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Your Excellency Major General (Retired) Jioji Konousi Konrote, President of the Republic of Fiji,
Honourable Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Retired) Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama,
Honourable Chief Justice Anthony Gates and Members of the Judiciary,
Honourable Cabinet Ministers,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Colleagues, fellow Europeans and friends of Europe,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Bula vinaka, namaste, asalam alaykum, noa’ia‘e mauri, good evening, bonsoir, and a very warm welcome to you all to the 2017 Europe Day celebrations.
First of all, I would like to thank the Fiji Museum for the opportunity to hold our celebrations here. It is a place filled with history, culture and stories of the Pacific. With great pleasure I acknowledge the presence of three European Union Member States here today – France, UK and Spain. Spain is the newest EU Member State to be represented in Fiji – a clear indication that the European Union's involvement in the Pacific is growing, reflecting the importance we attach to our relationship. I would also like to thank the German Development Agency, GIZ, for all its support for the organisation of this evening's celebrations. Germany is also very present!
I am accredited not only to Fiji but also to the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu, and the EU Delegation is also responsible for development co-operation with the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, as well as with French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, and Pitcairn. The EU Delegation in Suva has the biggest coverage of all EU Delegations in the world, which can be a challeng! I warmly welcome all the Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and other representatives of our partners from around the Pacific who are with us here this evening.
Today is Europe Day. Today, we celebrate a visionary declaration that led to what we know today as the European Union; an idea that changed the European continent forever.
On 9 May 1950, after two devastating world wars that left Europe on its knees, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman made a proposal to bind together former enemies by linking their economies in such a way to make future wars impossible. In 1957 six countries established together the European Economic Community by signing the Treaty of Rome. Two months ago we celebrated the 60th anniversary of this signing.
The Treaty of Rome was the beginning of an ambitious journey of European integration. The founding fathers of the EU decided to settle their differences around a table rather than in battlefields. They replaced the use of armed forces by the force of law. As a result, Europe's troubled past has given way to a peace spanning seven decades and to an enlarged Union of 500 million citizens and 28 countries, living in freedom in one of the world’s most prosperous economies.
Despite this, as is well known, many challenges remain. The United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union, a decision that the EU greatly regrets but respects. But it is not only in the UK that Europeans are questioning the role and relevance of the European Union. Some say it is too distant, others say that its reaches too far into their everyday lives. Some question its added-value and ask how Europe improves their standard of living.
The EU's response to these questions and concerns cannot be nostalgic or short-term. It should be built on a common perspective, and on the shared conviction that by coming together, Europeans are better off. In this context Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President, when congratulating French President-elect Emmanuel Macron, expressed his happiness that the French people have chosen a European future and stated his keenness on working together for a stronger and fairer Europe.
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission, said in her Europe's day message
"The future of the European Union is a choice – a choice that belongs to every European citizen and matters to the entire world.
This year the European Union has turned sixty: sixty years of peace, of protection for our workers, of opportunities for our business, of liberty and rights.
But the future of Europe is not something we inherit from our founding fathers and mothers. The European Union is the values we believe in, the partnerships we build in the world, the mirror of our European society. Europe is what we, Europeans, make of it – every single day, each one of us.
And we have recommitted to staying together, using the strength our unity gives us – because only together we can face the challenges of our times.
In the last year, we have taken more steps towards a European Union of security and defence, for instance, than in the previous sixty years. This is what Europeans need, and this is what the world needs.
In the current global environment, our friends around the world look at us, look at the European Union as a reliable superpower for peace and human development – perhaps the only one.
This doesn’t mean we are perfect. Far from that. Change in the European Union is necessary.
But change is possible and is happening. The choice of a stronger European Union in the world belongs to us. The choice of a more just, more secure and more equal Europe belongs to us, all of us. This is what Europe Day is all about: not the future of the European Union’s institutions, but the future of every single European citizen."
Federica Mogherini's message is available on the EU's Delegation's Facebook page should you wish to hear it again.
While we look to the future, this year's Europe Day, the year of the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, is also an opportunity for the EU to take stock and to note clearly the enormous amount we have achieved. Europe is home to the world’s largest single market and second most used currency. It is the largest trade power and development and humanitarian aid donor. It is a major diplomatic force with 140 Delegations in third countries and a presence in every corner of the globe. The European Union helps keep the world more sustainable, as shown by the leading role it played, alongside the Pacific Island countries, in the Paris Climate Agreement and in the adoption by the United Nations of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
We all know about the impact climate change can have on our daily life and that the Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions in the face of the devastating effects of global warming. After last year's Tropical Cyclone Winston the Fijian community showed true spirit in rebuilding and restoring their country. Fijians stood together and I am proud that European Union could assist Fiji in its recovery.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Fiji once again on its incoming role as Presidency of the COP23 in Bonn in Germany in November as well as as co-host with one of the EU Member States, Sweden, of the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York next month. We applaud Fiji's commitment to taking a key international role in climate action, on behalf of the Pacific, and the entire world.
