Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Malawi

Speech by H.E. Sandra Paesen, EU Ambassador to Malawi on the Occasion of Europe Day 2019

Lilongwe:, 13/05/2019 - 08:14, UNIQUE ID: 190513_13
Speeches of the Ambassador

Welcome to the 2019 Europe Day celebration.

I am grateful for the presence of our Honorary Guest, Minister Gondwe and to see so all my EU colleagues and so many friends of the EU here today.  I am told that this is the party of the year.  We will not let you down this year!

I am also very grateful that the Regional Representative of the EIB, Tom Andersson, has joined us today.  It is the first time that a representative from the Bank joins us here in Malawi.  In case you did not know, the EIB has more investment projects in Malawi than in any other SADC country.  And this is only the start, I promise you.

I also want to acknowledge the Erasmus students that we discussed with this week.

Most of all, my fellow EU Ambassadors, Amb. Borsch, Amb. Cunningham and Acting HC Leslie, the Honorary Consuls (of put in alphabetical order) in Malawi and those Ambassadors based in the region but who often come here, including next week for elections, you are the ones who give me as EU Ambassador my true colours.

The EU Flag has 12 stars – these stars are you!

I remember the times when the EU had only 15 EU Member States, this was up to 2004 when I joined the EU.  I remember the day that what we called “the enlargement” was taking place.  Suddenly, we had to take decisions not only with 15 Member States, with every vote required, but we changed some of the procedures and introduced qualified majority voting.  This was democracy and inclusion at its best.

Indeed, I have now touched upon the team of this year: INCLUSION.  In the EU, everyone belongs.  And through the EU, everyone will be given a chance to belong.

Through our projects, we demonstrate you that this is what we stand for in Malawi.  Whether it is the Small Holder Farmer, the girl child, a young boy with disabilities, an older woman aspiring to take up a seat in the next elections: the EU stands with all of you.  Since 2015, we spent or committed 550.000.000 euro in Malawi to this effect.  However, we have to be honest: it seems we cannot keep track with the needs.  If nothing changes, the Malawi population will grow to unprecedented and unsustainable levels within the next twenty years, reaching 30.000.000 people.  I cannot promise you, that we will within the same timespan manage to match this in terms of the EU Budgettary Commitments.

When we in the EU, in 1950, rising from the ashes of war, looked at ways to overcome and prevent conflict, the then French Foreign Minister put forward his ideas to try and integrate the key strategic economic sectors (coal and steel) of the biggest nations under one governing body.  Building on this, the EU member states have never seen a day of war since.

As I have just said, this successful model became a pole of attraction from countries which were rising from communism and are all successfully integrated into the EU family since, without war, and knowing prosperity and solidarity.

The EU is a strong promotor of multilateralism, and of regional integration, for these reasons.  We have tested various models, and through trial and error we know that inclusion and cooperation work.  The EU is today the biggest single market in the world.

Even if Europe has made an incredible journey from war to peace, from devastation to prosperity since 1950, we have not been spared from the temptations to going backwards.  This year of 2019 will be marked by one of the strongest challenges to those ideas, with serious attacks (including cyberattacks, fake news attacks) against  the Institutions of the Union and even to the idea of the Union itself. 

This week, President Tusk presented a very clear way ahead, after leaders met in Sibiu, Romania: the next EP elections on 28/5 and the appointment of the leaders of the EU institutions will be done quickly, in order to have a new Commission in place last in June this year.  We cannot afford to waste time, when we look at our ambitions and our responsabilities.

Since I joined in 2004, I have never seen or felt so much optimism and real vibrations in Brussels.  We are serious.  We mean business.  And we stand for our values.

Today’s world, is very different including on the African continent.  Africa is striving for a Continental Free Trade Area, this creates enormous potential also for Europe, separated only 14 kilometers from the African continent.  We realise that we have to treat Africa as one, and that we need to continue to build on our shared past, and our shared future.  Africa is the cradle of mankind.  And Africa is slowly becoming the future for the world: its potential in terms of human resources, natural resources including renewable energies, wildlife and habitat protection issues, and authentic ways of living which is what Europe is sometimes longing for.  However, the effects of climate change and demographics, unfinished democratic processes and a grey area between demanding cultural values and principles of good housekeeping are potentially deeply eating these strong assets out from outside and from within.  It is alike a termite invasion into your house in the middle of a tropical storm.  The house will fall apart.

