- Authorities in Togo have met a European Union (EU) delegation in Lomé to convince them that the country's democratisation process is moving ahead. A positive EU conclusion would open for renewed financial aid. While the European delegation was not convinced, Togolese authorities demonstrate optimism regarding a resumption of ties.
The democracy evaluation talks began in Lomé last week. Togolese government tried to convince EU officials that the country has made progress in fulfilling "democratic commitments" defined by Brussels. The talks, which were held behind closed doors in a luxury hotel in Lomé, brought together several Togolese Ministers and four delegates from the European Commission.
While the European delegates came to no conclusions after the meeting, the Togolese government today issued a statement saying the "EU finds Togo well on road to democracy." The EU team said it would initiate another visit to Togo within soon.
- The Togolese government has begun to carry out its commitments, but it's too early to make a full assessment, EU mission spokeswoman Silvia Piergrossi said in Lomé. She stressed, however, that the team had been struck by the "goodwill of the Togolese government to put its undertakings into practice."
The EU team spent four days in Lomé talking to government ministers, leaders of political parties and those of the so-called "traditional opposition," ending the visit by meeting Togolese President Gnassingbé Eyadema on Saturday.
They also met religious leaders and held working sessions with representatives of human rights organisations. The signals given the EU team had been mixed. A second EU mission is due to go to Togo early in July, Ms Piergrossi announced.
On 14 April, Togo's Prime Minister Koffi Sama made a series of commitments in Brussels, on which the resumption of full EU cooperation depends. A few days later, Prime Minister Sama met the President of the European Council, Brian Cowen, in Dublin.
Minister Cowen had expressed concern at the current political situation in Togo, "particularly with regard to democratic principles, human rights and freedom of press." He emphasised the need for Togo to demonstrate improvements in these areas. Prime Minister Sama had assured Minister Cowen of Togo's commitment to implement the various measures, which would "lead the way to free and fair elections."
Togolese authorities have since announced that they have already carried out a few of the 22 engagements agreed upon in Brussels and Dublin, "including the revision of the electoral code and the opening of talks with the opposition, which has long boycotted the political process," the government said today. "These talks were officially opened by Eyadema on 27 May."
The opposition in Togo has however refused to take part in the government-led dialogue because several key opposition leaders are still banned from participating. "We want dialogue between the government and the opposition but the current conditions of unpreparedness and the exclusion of our leader do not allow us to take part in the dialogue," Jean-Pierre Fabre of the opposition UFC party told the press in Lomé last week.
The EU in 1993 cut off its development cooperation with Togo, when massive human rights violations ruined the process of bringing democracy to the country. The EU only maintained support for welfare, to avoid penalising the entire population. Togo has been ruled by General Eyadema since a military coup in 1967.
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