EU resolution not binding to Tanzania and Uganda, says envoy

Head of the European Union Delegation to Tanzania and the EAC, Ambassador Manfredo Fanti speaking during an interview with Mwananchi business reporter, Julius Mnganga, at the EU offices in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | SUNDAY GEORGE

What you need to know:

  • The European Union (EU) head of delegation to Tanzania and the East African Community, Mr Manfredo Fanti, expressed the union’s standing in the ongoing construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project (EACOP).

The European Union (EU) head of delegation to Tanzania and the East African Community, Mr Manfredo Fanti, expressed the union’s standing in the ongoing construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project (EACOP) impasse following the September 14 resolution by the EU Parliament condemning the project on claims of environmental concerns and negative effect to human life.

The interview was conducted by Mwananchi reporter Julius Mnganga and transcribed by The Citizen reporter Alex Malanga. Read on..

Question: The host governments and TotalEnergies have agreed to implement the project which the European Parliament opposes, how legally-binding is the resolution to the EU Parliament?

Answer: It is a political decision of the European Parliament, which is completely legitimate and within the European parliament, but they are not binding.

Local environmental authorities in both countries have confirmed that the project will not have any adverse impact. On the other hand, the EU Parliament says otherwise. Who should we trust?

The authorities in Tanzania and Uganda are perfectly free to continue with the project because these are sovereign states and they have the right to decide about their energy and development policies.

The same applies to TotalEnergies as an investor, the resolution itself does not have any impact directly on the decision of Total, which is a separate company.

I think that the intention of the resolution is to express the general concern of the EU for the environment and protection of the rights of people affected by this big project.

It is also important to consider the general message; which is respecting the environment and the rights of people.

And this is of course a reality and everybody agrees on it.

People who have been affected by this project have been relocated. Is there anything of critical concern?

Total and the governments have ensured that all people affected by the project received either compensation in form of money or a new house depending on the way they are affected by the project.

This is something objective which can be verified and TotalEnergies has presented the report in this regard.

However, transparency is really very key in order to show that everything is done according to good practices.

The EU Parliament played down reports by European companies that collaborated with local companies and authorities, do you think it is high time Africa relied on its local experts?

No, I would not say that. Nobody can do it alone. We need you, you need us in business, economic development, exchange of technology and exchange of products.

I think what we need is to increase these exchanges in a balanced way….It should not be an exploitation.

On the European Parliament’s resolution we should understand that political debate, especially in Europe, is not unusual.

The European Parliament attacking a private company or a certain group of interests is something common.

I think TotalEnergies has an opportunity to respond to the resolution and to show that everything has been done according to the rules and good practices.

Sometimes, Western countries come with reports that differ from those presented by local authorities. What seems to be the missing link?

I think what will be important especially on sensitive big projects like energy, which create big attention on climate and environment, is to have good communication strategy.

This means to share information even with political bodies, NGOs, etc. This is the best way to ensure that people do not feel suspicious about the way it is done.

Would continuing with the construction of EACOP affect diplomatic relations?

Not at all. The EU parliament is an independent institution of the EU, its members are elected by citizens and it has a political mandate.

So, the role of the parliament is partly separate from the role of council of ministers which determines the policies of the EU.

As I said before, the European Parliament has a political mandate. You should take the general message, but not consider it as a guiding point in our relations at all.

This is because, this is just one element of the much-wider relations between EU and Tanzania, Uganda, and Africa in general.

Do you think Europe has anything to lose if Tanzania and Uganda continue with the project?

No, this is also the message to the European Parliament that Tanzania and Uganda are free to continue with their energy and development policies.

TotalEnergies too, is free to continue with its business.

The meaning of the message is that there is a general expectation that Total will conduct its business together with its associates in line with rules on corporate social responsibility, respect for environment and so on.

I am sure Tanzania and Uganda too, will not be happy to have the pipeline which will be creating environmental problems.

Does your office play any role in feeding the European Parliament with information regarding EACOP?

The EU Parliament has its own source of information. We have been requested to provide some information about the project in Tanzania and especially about the situation NGOs are complaining about.

But the delegation itself does not have a fundamental role in the final deliberation of the EU Parliament because they are prepared by the internal administration of the European Parliament and submitted to the members of the Parliament.

Can you weigh the benefits and disadvantages of EACOP?

My own opinion is that the world needs energy. We buy oil, we buy gas and we are even buying coal, even from Tanzania

So, in my view, I think we should conduct all these businesses in the best possible way.

Many past experiences in various countries have shown that if we don’t pay sufficient attention to the protection of environment and protection of people affected by the projects then we are in deep trouble

Were you surprised by the European Parliament resolution?

I was not particularly surprised. I have a long career in the European Union behind me and have seen many of these situations.

As I said, the EU Parliament is a political body and inside the European Parliament we have different political trends and vision.

I think what is important is to put this kind of resolution in the general context of relations between EU and Tanzania and Uganda, in this case.

We have been enjoying good relations. The EU has increased its development cooperation with Tanzania for the last year compared to the past years.

One of the most important sectors in our cooperation is energy. We have invested around Euro 118 million in energy projects here in Tanzania.

There is a very deep relation, but in this relation there is also a political element. So, this is the theme you need to look at as the general framework.

Some European countries including Germany, Austria, Greece and Italy have gone back to coal-powered plants to generate energy. Why would that be fair but a crude oil pipeline between Tanzania and Uganda is bad?

Look, all of us are in difficult times. That is why there is a call to reduce gas emission and protect the environment to fight climate change. This implies less use of fossil fuels.

But we have this fact that with the Russia-Ukraine war, the energy situation in Europe has changed and we are now in a kind of emergency situation where we need to produce energy to have the economy running and also very simply to heat the houses of people.

So, I think generally, you are right, it is not coherent having the resolutions on EACOP and then buying coal. But the fact is that the world is facing a very complicated situation and there are different actions that we need to undertake but the final objective is clear that we have commonly agreed it is to reduce gas emission in order to fight climate change and on that I can say EU is a champion because of its policies.

With the effects of economic sanctions becoming increasingly unbearable for Africa, those who chose to condemn Russia are thinking of engaging it as a key trading partner. What’s your take on this?

The EU position has not changed. So, behaviour and policy action have not changed.

We firmly condemn the aggression of Russia against Ukraine. Millions of Ukraine people have been forced to flee their country, thousands of people, including children, have died.

We continue to support Ukraine. We hope that peace will prevail very soon. We will be ready to support any peace agreement.

But I don’t agree with the claims that the war continues because we are helping Ukraine, the fact is that the war continues because Russia continues with aggression and Ukraine on the other side continues to defend itself.

The ongoing war in Ukraine and the sanctions netted on Russia have disrupted the supply chain of some essential goods in the world. Don’t you think it’s high time that Africa went big with the exploitation of its own resources to reduce dependence on others?

Africa has a lot of energy resources particularly renewable energy and Africa should try as much as possible to develop these resources.

Tanzania is a good example because it is true that on one side we see EACOP, on the other side we see the use of solar energy, hydropower, etc.

This is very important in the strategy of this country---diversifying energy sources and using as much as possible renewable energy.