The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Paolo Gentiloni, met the Ethiopian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tedros Adhanom, in Milan today. The meeting took place in the margins of the Ethiopia Business Forum, an event organised to coincide with Ethiopia’s National Day at EXPO 2015 (22 September).
Migration questions, regional crises in the Horn of Africa (South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, from which nearly half of the migration flows towards Europe originate) were key topics in the full agenda for the meeting. So too were bilateral relations, with the focus on the economic-commercial and development outlook.
On all of these issues, Minister Gentiloni underscored that Italy views Ethiopia as a vital partner with an important role to play in the stabilisation of the region. This is in part thanks to its intense activity with regional organisations such as the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the sub-regional organisation of the Horn of Africa. Italy and Ethiopia’s close bilateral political relations and common interest in the stabilisation and development of the region are also evidenced by the two countries’ role in co-chairing the IGAD Partners’ Forum (IPF).
Ministers Gentiloni and Adhanom agreed on the importance of the forthcoming EU-Africa summit on migration issues taking place in Valletta, Malta in November 2015. The meeting is significant both in a European strategy framework and that of responding to a question that concerns the Horn of Africa as a whole. As today’s meeting showed, Ethiopia is a key partner for Italy in the Khartoum Process, which also has a positive influence on the stabilisation of the area.
Italian Development Cooperation is funding programmes by international agencies in east Africa to help refugees and migrants and support the reception work being done by the countries of the region. Other sectors of intervention for Italian Development Cooperation in Ethiopia, which remains a priority country, are food security and support for small and micro-businesses run by women.
Turning to economic and commercial relations, Foreign Minister Gentiloni also identified investment opportunities in Ethiopia for medium-sized companies, especially in the energy, infrastructure and agri-food sectors. Italy views Ethiopia as a priority country for economic collaboration in 2015-17. The Farnesina recently included the country in the 10 countries involved in the “Invest your Talent in Italy” initiative. This offers students from the selected countries the chance to spend a period of advanced learning or training in Italy, along with an internship with a major Italian company.