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Every year, 9th of May marks Europe Day, a day dedicated to the celebration of peace and unity in Europe. On 9th of May 1950 the French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann proposed to place French and German production of coal and steel - strategic items for warfare - under a common high authority in an attempt to prevent further conflicts in Europe. It was the first step on the path that led to today’s European Union (EU). Since that time, the collaboration and partnership that followed from the Franco/German initiative has evolved into the EU we know today, which has brought unprecedented peace and prosperity to the citizens of its 28 Member States. The EU in South Sudan is represented by the Delegation and six Member States: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In Europe and third countries, Europe Day is celebrated with a series of activities and events. In South Sudan, to celebrate this historic day, the EU Delegation hosted a reception for almost 200 guests including government ministers, dignitaries, and members of the diplomatic corps, representatives from the UN and Non-Government Organisations as well as those representing media, arts and culture in South Sudan. These among others included the Presidential Advisor for Education Dr. John Gai Yoh, Economic Presidential Advisor Aggrey Tisa, Ministers for Roads and Bridges Rebecca Joshua Okwaci, Agriculture, Adigo Onyoti, General Education, Deng D. Hoc and federal affairs, Richard K. Mulla, Chief Justice Reec Chan Madut, the Special Representative of the Secretary David Shearer and R-JMEC Interim chair Gen Augustino Njoroge. Pupils of Confident Children out of Conflict officially sang the South Sudanese national anthem.
Speaking during the reception, EU Ambassador to South Sudan Dr Sinead Walsh, reminded those gathered of the fundamental values of the European Union; respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law; values which the EU is in South Sudan to promote. She urged all parties to South Sudan's revitalised peace agreement to regularly communicate to each other during the extended pre-transitional period in order to find solutions to the outstanding issues. She also underscored the importance of other non-state actors in building a sustainable peace in the new nation.
"We believe that more space should be given to the voices of women, faith based organisations, human rights activities, not just the peace process but all aspects of South Sudanese society and governance," she said. "We are encouraged by the willingness of the parties to compromise and see the consensus reached on the extension of the pre-transitional period as evidence of their commitment to work together in a concerted manner to accelerate the implementation of the outstanding tasks in the six months. The road ahead will be long and bumpy, as every peace process is. But we are convinced that the South Sudanese want peace and where there is a will, there is a way."
The guest of honour, presidential advisor for Education Honourable Dr John Gai hailed the EU for standing with the people of South Sudan right from 2013 when the armed conflict broke out. "Throughout these years, the EU has been South Sudan's partner and true friend," Dr Gai said. "The areas of European Cooperation with South Sudan are numerous and covering many areas including education, health and human rights but the EU Support to the revitalised peace process remains the major assistance to the people of South Sudan."
The Delegation also organised a photo competition and exhibition as part of the activities to mark Europe Day this year. The theme of the competition was #inspiring photos of South Sudan which featured people, cultures or landscapes of South Sudan. The aim of the competition was to showcase the extraordinary courage, hope and resilience of the South Sudanese people and the enormous potential the country has. The competition was open to South Sudanese citizens living in the country and it ran from 18th April to Monday 6th May. At least 70 entrants were received with ten finalists' photos exhibited during the reception.
Achuoth Deng emerged the victor of the first EU photo Contest in South Sudan with Amin Yezzus and Cosmas Khamis coming second and third respectively. Deng was awarded a canon model camera and Yezzus received a special jury award of an android smartphone.