Your Excellency Brigadier David Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana,
Your Excellency, First Lady Mrs. Sandra Granger,
[Honourable Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire]
[Honourable Justice Yonette Cummings Edwards, Chancellor of the Judiciary]
[Honourable Dr Barton Scotland, Speaker of the National Assembly]
Honourable Ministers of the Cabinet,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly,
[His Worship Pandit Ubraj Narine, Mayor of Georgetown,]
Other Representatives of the Guyanese State,
Members of the Diplomatic and Honorary Consular Corps,
Members of the Media,
Other Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this important event, commemorating Europe Day, which falls on 9th May, and is the day when we celebrate peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historical "Schuman Declaration", a statement made by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on 9th May 1950. It proposed to place French and German production of coal and steel under one common High Authority. Based on this declaration, on 18 April 1951, the six founding members signed the Treaty of Paris which created the European Coal and steel Community. This organization paved the way for the European Economic Community and subsequently the European Union.
This is my last speech for Europe Day as my mandate ends in August. For this reason I feel obliged to include some personal remarks to bid farewell.
As some of you may know, I am a national diplomat temporarily assigned from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia to the European External Action Service. Being the EU Head of Delegation in Guyana was an enriching experience; I have come to know the Caribbean region more in depth, its history and aspirations. Although without knowing it I have known Guyana before coming here. How is that possible? Well, through a Slovenian-British composer born in Georgetown on the 12th September 1943 to a Slovenian sailor and a British nurse. His name was Dusan Velkaverh. He died on the 1st February 2016 in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. He is a legend of the Slovenian song festival history! About 30 of his 600 lyrics became major hits in Slovenia, the evergreens. One song was also competing at the Eurovision song contest in 1975 with the title "Dan ljubezni" (The Day of Love). Let's listen to it! Let's look at a concert held in honour of this acclaimed composer, you'll see him on the recording as well.
As you can see, a Guyanese Slovenian has touched the hearts of generations of Slovenians, and I asked myself, was there any reverse influence from Slovenians to the Guyanese people. I could think of the Non-Aligned Movement. The ideology behind the movement was mainly conceptualized by Slovenian political figures and diplomats. A well maintained and groomed park in Georgetown that has the busts of the main leaders of the movement is an evidence of this political influence.
Slovenia was part of the socialist Yugoslavia. But it was a country which did not develop as fast as its neighbours, the Austrians and Italians. We, Slovenians, could see us falling behind in development and prosperity. It was thus a natural choice made by Slovenians at a referendum to join nations with higher incomes and quality of life. Slovenia became a member of the EU in 2004, 15 years ago. Being part of the EU has given us a forward driven environment which guarantees sovereignty to our nation, encourages creativity of the people, rewards hard work, a space where our language and culture can thrive, where human dignity and the freedoms of people are protected. The EU has also given us an institutional framework through which we can exert a greater influence in world affairs. Similarly, Guyana has amplified its influence in international relations through CARICOM or as a member of the SIDS, or GRULAC for instance.
Capitalism has won. But at a recent "debate of the century" on happiness, capitalism and Marxism between two acclaimed philosophers, the Slovenian Slavoj Žižek and the Canadian Jordan Peterson, in Toronto, Žižek questioned the perception that capitalism truly won. He reflected on the question: "Does today's global capitalism contain strong enough antagonisms that prevent its indefinite reproduction?" Žižek thinks that there are such antagonisms, like the threat of ecological catastrophe, the consequence of new techno-scientific developments, especially in biogenetic and new forms of Apartheid. All these 'commons', he stated, concern the shared substance of our social being. Humanity is threatened by pollution, global warming and so on, then, the digitalisation of our brains opens up unheard new possibilities of control and, finally, the common space of humanity itself is under threat. We live in one and the same world which is more and more interconnected; but, nonetheless, deeply divided."
Why have I shared with you the words of a philosopher? It is to highlight the catalyst role of the EU. It has the capacity to be inspired by and to absorb abstract ideas and captivating visions of scholars and political minds and to turn them into concrete policies which respond to and counteract challenges and emerging threats and which, in consequence, dampen and offset their negative impacts on the livelihood of people. The EU is based on values and principles inherent to a democratic and pluralistic society based on strong moral and ethical norms.
