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Your excellences, dear colleagues of the 20 EU Countries present in Abuja, friends of Europe
Just like the EU itself, today we unite in diversity to celebrate Europe Day
And to celebrate that we have seen another year of significantly deepening relations between EU and Nigeria
We have made a small tradition of making the EU celebrations in Nigeria a little different.
Those of you that were here last year will remember that we focussed the event on democracy and even with the help of INEC performed a small off-cycle, supplementary election right here in the court-yard.
Since then the EU has played a strong role in supporting our Nigerian partners in holding the largest democratic election on this continent, seeing the Peace Accord signed, deploying observers throughout the country for months, and our Presidents have congratulated HE Buhari with the victory and offered our support to see Nigeria move to the next level.
Now, soon it is our turn as European Parliamentary elections will be held later in May, consolidating, I am sure, the democratic governance of the EU. At least I cannot recall having seen such vivid and extensive debate ahead of European Parliamentary elections before. And believe or not, this is not only fuelled by BREXIT, but by an increasing understanding of the impact that EU has on every single citizen.
Now, while our joint efforts are far from over, and our commitment to supporting consolidation of democracy and inclusivity, including for youth, women and people with disabilities, is tireless, I still think that everyone will feel just a little bit relieved that the focus of this year celebration is quite different.
And it has frankly been difficult to select just one theme. As EU is doing so many different things; there are plenty of possibilities to celebrate our partnership with Nigeria.
We could have focussed on our joint political engagement in Nigeria, Africa and on the global stage and our collective work in the North East, the Middle Belt, the Niger Delta or the Gulf of Guinea.
We could have focussed on our trading relations as Nigeria's biggest trading partner with some 40 per cent of Nigerias exports destined for European markets with a big 10 billion plus surplus for Nigeria – unfortunate for Europe but good for development in Nigeria.
Or on our role as the biggest development partner when combining EU and EU Member states support. Since 2014, we have launched projects for Nigeria and ECOWAS in the order of 1.8 billion euros.
We could have focussed on our humanitarian work saving millions of lives as we are speaking.
Or on our work on migration and mobility, having assisted more than 13, 000 Nigerians to come home from Libya in safe and voluntary return flights.
Or our work with promotion of human rights in general and the right of women and girls in particular.
The list goes on…
It is indeed difficult to choose, and all of these and other matters should not compete for importance as they are all part of one greater, integrated approach reflecting the importance given to Africa's greatest nation by the EU.
To reflect on the diversity of our engagement, we opted for show-casing tonight and throughout the year, putting the spotlight on something that affects us all, something that fundamentally determines development opportunities in Nigeria,
Namely the importance of access to affordable and clean energy.
The numbers are staggering – in a nation of now 200 million Nigerians around 90 million do not have access to grid electricity.
The current generation of power in Nigeria is similar to one of the smallest EU countries, Latvia, with less than 2 million inhabitants even if Nigeria's population is more than one hundred times bigger.
When asking businesses what they see as key challenges to be able to compete – I always, quite literally without exception, hear as a main explanation that energy costs and reliability is a key challenge.
How Nigeria approaches this challenge is vital. Nigeria has the right to development, but there are win-win approaches that can provide the necessary supply while taking into consideration that we need to deliver a better world to the next generations.
The adverse effects Climate change already impact the economy, peace and stability in Nigeria. We need to keep that in mind as we design our policies.
This is why we have made the provision of affordable and renewable energy a key priority for our engagement with Nigeria. Upscaling investments, putting in place new finance for electricity mechanisms and providing 165 million Euro grants for specific projects and processes.
This effort is a cornerstone in the Alliance for Africa that President Juncker launched last year – propelling Africa to the very top of the EU agenda.
And stressing the importance of thinking bigger, I know this is a point made strongly by Minister Fashola, increasing investments and job creation in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.
And what we do in Nigeria is in effect a reflection of our understanding that there are common but differentiated responsibilities.
The EU is indeed trying to lead by example, by reducing our own emissions and increasing energy efficiency.
Just some months back, in December 2018, the EU has established new binding renewable energy targets at 32% for 2030.
This is only the beginning, and science has paved the way for potentially reaching 100 per cent within just a few decades.
This effort can only be successful if we all contribute.
That is why that we today here at the EU Delegation today launch our fully solar fuelled courtyard and meeting rooms as a first step towards full climate neutral power consumption.
Walking the talk, leading by example, and hopefully inspiring others to follow.
As symbolic reflection of our partnership with Nigeria – a partnership I am convinced will only grow stronger.
Maybe Albert Einstein is watching us from somewhere thinking that finally the world is beginning to make use of his discovery of the photoelectric effect – better late than never
Before ending my speech I wish to extend a special word of thanks to the EU Member states here in Nigeria. We work as a team and together we are the strongest.
Also big thanks to my amazing team here at the EU Delegation – you have truly created incredible results over the last year. We have a hugely talented group of people – even when they are not working as you will see tonight with the EU Choir and the EU band-members playing jazz in a little while.
Special thanks to the far too big group of excellent colleagues that happen to be on rotation at the same time this year. You have made us all proud – and I am not entirely sure how we will cope without you.
I hope that you will have a lovely Europe Day, Thank you for joining us tonight; I hope that you have taken time to make use of the creative and energy friendly installations.
And as always, remember the fundamental truth that what is good for Nigeria is good for Europe too.
Thank you very much.