German minister expresses optimism after visiting Eritrea

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – A decline is expected of migrants from Eritrea after the country and Ethiopia have made peace, said the German minister of development cooperation Friday after a visit to the long-retired country.

Gerd Mueller spoke with reporters in Ethiopia after a meeting with Eritrea's old president Isaias Afwerki.

Eritrea was an important source of migrants fleeing to Europe and elsewhere, but a dramatic diplomatic thaw in recent months with Ethiopia and its new prime minister has brought new attention from the international community.

Germany currently has around 75,000 asylum seekers from Eritrea and some 15,000 young Eritreans have already applied for asylum in the course of this year, Mueller said.

The minister said he hoped that the system of years of military conscription of Eritrea, long criticized by human rights organizations, will be reduced and that the country will evolve into "democratic structures", so that people will no longer feel the need to leave.

Eritrea & # 39; s people are now "hopeful", he said.

Mueller also praised Ethiopia's recent reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, saying that he hoped Eritrea would follow suit and announced 100 million euros ($ 116 million) in development aid.

Following the steps taken by Abiy to open state-owned enterprises to external investments in one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, the German minister said Deutsche Telekom should intervene and make a bid.

"Volkswagen is also starting manufacturing components here in Ethiopia, and the next step should be the production of complete cars," said Mueller.

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