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State of the Union: Imminent famine in Sudan and Orbán's EU presidency

State of the Union: Imminent famine in Sudan and Orbán’s EU presidency

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This edition of State of the Union focuses on the start of Hungary’s rotating EU presidency and the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Sudan.


If you thought activity would wind down with the beginning of the summer, well, you better think again.

Election stunners in France and the United Kingdom provided totally different readings of people’s political mood.

The political groups in the European Parliament kept struggling for partners and alliances ahead of their opening session in Strasbourg in less than two weeks.

And Belgium handed the rotating EU presidency to longtime Brussels nemesis Hungary!

The whims of the calendar had it that Viktor Orbán’s government is now in charge of the EU agenda – which is like the fox guarding the hen house, as one observer said.

This week, Orbán also visited Ukraine and launched a new right-wing alliance, Patriots for Europe, to potentially become the biggest haven for like-minded parties in the European Parliament.

So much activity for one purpose: Make Europe great again!

“If we want to stop the current decline, if we want to stop losing more and more of our strength and if we want to be strong again, then we have to become great,” Orbán said in a TV interview.

“How else can we compete with the United States, which has made itself great, if we don’t want to become great ourselves.”

Europe’s greatness, to use Viktor Orbán’s words, also depends on how the EU acts on the international stage and in major crisis spots around the world.

Hundreds of thousands ‘facing starvation or hunger’

This week, the international community paid more serious attention to the situation in Sudan – which is devastating.

For more than a year, the violent conflict between the Sudanese army and rebel forces has displaced hundreds of thousands of people who basically have nothing to eat.

Several UN agencies issued urgent warnings.

“We are in a race against time, not only to have enough resources, but also to be able to deliver these resources to people who are on the verge of starvation,” said Eddie Rowe, country director for Sudan at the UN World Food Programme.

Just days ago, the International Rescue Committee produced a Sudan Crisis Alert to highlight the trajectory of this humanitarian catastrophe.

The report deplores diplomatic failures to address the disaster and presses for a total reset of the humanitarian response.

For more on this, we spoke to Eatizaz Yousif, country director for Sudan at the International Rescue Committee.

Euronews: So, we hear a lot about the humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan – give us a sense of just how bad it is?


Yousif: I believe Susan is really going through a very difficult time. Half of the population of Sudan is facing, they all of them are food insecure at IPC level and almost like 750,000 are really facing starvation or hunger. And that massive displacement is really putting Sudan at the top of any humanitarian crisis.

Euronews: Who is to blame for this situation, who failed the people of Sudan?

Yousif: The continuing fighting and the two parties that refuse to stop and sit and try to overcome their problems are contributing factors. And also the pressure from the international community is also contributing a lot to put pressure on them to silence the weapons. And also Sudan facing huge funding issues and problems. Out of 2.8 billion (dollars) that is being requested for the humanitarian response plan for Sudan, is being funded so far by 16% only.

Euronews: Why is there such a lack of attention on the crisis internationally?

Yousif: I guess it is multiple competing priorities with multiple crises that have been going on globally. You can name them, it’s Gaza, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria. And also, I do believe the geophysical position of Sudan is not that appealing and having the great attention.


Euronews: What should the international community and the European Union in particular do to help?

Yousif: Yeah, I guess, for me, I do believe the EU and the member states have played a leading role in the international response to the crisis in Sudan, including recently they organised in April the Paris conference and also the ramping up the humanitarian effort. Additional to that, we are really asking the EU to put more diplomatic weight behind securing (a) ceasefire and also humanitarian access and strengthening their engagement with the regional actors. Because at this time, political pressure is really needed.

The Netherlands’ slaving past

Also of note this week, the Netherlands ended the Slave Memorial Year, commemorating the abolition of slavery in 1863. The main ceremony took place in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte attending – on his last day in office.

For over 300 years, adults and children from various parts of Africa were abducted and shipped across the Atlantic by Dutch slave traders. The former Dutch colonies of Suriname and Caribbean islands like Aruba and Curaçao owe their economic wealth to the forced labor of slaves.

With the Memorial Year, the Dutch government wanted to contribute to permanently increase knowledge of an underexposed part of the country’s history.


The government also made apologies and reparations.

July 1st is now called Keti Koti – “the day the chains were broken”.

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