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First of all let me say how pleased I have been to host the first annual meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union and the African Union, last night and today - a meeting that I co-chaired with my friend Richard [Sezibera, Foreign Minister of Rwanda] and that follows the decision our Heads of State of Government took at the Abidjan Summit one year and a few months ago.
This meeting confirms our common determination to build on our partnership and go towards an even stronger, deeper and more political partnership and friendship between both continents. A partnership that we all, Africans and Europeans alike, see as our shared and vital interest. This is a partnership that works, first of all, and this is a partnership that works because we are both committed to it.
I want to commend and recognize the leadership that the African Union and the African Union Commission and its leadership, starting from the Chairperson, my friend Moussa Faki and Commissioner [for Peace and Security of the African Union Commission, Smail] Chergui, have been showing all over these years. This leadership is critical for the success of our partnership - leadership that we see in all different sectors, and let me highlight here only the decision to establish an African Continental Free Trade Area, the leadership in efforts to bring peace in Sahel, Somalia, South Sudan, in the Central African Republic and in the Great Lakes region.
I will be honored to attend the upcoming African Union Summit in Addis Ababa just in a few weeks' time, that will be another occasion for us to continue our partnership and our conversations, our deliberations on the common work we have put in place.
The European Union is Africa's first partner in all sectors: in trade, in aid and investment, in peace and security, and the list continues. But we are above all political partners and this is the real change in nature of our relationship that we have decided to put in place.
More than ever, we have to step up our engagement and this is exactly what we are doing, what we have been doing including today and yesterday. At today's ministerial meeting, we discussed all the different strands of action that we share.
We focused in particular on three main areas of cooperation.
The first one is peace security and governance. This remains the central pillar of our partnership, there is no action by the African Union that the European Union is not supporting and this also means a daily coordination and the full support from the European Union to the work that the African Union is doing in the continent – politically, financially, with our military and civilian training and advisory missions.
We are together in Somalia, in the Central African Republic, in the Sahel. Last year, through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding we have stepped up our cooperation to a new strategic level in response to new threats, to international regional peace and security, in particular the spread of terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime.
Against this background of increased engagement, we had an exchange on the main political challenges currently facing both continents. First of all, we express support for building synergies, so that the African Union led efforts, including peace support operations, EU military and civilian missions and operations and UN missions and activities, operating in the same theatres, can play their full complementarity.
In this context, ensuring sustainable financing for African led peace efforts remains for us both a priority. You know that the African Peace Facility has already mobilised €2.7 billion, and in these days, we are working upon a new contribution of €800 million to cover support in the next two years.
In this context, the establishment of a continental human rights compliance framework for peace support operations adopted by the African Union Summit last November is an important step forward. The European Union is committed to supporting in close coordination with the UN the ongoing African Union work to operationalise this framework, which is critical for all future support of African peace operations and could also help in unlocking further progress in New York towards accessing UN contributions for African led peace operations.
Coming to the second issue we tackled today with our ministers - an impressive number of ministers - we have discussed together the issues related to trade, investment and continental economic integration. We have decided to step up our engagement in this field.
Last autumn, the European Commission put forward a true Africa-Europe Alliance for [Sustainable] Investment and Jobs. Africa needs clearly more private investments to create the jobs for the growing youth population. The European Union will contribute by supporting and de-risking investment concretely through our External Investment Plan, and this goes together with action on the African side that is ongoing to strengthen the business climate.
We will also work together in education and training to develop the skills that match labour market demands. In essence, the aim of the Alliance is to create a win-win partnership that is win-win for our two continents, win-win for our two economies - that are more interlinked than one could imagine - but most importantly win-win for all our people.
Third but not least, we agree to work to promote cooperation among us on the global scene. We are strong supporters of a rules-based global order, we support effective multilateralism in a context where the global order is contested and we see basic principles being undermined, fundamental principles being challenged. The African Union and the European Union are collectively a force that works to shape the global agenda and to strengthen and support effective multilateralism. Together we are 82 countries - believe me, we do make a difference in the global context.
We value the successful work of the African Union-European Union-United Nations trilateral cooperation that covers different areas of action that already started to bring very concrete results and we agreed on the need to continue working together to support the implementation of a UN reform as well as the reform of the WTO [World Trade Organisation].
We also agreed - as I was mentioning - to strengthen our dialogue on political global issues to adopt a more coordinated approach on our respective positions in all international negotiations and international fora. We have shown that when we come together with a common purpose with a common agenda, we do make the difference. If it was not thanks to us together - the African Union and the European Union - we would probably not have the Paris Agreement on Climate Change or the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.
Out of these two days of work, I can say that we come out stronger, with more determination to work together for the benefit of our people, but also for the benefit of the rest of the world.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I166694