And this is reflected in its internal and external policies to ensure that the EU can effectively tackle today's complex and cross-cutting challenges in a global system that has become less predictable. In this challenging context, the EU is a leading force for diplomacy, cooperation and compromise. Implementing the EU Global Strategy, the Union has taken unprecedented steps to increase internal cooperation in the field of security and defence; worked to preserve an international agreement with Iran's nuclear programme; re-energised the European perspective of the Western Balkans; engaged with partners to strengthen global governance and seek mutually beneficial solutions to common issues, from fighting the impact of climate change to governing migration.
It is with the capacity of European nations to pull together their resources that the EU instruments and programmes have a global reach. But even though the EU is a global actor, it has to have allies that share the same values, principles and goals to make a difference.
Our partnership with Guyana, a member of the ACP - African, Caribbean, Pacific group of States - is strategic. This year represents an important milestone because the negotiations for the future new EU-ACP Agreement, Post-Cotonou agreement, shall be concluded. A new phase in our partnership will start from 2020. It will be based on the existing general policy framework, like the new European Consensus on Development, 2030 Agenda/SDGs, Paris agreement on Climate change, Addis Abeba Action Agenda, supplemented with regional and continental strategies, like the EU-Africa Alliance and Abidjan declaration, Euro-Asian Connectivity, EU-LAC, Central Asia, thematic policy documents, on migration, climate change, civil society, human rights, culture.
To prepare for this new phase, we will start, these coming months, with the in-country dialogue with Guyana, focusing on policy, strategies and overall priorities to draft the next programming phase of our cooperation.
One document is of particular importance, the recently adopted EU-LAC Communication, which seeks to modernise and update the partnership between Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Communication objective is to prompt a dialogue with the Caribbean and Latin America about the future, how can both regions manage the many challenges with which we have to cope, like challenges to multilateralism and a rules-based world order, how to jointly work on the implementation of the Paris agreement and the Agenda 2030, how to manage the humanitarian consequences of man-made and natural disasters, including large scale migration and refugee flow.
During my mandate the Delegation has, in four years, achieved a lot in the area of development cooperation with Guyana. I approved disbursements for a total of 83 million euros in various areas from sea defence to human rights, through sugar, water and electricity sectors.
All of these achievements are the result of hard work and dedication of my colleagues in the Delegation. I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for their contribution to deepen and strengthen the relations between the European Union and Guyana.
My gratitude goes also to my family. Our stay in Guyana has been an enriching experience. My wife Ruta has been a great support in my diplomatic work and an intimate adviser, she was taking care of the numerous events held and making sure that the service and products were of the highest European quality and taste. She was much involved in the education of our daughter Celeste Liepa. In Clemsville Music School, Celeste received an excellent education in violin thanks to Dr. Wendy Rudder and her violin teacher Chie Clark.
The Caribbean is an enchanting place with a rich cultural and natural heritage. The tastes of curry, especially of "Guyanese style curry duck", will always stay with us and I believe in 10 years' time with improved infrastructure thanks to the revenue from the oil and gas, Guyana will become an attractive destination for many European tourists.
I would propose you to mark the places where Henri Charrière, also known as Papillon, was living in Georgetown after his escape from the Devil's Island prison in French Guiana. The tourists could then imagine better the life of a person whose memoirs became a bestselling novel. In case he would have been seen dancing in the ballroom of the City Hall, I ask you to make the effort to renovate this historical building as soon as possible. The EU financed the Comprehensive Restoration and Sustainable Conservation Management Plan for the City Hall in the amount of 280,000 euros. So I think it would be gratifying for the development of tourism in Guyana to see the restoration happen.
Last but not least, this year, for the very first time, we could turn to sponsors to help the Delegation organise this reception. We are very grateful to Repsol, Tullow and The Praline for their great support ! The Praline imports to Guyana the Belgian chocolates Leonidas which is a Certified Royal Warrant Holders of Belgium. Enjoy every flavour of these delicious royal delicacies. May the oil of Guyana be as smooth to our car as these chocolates are to our palates. But I must remind you that the last internal combustion engine car will be sold in Europe during the early 2030s and by 2035. There is no restriction foreseen for chocolate consumption though. Mr. Vogt, Mr. Grouper, Ms. Forde, thank you for coming on board so smoothly !
Also the Honorary Consul of Spain, Mr. Tiwarie, has put at our disposal his band that will in a moment entertain us with nice and smooth music. Thank you!
Let me now raise a toast ! To Guyana, to its prosperity, to the enhanced EU-Guyana cooperation and, more personally, to your full and prompt recovery Mr. President !