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Honourable Acting Chief of Justice,
Honourable Cabinet Ministers,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Colleagues, fellow Europeans and friends of Europe,
Representatives of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Bula vinaka, namaste, asalam alaykum, good evening, and a very warm welcome to you all to the '2019 Europe Day' – a celebration of unity and diversity in Europe!
First of all, I would like to thank the Fiji Museum - a place filled with history, culture and stories of the Pacific - for giving us the opportunity to hold our annual celebration here. This is the third consecutive year that we have hosted the 'Europe Day' official reception here. With great pleasure I acknowledge the presence of three European Union Member States here today – France, UK and Spain. I would also like to thank the German Development Agency, GIZ, for all its support for the organisation of this evening's celebration.
With 13 countries, the EU Delegation in Suva has the biggest geographical coverage among all the EU Delegations in the world, which of course can be a challenge!
In spite of the huge amount of work, we do want to make time to celebrate together with our Fijian friends a visionary declaration that led to what we know today as the European Union and changed the European continent forever – a vision by the founding fathers of the European Union to link the economies in such a way to make future wars impossible. The Treaty of Rome was the beginning of an ambitious journey of European integration, in result ow which, Europe's troubled past has given way to an unprecedented peace spanning seven decades, earning the European Union the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2012 and allowed, an enlarged Union of 510 million citizens, to live in freedom in one of the world’s most prosperous economies. Today, Europe is home to the world’s largest single market and second most used currency, the Euro. The EU enjoys six years of uninterrupted growth. Bold steps have been taken to deepen and enlarge the EU's greatest asset - its Single Market strengthening Europe's digital and energy connectivity, as well as pan-European capital markets.
The European Union is also the largest trade block in the world, with 45 comprehensive trade agreements already covering 76 countries. Exports from the EU have experienced strong growth, now representing half of its GDP.
The European Union is a major diplomatic force with 140 Delegations in third countries.
The EU helps keep the world more sustainable, as shown by the leading role it played in brokering the global Paris Climate Agreement and in the adoption by the United Nations of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. The EU is the only large economy in the world that has fully translated into legislation the steps to meet its Paris Agreement pledges and will cut at least 40 % of its greenhouse house gas emissions. European companies are among the leaders in the world as regards clean technologies. The EU and its Member States have provided and will keep providing substantial climate funding to support climate action in partner countries, and we are committed to making 20% of the entire EU development cooperation policies and instruments 'climate-relevant' for the period 2014-2020. The EU will continue to relentlessly defend the Paris Agreement along with Fiji and the Pacific states.
The European Union with its Member States is the largest development and humanitarian aid donor: EUR 74.4 billion development assistance was provided in 2018. Every year, the EU helps to save lives of 130 million people stranded in humanitarian crises around the world.
As far as the Pacific is concerned, the EU has made available over 2 billion FJD for development co-operation until 2020. More than 50% of this amount will be spent on climate-related work.
Our partnership with Fiji - and with the rest of the Pacific - is based on our shared values, on common concerns, legacy of common ideals, and on common aspirations.
Since the elections in September 2014 the EU's co-operation with Fiji has grown from strength to strength. We are building on our longstanding support to the sugar sector to establish our first budget support programme, targeting sustainable rural livelihoods. This follows on from the considerable support we provided following the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Working with our close partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we are also supporting a major 'Access to Justice' programme in Fiji, helping to strengthen the rule of law. We are also working with a range of civil society organisations, helping them to provide more effective services, to promote human rights and to empower women.
But also very important, we Europeans have realised that Fiji plays rugby rather well indeed! At the moment, over 30 Fijian rugby players play in leagues around Europe, including at least 20 in France. I wish to take this opportunity to wish Fiji-7s team and their coach, good luck in the upcoming European leg of the World Seven Series in London and Paris – "Toso Viti Toso"! ("Go Fiji Go"!)
Beyond rugby, from the very start of our European project, the European Union has been committed to achieving gender equality both within our borders and across the globe. To respond to this challenging issue in the Pacific - in November last year, the European Union, together with the Australian Government and UN Women signed a EUR 19.5 million agreement to comprehensively end violence against women and girls in the Pacific. More recently, in February of this year, the European Union and the United Nations announced a €50 million investment to eliminate domestic violence and ensure women's in the Pacific region, as part of the EU-UN 'Spotlight Initiative'.
Our partnership increasingly involves young people. Since 2016, the Pacific has been fully eligible for all international actions under the Erasmus+ Programme, including exchange semesters, Joint Master Degree studies and capacity building projects. Students and academic staff from Fiji have studied in Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Spain. Erasmus+ is a great opportunity for young people of the same age and different cultures to get to know each other and we are confident that the numbers will increase in the future.
We are honoured to contribute to programmes that seek to harness the great potential for regional cooperation in the Pacific. The unique path of Pacific regionalism appeals to heart of Europeans,. I have been particularly impressed with the work that the CROPS agencies are doing to protect and develop the Pacific's Blue Ocean. And we are honoured to be your partner in this work.
The Cotonou Agreement, currently governing EU-ACP relations, is due to expire in 2020. Negotiations are on-going to modernize relations between the EU and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) and to address together the specific needs and priorities in the decades to come. We need to find new ways to fight climate change, to foster blue growth in a sustainable way, and address human development and cross border challenges together.
In today's increasingly uncertain world, the European Union is providing peace, stability and prosperity across Europe and beyond, in spite of our many internal and external challenges. Our Union stands resolutely for its principles of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, and will continue to champion multilateralism, even as calls for inward nationalism and populism become louder. Our common history enables us to stand strong against such calls. This is the enduring quality of the European project, making our mode unique and worth defending.
Happy Europe Day!
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I ask you to raise your glasses in a toast to the health, well-being and friendship of the peoples of Fiji, of the Pacific and of the European Union.