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Dear Friend, President Barrow,
Honourable Chair, Mr Ion Jinga,
Distinguished Commission Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was just over a year ago, President Barrow, that I had the honour of being the first international partner to congratulate you - and the people of The Gambia – in person, on your peaceful and successful transition of power. Only then was I able to truly appreciate the magnitude of this change.
During my visit I saw a young and positive country, yearning for freedom and democracy. And I met a new and ambitious Government – full of fresh ideas and determination to fulfil its promise to reunite the people of The Gambia. [My only regret, as you cordially invited, was that I wasn’t able to stay longer.]
As you mentioned in February, the European Union was the first to step up – not only with material support – but also in terms of ideas and guidance to your efforts to shape a better future for The Gambia.
The rest of the international community quickly followed suit. And it was shortly after my visit that the first meeting of the Peace Building Commission on The Gambia was held, right here, last April.
Its focus was, above all, to ensure stability and to support the essential reforms – notably in the security sector – that you needed to undertake.
Our first-ever budget support programme, designed to reinforce your new democratic institutions, began in July 2017 with 25 million euros.
Today, I am proud to say that your progress has been impressive, and that our partnership has continued to grow from strength to strength. With the support of others, you are now firmly on the path to democracy and reform, which will allow more inclusive growth and prosperity for all.
The National Development Plan, which you have just presented, clearly identifies your priorities for the coming years. And it will allow us to discuss concrete targets today, and how we can best support you in achieving them.
We fully agree with its eight priorities. And the 150 million euros we have allocated under our eleventh European Development Fund align fully with them under the three areas we agreed together:
Today, our attention is turning to supporting The Gambia’s economic recovery. The expectations to quickly consolidate democratic reforms – and to translate them into economic dividends in terms of improved living conditions - are understandably high.
We are determined to help support inclusive growth through sustainable agricultural development and job creation in rural areas. The private sector will also play an important role in economic recovery. But we need to ensure that the right conditions and business climate are created – including, for example, by improving access to energy.
Most of all we need to ensure that The Gambia’s huge human potential is fulfilled. As you have said many times, President Barrow, "The Gambia needs their youth to build the nation."
The European Union will continue to support education and women’s and girls’ empowerment, therefore, and to support your efforts to provide brighter prospects, closer to home, for a more prosperous future for the next generations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I understand there is a nice Gambian traditional proverb which says that ‘giant silk cotton trees grow out of very tiny seeds.’ The seed has indeed already been laid. And it is now up to all of us to water and nurture it – and to ensure, together, that The Gambia can truly flourish.
So let me conclude by, once again, confirming our full support to your democratic transition, and to accompany you on the path towards more inclusive and sustainable development.
You have my personal commitment to help mobilise all the political and financial support needed from the international community to help deliver your new National Development Plan.
It is in this context that I pleased to announce that together with the Government of The Gambia, we are organising an International Conference in Brussels on the 22nd of May, followed by a Business Forum, to which I cordially invite you all.
I look forward to seeing you all in Brussels. And remember, every drop counts!