71 years ago, in the aftermath of World War Two, Robert Schuman took the risk, in a famous declaration, of proposing cooperation to old enemies. Little did he know that he was making history. Starting with economic cooperation, the European Union has developed into a unique economic and political union founded on strong values of solidarity and unity. The European Union has achieved a lot : the EU has provided its citizens with seven decades of peace and stability – an achievement rewarded in 2012 by a Nobel Peace Prize. The EU has also achieved the single market, a common currency for 19 of its 27 Member States, common policies in agriculture, fisheries and various other areas and an increasingly prominent role on the international scene.
Celebrating Europe Day is a unique opportunity to talk about the European Union, its symbols, the values it stands for and its positive impact in the world. Actions speak louder than words is a common saying. In this context, the EU ‘walks the talks’ : be it as the largest donor of development aid and humanitarian assistance or as a leader in climate action.
Here in Mauritius, we act at various levels: we conduct advocacy and share our experience in key sectors : human rights, the fight against climate change, biodiversity protection or maritime security. We also provide means to civil society to implement key actions by funding many projects. We also partner with stakeholders across the board to make progress in those areas. So in 2021, what did we celebrate on Europe Day?
Sharing our symbols
This year, Europe week was about sharing the symbols of the EU, such as the EU flag or anthem as they reflect the European ideals of peace, unity and solidarity. We presented a concert featuring European composers' works, including the Ode to Joy as well as a well-known Mauritian song whose melody has been composed by a Hungarian cellist. The Ambassador hosted a reception at the Residence, illuminated in blue and yellow – the colours of the European flag. The highlights of the evening were the flag raising ceremony and the Ode to joy performed by a well-known Mauritian soprano.
Showcasing our action, upholding our values and promoting common interests
This week was also about showcasing our action in key areas : combating any form of discrimination be it against women and girls, disabled persons, LGBTI+ persons; bringing human rights issues such as press freedom in the public debate ; giving a voice to defenders of human dignity and diversity. It was also an occasion to highlight the whole Team Europe solidarity in the face of two sanitary crisis, namely the coronavirus as well as recent cases of foot and mouth disease detected among cattle in Rodrigues. The Ambassador was present at the airport on 9 May for the arrival of 38,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines delivered to Mauritius through the COVAX Facility. He was also at the airport on 15 May for the delivery of 180,000 doses of foot and mouth disease vaccines that will allow the Mauritian authorities to start rapidly the vaccination campaign of livestock .
Investing in a partnership that matters
We need the continued interest and active participation of our partners in our actions in order to make them truly meaningful. Therefore, this week was also about celebrating our cooperation with Mauritius and Seychelles. Despite restrictions linked to the pandemic, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mauritius graced the Europe Day reception by his valued presence. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Seychelles addressed an official message to the EU highlighting its "important role in the region in bringing together partners to achieve lasting peace, stability and sustainable development, promoting, in the process, democracy, human rights and the rule of law". We see this is a testimony to the trusted partnership that we have built with the two countries. We have also received the support of the 11 goodwill Ambassadors of the Rise and Shine campaign to promote and protect human rights. We have also received the continued support of other partners from the civil society and the private sector engaged in building resilient and more inclusive societies.
Europe Day is a great day to say that the European Union is indeed a remarkable project founded on principles and fundamental values that we strive to uphold in our policies and actions with our partners. It is encouraging to see that our action is acknowledged and appreciated by our partners. Europe Day is also a day to say how proud we are to work for advancing the partnership with the Republic of Mauritius and the Republic of Seychelles and for contributing to building a better and safer world.