East African heads of state have jointly agreed that the EAC members that have not signed the European Union -EAC economic partnership agreement (EPA) will not do so pending clarification of outstanding issues.
In a joint communiques of the EAC Heads of Summit concluded in Dar es Salaam on Sunday, the presidents agreed that Kenya should not be disadvantaged since it had already signed the agreement.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the new EAC chairman, has been mandated within one month to reach out to EU to communicate the former’s circumstances. In the event that an acceptable way forward is not reached within the next six months, the chairman is expected to explore the use of variable geometry in implementation of the EPA, working with the council of ministers
“I have been officially mandated to harmonise the vision about this issue of EPA within the EAC Country States,” said President Museveni.
President Museveni said any agreement would only be reached with all members of EAC, and not a few countries. He explained there was no way EAC could move forward until the issue of sanctions on Burundi, among others, were resolved.
Only Kenya and Rwanda have signed the EPA agreement. Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda were yet to sign.
The summit also agreed that the EU sanctions on Burundi should be discussed alongside the EPA discussions.
“Burundi is member of the EAC. How can they sign EPA with EU when they are still under sanctions?” asked President Museveni, adding that EU should negotiate the trade deal with EAC and not a single member state.
The heads of state also declared the EAC as a common higher education area in order to harmonise and enhance the quality of education in the region. They directed the council to operationalise the transformation.
The move will enable partner states to recognise academic certificates from universities and higher learning institutions in the region, and students will be able to transfer credits across universities.
The heads of state noted with concern the declining intra-EAC trade and directed the council to resolve the outstanding non-tariff barriers and report to the 19th summit.
The presidents considered a report on the accelerated integration of South Sudan into EAC, and received another on the verification for the admission of Somalia and directed the council to follow-up and report to the 19th summit.
Source:The East African