New EU Ambassador to Rwanda, Bellomo reveals agenda, optimism in Kagame AU leadership delivery

By John Mbaraga
On 3 February 2018 at 11:12

President Paul Kagame received, last month, letters of credence of ten envoys who were appointed to represent their respective countries in Rwanda. Among the ambassadors is Nicola Bellomo who will represent European Union (EU) with residence in Kigali.

Bellomo took over the docket replacing Michael Ryan who was representing the union in Rwanda in the last four years.

Speaking in an interview with the local TV Station, Flash TV, Bellomo discussed his agenda for strengthening EU partnership with Rwanda, expectations about President Paul Kagame as the Chairman of African Union and African migrants problem, among other topics. Below are the excerpts.

What was your first impression in Rwanda?

As you have mentioned, I’m the new EU Ambassador in the country and I have recently arrived in Rwanda. I was privileged to present my letters of credence to his excellence President Paul Kagame recently. I am new in the country but I would say that I am not new in the region and the continent, so I am very much aware of issues concerning this country.

I must say that I’m really impressed by the sense of purpose that I see in the country. When I look at ambitions and development strategies and the vision behind these development strategies, my initial feeling is that this is real shared vision and the implementation is something that is taken with a serious level.

I can also appreciate the order and the cleanliness in this town. It is something which is exciting to external visitor and this again I understand it is the commitment of all citizens in contributing to this state of the city.

What will be your focus in terms of relationship and partnership?

The nature of our relations is quite wide and of course we look at bilateral relations, but we look at regional and continental relations, this is quite relevant at this very moment.

I would like to congratulate again President Kagame on the changes in the African Union. I think that continental relations are on our agenda and we have a lot of expectations in the leadership of President Kagame in EU-AU relations.

When it comes to bilateral relations, as EU is contributing to ambitions and development objectives of the country, we are investing quite a lot in our partnership focused on agriculture and energy infrastructure, so we will continue of course to support this process and at the same time beyond our development systems, we also engage in politics of the country which is also the opportunity to address wide range of issues which is of course relevant to the country, but also relevant as the country and the EU and our member states are part of what we call the international community.

As member of the international community, we have from both sides taken some commitments in some international treaties and conventions and we are also open to this horizontal one way sort of dialogue, so, we are ready to engage in constructive and respectful way in order to address a number of issues in full respect of laws and responsibilities but again as responsible partners and members of international community.

What do you expect from President Paul Kagame during his chairmanship in African Union?

Well, this shared opinion of continental organization is a huge potential. We, as European Union, went a long way when it comes to regional integration and the creation of what we call European Inter market which involves the free movement of people, goods and services and we see the potential of regional and continental integration in Africa. So, of course in order to stir this process you need strong and credible institutions, now, there has been a lot of progress, efforts and investments including the AU.

In order to generate that kind of work engagement at the AU level, then President Kagame is being tasked to chair a special task force to look at possible institutional reform of the organization, we hope that he will be able to push forward and move forward and speed up the implementation and the agreement on this reform agenda which again will impact on the relations of African Union and develop the rest of the international community and with our case as EU.

As European Union, I am also personally experienced to this process, I’ve been recently involved in the Heads of State and Governments AU summit which is being an element to this partnership. I hope we will be able to deliver in the near future and also for Rwanda to take advantage of this continental partnership.

We know exactly the challenges, we don’t say is an easy process also considering the number of states in the African Union. We appreciate the complicity of this process and at the same time we are fully aware of the potential of this process, so our hope is, it will be the light and the African internally economic space, so we sincerely hope that this process will move forward.

Considering the bilateral relations of continent to continent, what do you think can be done to harness opportunities which are there to have a win-win partnership between AU and EU?

What we are really doing at this very moment is to move away from that old style ‘donor recipient logic’. You have mentioned win-win partnership and strong political partnership, so, this is what we are really aiming at the very moment and I think that all the conditions are there for this partnership to deliver interests of African citizens but also to the European citizens.

There are a number of opportunities in trade, security and stable Africa. This means something for Europe and stable Europe means something for Africa, there are endless opportunities for us to strengthen and develop this partnership.

Trade is the most visible one because is in some areas of the continent but hopefully this will develop also in this region, we are developing new generation of trade agreement that will allow not only facilitating the exports from African countries to the EU to have duty free access, but also to promote and facilitate the import from the European Union and the complementarity among what is exported, what is imported is likely to play a very big role to the development of the country.

In industrialisation, investors are likely to come here, these days they need to pay a lot of taxes, duties, but if we go ahead with this new generation of agreement it would be easier for investor to decide to invest in any African country because the cost of investment will be reduced because of this trade regime.

Is European Union feeling concerned with the issue of African migrants?

Yes, definitely. This issue is on top of our Agenda. We are looking at comprehensive solutions and the shared solutions. This being said I think that human impact on this phenomenon is costing a lot of life and this is unacceptable in these days; so we are doing our best to address the root cause of this migration issue by trying to promote investment, to create good conditions in the country of origins to avoid this situation.

We are also working on partnership with different countries and regions but also with the UN systems where we are developing a sort of triangular cooperation between AU, UN and EU to also address the traffic dimension, monitor and to sanction this whenever it’s needed.

Once again, our main objective beyond everything to saving the lives of people trying to go in different countries is to address the root causes, let’s not look at the fact that majority of migrants remains in Africa, they move from one country to another, there is internal displacement of people mainly for crisis.

So, we need to have a shared approach which is not EU to work on something or an African country or other development partners or other members of the international community. I strongly feel that this is something that need to be addressed together.

We cannot find solutions on our own; this requires collective and strong commitment of countries and political will of leaders in order to address this situation. I must say that we appreciate strong commitment of African leaders to address this issue and that Rwanda has announced that she will play a special role to this process and we are ready to explore any opportunity to support, to accompany and to advise into this process, but once again it is not a single state or a single entity that can address this issue.

EU Ambassador Nicola Bellomo