H.E. Alessandro Mariani, Ambassador of the European Union to Zambia & COMESA
Speech on the occasion of Europe Day in Zambia
9th May 2016
It is an honour and great pleasure for me and my wife to welcome all of you to the Europe Day reception.
And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government and the People of Zambia for the warm welcome and hospitality granted to me and my family at all times since our arrival in this beautiful country in September last year. Notwithstanding this relative short period in Zambia, we already consider your country as our second home.
We have joined you at a very interesting and important time. 2016 is a pivotal year for Zambia; a year with significant opportunities, - and some demanding challenges at the same time.
2016 is the year when, after having passed into Law the Constitutional Amendment Bill, Zambia has the opportunity to complete its long Constitutional review process, and it is the year when Zambia can further consolidate its tradition and reputation for democratic elections (i.e.: forthcoming general elections on 11 August).
This year can also be the time when Zambia capitalises on its status as a regional role-model for peace and stability and engages further on the regional and international scene. The European Union welcomes the more pro-active role of Zambia in the regional and international scene, which is fully in line with its history, and congratulates Zambia for its appointment as member of the African Union Peace and Security Council. The European Union is confident that every possible effort will be made by Zambia to enhance peace and stability on the continent.
The economic and the energy crisis, which have recently hit Zambia, have clearly had a negative impact on the trajectory of growth of the country. However, in addition to its own abundant natural resources (land; water; minerals; etc) and its human resources, Zambia can also count on international partners such as the European Union. Let me reconfirm, today, the commitment of the European Union to assist Zambia to the best of our ability in addressing the current economic challenges with all the instruments available in terms of development cooperation and enhanced opportunities for trade and investment. The European Union is in fact firmly convinced that “We Share the Same Future”.
On development cooperation:
As many of you know, Zambia and the European Union have a solid development partnership and I cannot think of a more relevant one at this present time as we focus on energy; agriculture and good governance (overall amount of € 484 million grants for the period 2014-20). Together with Zambia we wish to foster a sustainable and inclusive growth, contributing to the diversification of the Zambian economy. This is in our view, more than ever, the way forward.
Agriculture holds all the elements to become a main pillar for diversification provided that we all agree on a couple of concepts (Farming is business; Agriculture is not only maize).
Energy will become a pillar of diversification when the right measures are put in place, namely cost reflective tariffs, and provided the country embraces promotion of the use of renewable energies such as solar, wind, and geothermal in the sector (beyond hydro which is exposed to drought situations and climate change).
Good governance (justice; public finance management; gender equality; elections; etc) is a fundamental ingredient for sustainable and inclusive development in all societies.
On trade and investments:
Ladies and gentlemen, the European Union is also aiming at fostering its trade and investment partnership with Zambia, and I am very pleased to announce today that the EU Member States, the European Union Delegation and the private sector have come together for a new initiative “the EU-Zambia Business Club”. I am pleased to inform you that more than 200 European companies have already confirmed their interest in participating in this initiative which will cooperate closely, and in synergy, with the bilateral Chambers of Commerce. The EU Zambia business club will provide a platform for interaction, networking, B2B contacts amongst members and with companies potentially interested in investing and trading with Zambia.
On a political note:
I would like to reiterate that the upcoming elections provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of Zambia to ensure peaceful, credible and transparent elections. The European Union has confidence in the Electoral Commission and its capacity to successfully organise the upcoming elections which we hope, in accordance with Zambia’s tradition, will be free from violence and fully respecting fundamental democratic rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. These are fundamental principles we share and which are amongst the priorities of the European Union's foreign policy in the world. The European Union welcomed the recent indaba, at the end of March, and the very important messages and contribution to peace. Zambian people are peace loving and reject violence in all its forms.
Following an invitation from the Zambian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the possibility of deploying an EU Electoral Observation Mission, , is currently being examined at the highest political level in Brussels. We should be able to provide our answer in the very near future. In case of a positive answer, the first contingent of the mission could already be in the country before the end of June well in advance of the election date.
In a nutshell, dear friends, the European Union looks forward to continuing its strong partnership with Zambia, and to further enrich it.
Finally a message about the European Union from the High Representative of the European Union, Federica Mogherini, on the occasion of this year's Europe Day (the entire statement is available also on the Facebook page of the Delegation in Zambia).
The High Representative stated that "for the first time in our history our European Union faces an existential threat. This is not simply about terrorism (….), this is for sure not about migration (..).The existential threat comes from within our own borders."
"Our Union is at risk when we build walls instead of tearing them down. Our Union is at risk when we behave as part-time Europeans and we call for help when we need it but we are not ready to help. If we discriminate people for the colour of their skin or the language they speak or the way they pray. If we do so, our Union is at risk because our identity is based on diversity. And in these tough moments in the history of the world, the world needs strong Europe more than ever. We have a responsibility to our own citizens and also to the rest of the world."
She stated that everywhere she goes "people look at Europe with so much admiration and hope. Despite all difficulties we are still the only successful process of regional integration and we are the richest continent in the world. In no other place on earth there is so much freedom: freedom to speak our mind; freedom to move; freedom to pray and not to pray; freedom to love; freedom to vote; freedom to choose our own destiny and work to make it real. Everywhere in the world we are the first trading partner, the first investor, the first donor for humanitarian and development aid, the first diplomatic power and too often we forget how strong we can be. This is why we need Europe Day: to be proud of what we have achieved, to keep in mind that we cannot take it for granted and to realise that Europeans and non-Europeans need Europe. What we need is leadership and not populism. We need to preserve Europe and we need to reform it. It is time to change our Union, to save our Union. And this is what this celebration is all about: Happy Europe Day".
At this juncture I wish to thank you for your attention (Zikomo Kwambiri) and to invite you to join me in toast to H.E. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, and to the well-being and prosperity of the People of Zambia.
To the President; To the People of Zambia