Eritrea’s foreign Minister, Mr. Osman Saleh, held talks on August 23 in The Hague with the Netherlands counterpart, Mr. Bert Koenders, regarding the establishment of diplomatic relations and other topics.
In the meeting, Mr. Osman underlined that Eritrea believes and is working to develop constructive diplomatic engagement and mutual cooperation.
He further called on the European Union to play due role in the task of seeing to it that Ethiopia withdraws without pre-condition from sovereign Eritrean territories that it has occupied, as well as the lifting of the illegal and unjust sanctions against Eritrea and stopping the fabricated anti-Eritrea allegation in the name of “human rights”.
Mr. Bert Koenders said that he fully understands Eritrea’s complaints and expressed his country’s readiness to establish and strengthen relations with Eritrea. The two sides also agreed to work in cooperation against illegal human trafficking.
Mr. Osman also met and held talks with senior officials of the Dutch Foreign Ministry.
Mr. Negasi Kassa, Eritrea’s Ambassador to the European Union and Roving Ambassador to the Netherlands also attended the meeting.
Koenders Voices Concerns on Eritrean Embassy’s Tax Levy
During talks with his Eritrean counterpart Osman Saleh on Tuesday, foreign minister Bert Koenders expressed concerns about the tax levy that Eritreans in the Netherlands are required to pay to their embassy. There are indications that intimidation is being used to collect the tax.
“I share the serious concerns that exist about this matter, and I’ve made that clear today,” said Mr Koenders after his meeting with Mr Saleh.
“For the Netherlands, intimidation or threats are unacceptable. Contacts between Eritreans and their embassy must always be voluntary.”
Eritreans living abroad are obliged to pay a 2% tax to the embassy in order to use Eritrean government services. This is permissible under Dutch law.
However, when the Dutch authorities see credible signs from the Eritrean community that intimidation is being used to collect the tax, or the police receive reports to this effect, the Public Prosecution Service can launch an investigation.
In addition, Mr Koenders thinks the tax places an excessive burden on Eritreans who are trying to integrate into Dutch society.
“In many cases they have to pay tax to two countries,” he said. “That’s not a good idea. And this tax creates an additional obstacle to Eritreans’ integration in the Netherlands.” The Netherlands would therefore prefer the Eritrean government to stop this dual taxation.
The two ministers also discussed EU development cooperation with Eritrea, migration and the Dutch-Eritrean dialogue.
Mr Koenders stressed the importance of continuing a critical dialogue with the country, for example as a means of calling the
isolated regime to account for human rights violations.