President Uhuru Kenyatta was on Monday afternoon received by King Philippe at the Royal Palace in Brussels at the start of his two-day official visit to the Kingdom of Belgium and the European Union.
The President, who is accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs), Betty Maina (Trade) and Aden Mohammed (EAC), held private talks with King Philippe.
During the two-day visit, the President is scheduled to meet the President of the European Council Charles Michel to discuss Kenya-EU relations and address a Kenya-Belgium business forum.
Also on the President’s itinerary is a meeting with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) Dr Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti and an address to the organization’s Committee of Ambassadors.
President Kenyatta, who arrived in Brussels on Sunday evening aboard a Kenya Airways aircraft, is the President-in-Office of the 79-member OACPS.
Speaking ahead of the President’s arrival, Kenya’s ambassador to Belgium Prof Jacob Kaimenyi said during the visit, the Head of State will address matters related to Kenya-Belgium, and Kenya-EU relations as well as regional agenda in his capacity as the Chairperson of the East African Community (EAC).
In his capacity as the President-in-Office of the OACPS, Prof Kaimenyi said the President will discuss the progress of the post-Cotonou agreement with his European Council counterpart and get an update on the instrument’s roll out progress from the Secretary-General of the Brussels-based multilateral institution.
“We’ve had the Cotonou agreement which has been there for 20 years, coming to an end in 2020. We have negotiated another agreement between the European Union and OACPS, 79 countries, called post-Cotonou agreement, post 2020 so to speak,” Prof Kaimenyi said.
On Kenya-Belgium relations, Prof Kaimenyi said the President’s meeting with King Phillipe will help strengthen diplomatic ties between Nairobi and Brussels, while investment and trade matters will be dealt with at the business forum.
He said Kenya is working on growing its trade with Belgium by addressing barriers such as double taxation, and diversifying its exports beyond tea and coffee to include horticultural crops such as a mangoes and other tropical fruits.
Prof Kaimenyi said the President’s meeting with his European Council counterpart Charles Michel comes at an opportune time when Kenya and the EU are gearing up to start negotiations for a new partnership agreement for the period 2022 to 2027.
Besides the Kenya-EU partnership agreement, Prof Kaimenyi revealed that President Kenyatta and his European Council counterpart will discuss the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), a matter that has been outstanding since 2014.
The two leaders are also expected to discuss the progress of the ongoing development of a strategic dialogue framework between Kenya and the EU. The decision to elevate the Kenya-EU relationship was arrived at during President Michel’s last visit to Nairobi.
“When the President of the Council, Charles Michel met the President at State House, the issue of upping our game in terms of strategic dialogue between EU and Kenya was raised.
“We have the relevant ministers, the Minister for Trade CS Maina is going to be here, she will be supported by CS for EAC Adan Mohammed. They’re going to hold a meeting with requisite officials from the EU to discuss the matter.
“Having discussed this matter with EU external service officials, there’s a lot of excitement. People are very optimistic,” Prof Kaimenyi said in reference to the strategic dialogue framework.
In his meeting with Dr Chikoti and address to the Committee of Ambassadors of the OACPS, Prof Kaimenyi said the President is expected to be appraised on the implementation progress of the 2019 ‘Nairobi Nguvu Ya Pamoja’ declaration and provide guidance on the next steps.
“He (President Kenyatta) will meet the Secretary-General of the OACPS to be briefed on what has transpired since 2019 and pick his brain, as the President-in-Office, on where we should be before he completes his (term of) office next year,” Prof Kaimenyi said.