With Fiji at its helm, COP 23 will be of a great political and substantive importance. COP23 must demonstrate that the international community remains committed both to the Paris Agreement and the negotiation of the rulebook laying out the detail of the post-2020 climate regime. In its COP23 role Fiji will seek to ensure that climate action truly changes the lives of those affected. The EU fully supports this ambition and has been pleased to make financing of nearly 7 million FJD available to assist Fiji in its Presidency role. Together we must show at COP23 in Bonn in November that despite new geopolitical challenges, the transition to climate resilient low-emissions economies and societies is irreversible.
The European Union remains more committed than ever to the Paris Agreement. In the words of the European Commissioner for Climate Action Miguel Arias Cañete:
Fighting Climate Change is not a choice for today's politicians, it is a necessity (and a responsibility).
It is not a question of "if", but of "how".
It's not a question of putting my country or your country first.
It's a question of putting the planet first – we need to make the Paris Agreement a reality, for the sake of the generations to come.
Thus the European Union will continue to tread the path of climate action in step with you, Honourable Prime Minister. We will continue to push the global agenda while at the same time helping Fiji and the rest of the Pacific to become more resilient and to adapt to the effects of climate change. We know that climate change represents a real existential threat for some Pacific countries, and a huge threat to the livelihoods of populations across the region.
I must add that the EU and its Member States are playing our full part in implementing the Paris Agreement – both in terms of domestic policy development and in our commitment to global solidarity. The EU and its Member States have provided and will keep providing substantial climate funding to support climate action in partner countries – EUR 17,6 billion or 40 billion FJD in 2015 alone - and we are committed to making 20% of entire EU development cooperation policies and instruments 'climate-relevant' for the period 2014-2020.
As far as the Pacific is concerned, the EU has available about EUR 800 million or nearly 2 billion FJD for development co-operation from now to 2020. More than 50% of this amount will be spent on climate-related work. But what counts perhaps even more, is that the EU will continue to engage strategically with partners to make sure that mitigation and adaptation are mainstreamed in policy-making at all levels.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends of Europe, dear colleagues
Allow me to say a few words about the EU's co-operation with Fiji. Since the elections in September 2014 and the return to parliamentary democracy this has gone 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 illustrates the maturity of the EU-Fiji relationship – we will be disbursing funds directly into the treasury account against the achievement of agreed key reform ambitions. This follow on from the considerable support we provided following the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Working with our close partners the UNDP, we are also supporting a major Access to Justice programme, helping to strengthen the rule of law and the institutions that safeguard democracy. In this context we are proud to have supported, with Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, and again through the UNDP, a programme designed to strengthen parliament. 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 EU co-operation with Fiji extends far before development co-operation and climate change – we have a trade agreement in place – the Economic Partnership Agreement – and also hold annually a high level political dialogue in which we have a frank and open exchange on a full range of issues of mutual interest including economic development, elections, and human rights. Our partnership with Fiji, and with the rest of the Pacific, is based on our shared values, on common concerns and on common aspirations. And our partnership goes from strength to strength.
Our partnership increasingly involves young people. As well as the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we have celebrated this year 30 years of the Erasmus programme which provides for student exchanges, within Europe but also between Europe and the world. It is the European Union's most successful programme and has over the years enabled millions of young people to study, train, volunteer or gain professional experience in a foreign country. Since 2016, the Pacific has been fully eligible for all international actions of Erasmus+, including exchange semesters, Joint Master Degree studies and capacity building projects. Last year there were 17 students and academic staff from Fiji going to Germany, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Spain. Erasmus+ is an incredible 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.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends of Europe, dear Colleagues
This is my last Europe Day in Fiji. This is the fifth time I have had the chance to celebrate with you here in Fiji and in a few short months I will be leaving. I will have other opportunities to say goodbye to most of you before I leave (this is not a farewell speech) but I take this opportunity nevertheless to thank everyone who has accompanied me on my Fijian and Pacific journey. I want to thank you Excellency and Honourable Prime Minister for the great hospitality my wife and I have enjoyed in Fiji. We do not want to leave. In particular I would like to thank all my Delegation colleagues for your excellent work and support throughout the years. It has been a pleasure and privilege to be Head of this growing Delegation.
Thank you all for the attention and happy Europe Day!
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