H.E. Mr Paramasivum Pillay VYAPOORY, Acting President of the Republic of Mauritius
Hon Pravind Kumar JUGNAUTH, Prime Minister, Minister of Home Affairs, External Communications and National Development Unit, Minister of Finance and Economic Development
Hon Ivan Leslie COLLENDAVELLOO, GCSK, SC, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Energy and Public Utilities
Hon Marc France Eddy BALANCY, Chief Justice
Hon Mrs Santi Bai HANOOMANJEE, Speaker of the National Assembly
Rt Hon Sir Anerood JUGNAUTH, GCSK, KCMG, QC, Minister Mentor, Minister of Defence, Minister for Rodrigues
Former Presidents of the Republic of Mauritius
Hon Mrs Fazila JEEWA-DAUREEAWOO, GCSK, Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Local Government and Outer Islands, Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A warm welcome to The Plaza for the celebration of Europe Day! It is my great pleasure to be here with you once again in this beautiful place of cultural importance for Mauritius and its people.
Europe Day is a time to celebrate the founding of the European Union, a project of unique vision.
On this day in 1950 the French Foreign Minister, Mr Robert Schuman made a declaration, known as the Schuman Declaration, calling for a joint authority to oversee French and German production of coal and steel. He thought that pooling them would make war between the two historic rivals, not only unthinkable, but impossible. And, he was right! The EU has ensured its citizens over 60 years of peace which is the longest period of peace in Europe's history!
From a union of coal and steel, the EU has evolved to what it is today: a political and trade union of 28 countries and 500 million citizens, many of whom use the euro as a single currency daily. But, we have also become a global political partner: the first provider of development funds and humanitarian aid, the second largest economy in the world and a key trade partner.
Europe Day is therefore also time to celebrate the diplomatic, political and economic ties we have built with our partners around the world.
And so today, we celebrate our ties and friendship with the Republic of Mauritius.
We have a lot to celebrate because our partnership is a historic one. It is based on solid cultural ties and trust between our people. It builds on our joint commitment to fundamental values such as democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, as well as our mutual attachment to multilateralism and a rules-based global order.
For many years, the partnership focused on agriculture with the EU granting Mauritius' sugar exports preferential access to its market. But since then, Mauritius has diversified its economy, and is now an upper middle income country. We can be proud of the European Union's contribution to the remarkable economic development of Mauritius.
However, our partnership is also forward-looking and one that is adapting to new challenges and opportunities. It now reflects our shared commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The last week's visit to Mauritius by the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, was the occasion to confirm this at the highest level.
Our partnership with Mauritius is no longer a donor-recipient relationship, but one that is based on common values and shared interests. Along with our Member States, we support Mauritius to be an active player in Africa and in the Indian Ocean region and share its example of socioeconomic development.
We support this vision with the new 'Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs'. There are two priorities of this Alliance which are particularly relevant for Mauritius:
Firstly: youth empowerment. The EU is supporting the modernisation of Mauritius and the creation of sustainable jobs. The Prime Minister and the EU Commissioner have just signed a new programme for tertiary education, research and innovation. It will contribute to addressing the skills mismatch and boosting the human capital.
We also have the European Erasmus + programme for education which provides Mauritian students with the opportunity to study in European universities, and vice-versa, European students to do part of their studies in Mauritius.
Secondly: strengthening economic integration and trade. As a main driver of economic growth, the private sector has a key role to play in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Agenda. With this in mind, the EU and Mauritius have developed solid trade relations based on the Economic Partnership Agreement. The EU is the main trading partner of Mauritius, and we are discussing the deepening of our trade relations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us not forget that sustainable development is not only about sustainable investment and jobs.
We are all aware that there can be no sustainable development without peace and security. In this region, countries highly depend on safety and security of the oceans. Since 2008, the EU has been a key security provider in the region with "Atalanta", the first EU naval operation. For over ten years, this operation has successfully been fighting piracy, and has greatly contributed to maritime security in this part of the world. We also work with Mauritius and other countries in the region to build their maritime capacities and promote cooperation between them. Last week, the EU Commissioner signed a new programme to improve port security and safe navigation in the wider region. This shows our commitment for maritime safety and security, and protecting and developing trade and the blue economy in this region.
The promotion and protection of Human Rights is one of the fundamental values shared by the EU and Mauritius. We pay particular attention to the rights of women and children. Three days ago, I was honoured to co-chair, with the Honourable Vice-Prime Minister, the second policy dialogue on gender. It bears testimony to our joint commitment to promote gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. We also launched a gender campaign called 'Rise and Shine'. This is the theme that we have chosen for Europe Day to reaffirm that gender equality is at the heart of our partnership with Mauritius. Allow me here to convey my sincere thanks to the 'Rise and Shine' ambassadors, many of you are here with us tonight, for your participation in our campaign. Tonight, we will have the opportunity to look at your photos and read your inspiring words on gender equality and human rights.
Climate Change is another area of our joint action. I am glad that, in Mauritius, we have launched a policy dialogue with the Government. This shows our joint commitment to step up our efforts in implementing the Paris Agreement. Our dialogue is complemented by EU support in adapting to the challenges of climate change.
Lastly, let me remind you that this year we commemorate 500 years of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci is still an inspiration for his creativity and his vision in arts and science today. He is a part of the universal heritage, and the symbol of innovation. His vision and his humanism should inspire us today when we search for solutions towards a peaceful world, a clean environment and prosperity for all.
The European Union is determined to play its part in finding these solutions with all our partners in the spirit of trust, respect and mutual understanding.
Thank you for your attention.
I would now like to make a special announcement. We'll have the pleasure tonight to have a surprise performance by a young singer, whom you all know. She is a UNESCO Artist for Peace and also one of the ambassadors of our Rise and Shine campaign. I would like to now invite our distinguished guests to join the VIP corner and invite you all to please welcome Miss Jane Constance.