Pleased to open this 7th Article 8 Political Dialogue between the Seychelles and the European Union which I will have the honour to co-chair with the Vice-President of the Republic of Seychelles.
Welcome the participation of several Cabinet Ministers and numerous representatives of relevant ministries, State bodies and independent institutions. Thank for they participation during this busy time of budgetary discussions.
Very pleased with a large participation of EU Member States at the dialogue; 11 Member States are represented – 8 Ambassadors (from Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, The Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Finland and Sweden and 3 Deputy Heads of Mission (Hungary, Slovak Republic and Sweden), 10 of them based in other countries. This is a visible sign that the partnership with the Seychelles is important for the European Union and its member countries.
Since our last dialogue important changes have taken place in the European Union. The European citizens have elected a new European Parliament, and a new leadership of the European institutions have been nominated (President of the Commission, President of the European Council and the High Representative).
The new European Commission of Ursula von der Leyen, will be a ‘Geopolitical Commission’, which will work for the EU that is more strategic, more assertive and more united in its approach to external relations; for the EU that is a global leader, taking decisions in a faster and more efficient way; better linking the internal and external aspects of our policies, but also taking further bold steps in the next five years towards a genuine European Defence Union and ensuring that EU's external financial instruments are used strategically, contribute to our wider political aims and enhance Europe’s leadership and influence in the world. The message from the new leadership of the EU is clear: while the world around us becomes ever more unsettled, we need to work together with all our partners.
We share many common challenges and opportunities, and are all affected by many of the same changes to our environment, economies and societies. Cooperating and working with others is what European Union is all about. We believe in multilateralism because it works. It makes us safer, more prosperous and better able to make the most of the major transitions of our times.
It is also in this spirit that we want to work with our partners in Africa and in the Indian Ocean region, including the Seychelles. It is with this vision in mind that we seek to render our partnership with the ACP countries more political and more efficient through the Post-Cotonou agreement negotiations, and this is the spirit present in the EU-Africa Alliance for Sustainable Growth and Jobs, and which will underscore the next EU-Africa Summit in 2020.
The EU is a longstanding partner of the Seychelles. The European Union and the Republic of Seychelles signed the first ever National Indicative Programme covering social infrastructure and rural development in 1977. Since then, the partnership has certainly changed based on a continuous, frank and constructive dialogue. It now goes beyond the traditional "development aid" logic; it reflects the status of Seychelles as a High-Income Country as well as new opportunities and global challenges. It covers topics of mutual interest, including maritime security, trade and investment, sustainable fisheries, and climate change. Most recently, Seychelles and the EU (together with other ESA states) have engaged a historical ESA deepening process. Seychelles was an active player in the period leading to the launch of the negotiations. Seychelles is an important and valued partner of the European Union in a strategic region.
As a like-minded partner, the EU stands by Seychelles and works hand in hand with Government to address global challenges and promote common interests. With a strong role that Seychelles plays on international fronts and the pioneering work that it has done on climate adaptation via, for instance, Debt for Nature Swap, issue of Blue Bonds etc, Seychelles can serve as a model for peers. The EU can also partner with Seychelles for outreach to other African countries, SIDS etc.
As the agenda of our Political Dialogue indicates in our relations with Seychelles we have already moved from a donor – recipient approach to a partnership of equals in a number of areas of common interest such as investment and trade, fisheries and blue economy, climate change, or maritime security. But our partnership with Seychelles spans wider than our bilateral cooperation and as a high income country Seychelles is ready to use of more innovative forms of financing, like for instance the successful blending operation approved for the Port Victoria project in 2018. As member of COMESA, IOC and SADC, Seychelles also benefits from the regional funding of the European Union. Funds are also provided under the Fisheries Protocol and the EPA implementation programmes.
This 7th session of Article 8 Political Dialogue offers an opportunity to discuss how to further strengthen our comprehensive partnership, in line with Africa-Europe Alliance. From the EU side we can reaffirm that we determined to continue working closely together in a wide range of fields where EU has a comparative advantage, notably when it comes to helping to address Seychelles vulnerability by promoting environmental sustainability and working for the achievement of global targets in fight against climate change; providing institutional capacity building; support to ocean governance by the development of the blue economy, fisheries and maritime security (including tackling drug trafficking); contributing to economic diversification and sustainable growth by encouraging more trade and investment between Seychelles and EU through Economic Partnership Agreement and European External Investment Plan. But also by further promoting shared values between the EU and Seychelles.
The EU considers Seychelles as a likeminded partner for the EU, with an ambition to play a more significant role in the Indian Ocean region and in Africa. So we believe that a stronger partnership founded on shared values could be a basis for more cooperation to promote multilateralism and a rules-based international order.