Sudan referendum in 2011. The two democratic processes were a major pillar of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The European Union was a witness to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM). In 2005, the agreement brought an end to the long civil war between North and South Sudan. Since then the EU objective has been to assist both parties to achieve and maintain peace dividends by fully applying the CPA. The implementation of the CPA has become the main political objective dominating EU-Sudanese relations after 2005.
Today, the European Union encourages both Sudan and South Sudan to maintain good neigbourly relations and enhance regional cooperation.
The European Union support to Darfur
The United Nations have described Sudan's western region of Darfur as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The crisis was the result of a conflict that broke out in 2003 when rebels in Darfur took up arms, accusing the government of neglecting the region. The Government responded with a counter-insurgency campaign which prolonged the conflict. The violence in the region resulted in thousands of casualties, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, and negatively affected the neighbors of Sudan.
A combined United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) was deployed in 2008 to help restoring peace and stability to the troubled region, which is the size of France. Since the conflict started in Darfur, the EU has played an important role in supporting the peace and stability in Darfur. The European Union:
- Issued a number of statements and resolutions calling for the restoration of peace, justice, reconciliation and stability in the region.
- Supplied the biggest humanitarian operation to Darfur and Chad to support internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees and people affected by the war. The projects are implemented by the United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other international organisations.
- Provided financial, personnel, logistical and technical support to the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to help stabilizing the situation in Darfur since December 2007.
- Provided political and technical support to the Abuja and Doha talks' peace process as well as the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP).
- Provided development aid to safe and secure areas in Darfur to ensure long term assistance and strengthen the dividends for peace.
- Continued to coordinate with local, regional and international partners and forums the implementation of peace, justice and human rights in Darfur.
The European Union support to National Dialogue and Reconciliation in Sudan
The Presidency of Sudan initiated a National Dialogue process on 27 January 2014. The European Union sees the process as the best opportunity to make progress towards internal peace, reconciliation and democratic governance.
The Ambassadors of the European Union met with all the political actors inside Sudan to understand their position on the national dialogue. On 20 October 2014, the European Council of Foreign Affairs issued conclusions on the process.
The EU considered that for the Sudanese National Dialogue to succeed and to achieve legitimate results, it should be:
- inclusive: Space should be given for a meaningful participation of the opposition parties and armed movements as well as civil society, including women's, groups. The dialogue should include stakeholders from all of Sudan's regions and reflect the full ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of Sudan;
- comprehensive: To address Sudan’s internal conflicts, issues such as socio-economic marginalization, unequal distribution of resources, political exclusion and lack of access to public services need to be tackled. The dialogue should provide mechanisms for the way forward for peace and development in all regions in conflict. It should provide for a platform on which to discuss issues of national importance, including identity and social equality, agree new and inclusive governance arrangements, a definitive constitution and a roadmap for the holding of national elections;
- held in a conducive environment: The freedoms of expression, of media, of association and assembly must be guaranteed. Political prisoners must be released, and practices of arbitrary detention - like those across the anniversary of the September 2013 protests - stopped;
- accompanied by confidence-building measures: These should include, first and foremost an immediate, sustained and verifiable cessation of hostilities and free and unhindered humanitarian access to all civilians in the conflict areas. This is of relevance both to the Government of Sudan and to the armed movements;
- transparent about the process, the objectives, the timeframe and the way forward, so that the Sudanese people at large can own the process and accept its outcomes.
The EU confirmed its support the National Dialogue process as set out above and encouraged all stakeholders inside and outside Sudan to join efforts towards such a process.
The EU made it clear that Sudan stands at an important crossroad. A genuine National Dialogue would help enhance confidence between Sudan and international partners such as the EU. It would also create a peaceful environment in which tangible and sustained progress in addressing Sudan's main political and economic challenges, needed to secure debt relief under the HIPC process, could be achieved.
The EU continues to call on the Government of Sudan, the opposition and the armed movements to rise to the occasion and demonstrate the leadership necessary to put Sudan on a path to peace, prosperity and justice.
The Relations Today
Today, supporting the fragile political scene in the Sudan is critical. The referendum conducted in 2011 to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement resulted in Southern Sudan choosing independence from the North. On July 9th, 2011 South Sudan became an independent country. Consequently a new political map was created.
The EU supports a holistic approach to Sudan's multiple challenges and the need to tackle comprehensively the political, economic and social causes of persisting conflict. This is why, the EU – Sudanese relations in the coming phase will include:
- Continued support for comprehensive, inclusive and transparent forums to achieve peace in all regions of Sudan. The National Dialogue is a desirable format of such a forum, if accompanied by confidence building measures and an environment that is conducive to dialogue. This includes the release of political prisoners, guarantee of human rights, an end to conflicts and humanitarian access to crisis regions.
- Continued provision of technical and development cooperation and support in the areas of human rights, civil society, good governance, rule of law, conflict resolution, health, education, environment, rural development, infrastructure, and food security.
- Continue to identify new areas of cooperation between Sudan and the European Union like irregular migration and climate change. The opening of new windows for cooperation will open way to building trust and interests which will reflect positively on other areas of cooperation like peace, human rights and democracy.
- Continued provision of humanitarian assistance to the conflict zones in Sudan while changing the focus from humanitarian aid to sustainable development when the security situation allows and travel access is granted.
- Uninterrupted support for regional initiatives by Sudan’s neighboring countries to prevent conflict, fight human trafficking and other trans-regional crimes.