Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
I would first like to thank the Ambassador of France, my good friend Gilles and his colleagues, for organizing and hosting today’s event at the Residence.
Celebrating Europe Day in Port Vila for the second year in a row is proof that, even without physical presence in the country, the European Union has Vanuatu close at heart!
9 May is the anniversary of a declaration that is considered the “birth certificate” of the European Union.
Sixty-eight years ago, today, French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed a joint authority to oversee French and German production of coal and steel. He also invited other European countries to join in.
Shuman’s declaration, five years after the end of World War II that had left Europe and much of the world in ruins, was meant to end age-old divisions and make wars between former enemies “unthinkable and materially impossible”.
That was the start of an ambitious and remarkable project, which has shaped the course of European history and redefined Europe's place in the world.
This project – of peace, of partnership, of shared values and solidarity – is far from over. Especially in today's world, the European Union is more indispensable than ever.
It is indispensable for Europe’s citizens, who need economic growth, jobs, security, opportunities and rights. And our citizens know well that, in a global world, we can only achieve results if we stand united, as the European Union.
The same is true for our partners – all those, including Vanuatu, who want to work in a cooperative way to strengthen multilateralism, peace, free and fair trade, human rights and democracy.
United, we stand with you!
We stand with you for sustainable development and growth. We are investing more around the world in development cooperation, in clean energy and mitigating climate change, in research and education, and much more.
We stand with you for security and peace, in our neighbourhood and well beyond. We are investing heavily in our security capabilities, for the defence of our Union, but also to prevent conflicts and promote peace around the world.
Peace and prosperity cannot be taken for granted. It is constant work in progress that must be nurtured.
Schuman stated in 1950 that "World peace cannot be safeguarded without creative efforts proportionate to the dangers that threaten it". The dangers and risks of today are significant. Politicians, within and outside Europe, ought to understand that we are at risk when we build walls instead of tearing them down; that we need leadership, not populism; the kind of leadership and vision that Europe's fathers, like Robert Schuman, had demonstrated.
The EU is a living project, adapting to and taking on new challenges with each passing year. We are determined that our project should continue to be a force for good in the world.
Peace and prosperity in the EU can only be lasting if shared equitably within the Union and with partners around the world: in Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
Our relations and dialogue with developing partners, including Vanuatu, are no longer focused on development cooperation alone. They cover a broad spectrum of issues: from political developments and economic/trade policies, to sustainable fisheries management and taxation reforms. Our aim is to achieve better mutual understanding, improved political and economic governance, as well as higher social standards. And alliances at global level based on common interests.
The Prime Minister has consistently underlined Vanuatu Government’s focus on inclusive and sustainable growth. Priorities include education, health, water and sanitation, infrastructure, clean energy and, last but not least, rural and agricultural development. Private sector is the key engine for economic growth, hence the importance of a business environment that can attract private local and foreign investment.
The EU has offered its full support to help improve livelihoods, create jobs and diversify Vanuatu's economy: EUR 43.5 million (VT 5.8 billion) have been allocated over 2014-2020 under Vanuatu’s 11th EDF National Indicative Programme (NIP); 80 per cent of it in agriculture. The signature last month in Brussels of the financing agreement for the Value Chain Programme is the follow up of long term EU support to resilient agriculture.
Additional support is foreseen under EU-funded Pacific regional programmes, among others for sustainable management and development of fisheries for food security and economic growth, while addressing climate change resilience and conservation of marine biodiversity.
Vanuatu is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to natural hazards. “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. The EU responded to the 2015 Pam Cyclone disaster with relief assistance and a 37 per cent increase of Vanuatu’s 11th EDF NIP allocation (EUR 12.5 million for recovery activities). While in Brussels three weeks ago, the Prime Minister made an appeal for assistance with relief efforts following the volcanic eruption in Ambae. I am happy to announce today, EU’s decision to allocate EUR 0.12 million (VT 16 million) for relief support through the Vanuatu Red Cross Society.
We are keen to pursue our close partnership on climate change and disaster risk management, both at bilateral and multilateral level. We are also ready to provide technical support to help improve governance in taxation, or efforts to fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. And to engage in trade facilitation, especially in the context of Vanuatu’s forthcoming graduation from LDC status.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The European project has shown that we can achieve peace and prosperity by overcoming divisions, by pulling down national frontiers and by striving for a common European, rather than narrow national interest.
Vanuatu is a young and dynamic multi-ethnic democracy that can face successfully the challenges of today and tomorrow by uniting in its rich diversity; by moving beyond the local interests of village or community; by harvesting the benefits of national projects and identity; and by reaping the additional benefits of regional or sub-regional integration in the Pacific.
The European Union will be a close ally in all these efforts.
Let us raise a glass together to Peace, Prosperity, Friendship and Solidarity between the peoples of Europe and Vanuatu!