Malawi’s ability to show resilience to both outside and inside shocks have been deeply tested over the last decades and years.  Malawians have a remarkable way of landing back on their feet when crises hit them hard.  We should not applaud here.  Surviving and thriving are really the opposite of each other. 

Desperation kills. We have recently deplored, at Kamuzu airport, the arrival of six deceased brave Malawian soldiers, killed by extremists in the DRC. 

Climate Change effects kill. Our hearts and prayers are also with Malawians, young and old, but all of them poor, who lost their lives in the recent floods.  There is no doubt that increasing deforestation and precarious living conditions in rural areas intensify the negative impacts of climate change.  In fact, the EU Ambassadors and me are going on a joint road trip next month to get a much deeper understanding of what Malawi needs in order to continue improving preparedness and prevention. 

Poverty kills. In 2016, Malawi was the only SADC country to benefit from humanitarian aid.  Stunting still stands at 37% of Malawians. 

Sometimes ignorance kills.

Trust me when I say: we will work more, not less with Africa.  And we will work more, not less, with Malawi.  But maybe we need to change our game.

The post Cotonou agreement which governed relations between Africa and the EU since the 1950’s is going to end and is not going to be renewed.

Rather, we are seeking a comprehensive political agreement (framed by the internationally agreed sustainable development agenda), thus going beyond a traditional development approach.  Since the last EU-Africa Summit, three action plans were adopted (in peace and security e.g.).  Also, with growing demands, it’s clear that we cannot leave out the private sector.  In 2017, the EU launched the EU External Investment Plan, mobilising by 2020 at least €44 billion in private and public investment (in Africa and the EU's neighbourhood).

When we look at the above, the EU alone and Malawi alone cannot pull it off:

If we accept that the 560.000.000 million euro we spend on this is on average 32 euro per Malawian.  50% of the total 17.5 million population of Malawi is under 18 years of age, and women represent more than half of the population. The population, with the current growth rates, will grow to 35 million in 2040.

This would mean that the EU, to keep up its current level of engagement, would need to, through development funds alone, spend around 1.5 billion euro for Malawi alone.

As soon as the new government is in place, the EU will start to discuss, setting the basis for the next 7-year programmatic cycle. If we want to make maximum use of this investment, and this opportunity: we need strong, robust, independent and credible institutions, we need to curb corruption at every level and by everyone.

Sometimes people say that elections are the ultimate test of democracy, others say that there are other models which work.  However, by casting the vote, by filling in, anonymously, the ballot paper, every man but certainly also every woman can choose its own leader, freely, and unhindered.  Only if each and every citizen, those with disabilities, those with lower levels of educations, those of each and every side of the country, sees itself reflected in the image of its leaders and representatives, will society be able to have the laws, the protection, and give the same benefits, to each and every citizens.  So in this sense, elections are not the litmus test of democracy.  It is where democracy starts. 

Malawi has held peaceful elections since the start of multi-party elections.  Transfer of power has equally been always flawless and peaceful.  Malawi now needs to start using its “peace dividend”.

The EU Election Observation Mission, who arrived in country a few weeks ago, every day see the commitment of Malawians and it’s institutions to this process.  They are covering every district on 21/5 so you are bound to run into them.  Do feel free to engage with them.  They are some of the best ambassadors we have to offer!

I can tell you, that come 21/5, I will myself be going to the Gender Elections Room set up by UN Women through our joint support, and that my hope is to see no, rather than many, incidents of violence against women.  We have just launched Spotlight Initiative, a EUR 20 million programme to fight SGBV, and so we must insist on keeping women safe, and giving women opportunities to run for office.  Together with my other female Heads of Mission, I think I can speak with authority on this.


Concluding my remarks now:

I’m very proud of this year’s Europe Day:

  • you can enjoy wonderful food from the EU countries
  • young artists from Music Crossroads have worked hard to bring us a surprise version of the Beethoven Symphonia, our EU Anthem, “Malawian Style”
  • they have been working together with DJ Makambo, from Belgium, to promote youth and cultural heritage, our DJ Lab participants
  • and last but not least, as always standing up for the rights of people with disabilities: Lazarus, just returned from the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, where he won the Disruptive Innovation Award for his fight for people living with albinism.

If you are interested in supporting these young artists, you will find more information in the EU stand. They all deserve a big round of applause.  You young people, you are the future!

I would like to propose a toast to the good health of the President of the Republic of Malawi, APM, to the Presidents of the EC and EU Council, and to the friendship between the peoples of Malawi and Europe.

Zikomo Kwambiri

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