The EU has been supporting Burundi in its efforts to entrench democracy since the Arusha Agreements put an end to years of civil war and lay the foundations for a new era. This year's legislative and presidential elections are a key step in the democratic process of Burundi. Following an invitation, I decided to deploy an EU Election Observation Mission (EOM), led by the Chief Observer David Martin, Member of the European Parliament, in order to contribute to a transparent, peaceful, credible and fair process that would give confidence to the political actors and electorate, and would ensure acceptance of the outcome. To reach that objective, some minimal conditions need to be in place. Unfortunately, the Chief Observer, whose team has been on the ground for more than a month, has reported to me that the election process continues to be seriously marred by restrictions on independent media, excessive use of force against demonstrators, a climate of intimidation for opposition parties and civil society and lack of confidence in the election authorities.
In these circumstances the EU EOM cannot fulfil its role and I have therefore decided, in agreement with the Chief Observer David Martin, to suspend it. All parties should engage in good faith in a dialogue to restore the necessary conditions for democratic elections and, primarily, the government of Burundi should reach out to all domestic stakeholders by restoring confidence through concrete measures. If the necessary political will exits, the dialogue facilitated by the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General, Said Djinnit, can still provide a forum to reach these objectives and meet the expectations of the people of Burundi. I also look forward to the deliberations of the upcoming EAC Summit to which the AU has been invited to participate.
The EU remains strongly engaged and committed to supporting the democratic development of Burundi in cooperation with regional partners, and I stand ready to swiftly re-start the EOM should acceptable conditions for the conduct of democratic elections be agreed by domestic stakeholders.