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H.E. Alessandro Mariani, Ambassador of the European Union to Zambia & COMESA
Speech on the occasion of Europe Day in Zambia
9th May 2019
Good Afternoon, Thank you everybody for coming and Happy Europe Day to all.
It is an honour and great pleasure for me, my wife Roberta, all colleagues at the Delegation of the European Union and the European Investment Bank to welcome all of you on the occasion of Europe Day. I am most pleased that the EIB is represented at this reception, organised also with their contribution, by Tom Andersen, responsible for the EIB regional office for the Southern Africa region based in Pretoria.
Today’s speech is my last speech at Europe Day in Zambia as Ambassador of the European Union because my mandate is nearing its completion. But it is not yet a farewell speech. I will therefore try to avoid making a summary of the four years I have been in Zambia, which has been a very enriching time both professionally and personally; even a short summary may prove too long for a festive occasion like Europe Day.
Sixty-nine years ago today, French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed a joint authority to oversee French and German production of coal and steel, launching a remarkable project which has shaped the course of European history and redefined Europe's place in the world. This project - of peace, of partnership, of shared values and solidarity – is far from over.
In today's world, the European Union is more and more in demand. It is particularly important for our citizens, who are interested in economic growth, jobs, security, opportunities and rights. And our citizens know very well that, in a global world, we can only achieve results if we stand united, as the European Union. At the end of last year the average rate of growth within the EU was around 2%; 13 million jobs had been created since 2008 and the average unemployment rate went down to around 7%.
The same is true for our partners in the world – all those who want to work in a cooperative way to strengthen multilateralism, peace, sustainable development, free and fair trade, human rights and democracy, always find a very close partner in the European Union.
The European Union is engaged like no other world power to support positive change in Africa. As closest neighbours and equal partners with mutual interests, we are working together to tackle today's challenges: from investing in youth, fostering sustainable development and strengthening peace and security to boosting investment on the African continent, good governance and better managing migration. It is a partnership that works on the basis of reciprocal commitments.
In September last year, we launched the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investments and Jobs, which aims at supporting an African agenda with support to investments and value chains; skills development; dialogue; trade and cooperation.
The European Union is a living project, adapting to and taking on new challenges with each passing year. Today the EU leaders are meeting and discussing the next strategic agenda for the years to come. They will exchange views on the challenges and priorities focusing on subjects such as security and protection of our values and freedoms; the economic model for the future; and the promotion of interests and values of the EU in the world. This discussion takes place in anticipation of the European Council next month and prior to the European elections which will take place in couple of weeks from 23 to 26 May.
I wish now to focus on our relations with Zambia to state that we enjoy a very solid and dynamic partnership covering political relations, economic relations, trade and investment, development relations as well as a variety of subjects of mutual interest. The Zambia-EU partnership has grown over the years and has become what we proudly describe as a 360 degree partnership.
Most importantly we face global and regional challenges together, in the spirit of positive and constructive multilateralism, and recognising of course the particular position of Zambia today as Chair of the SADC Organ on Peace, Defence and Security. I take this opportunity to warmly congratulate Zambia for its efforts and results achieved during their current chair of the SADC Organ.
Zambia and the EU continue to be close partners in good governance and we look forward to the announced reforms such as the one on the Public Order Act as well as the eradication of political violence. The EU will continue to stand by Zambia to promote the respect of democratic principles, human rights, rule of law and good governance. I am pleased to inform that we are about to sign two grant contracts for an amount exceeding 18 million Euro (approx. 250 million Kwacha) to combat Gender Based Violence in Luapula and Northern Provinces. These are going to complement the good work already being done in this field by BBC Action and Lifeline/Childline. I hope and trust that all of you remember the two telephone lines (933 and 116) that all women and children can call free of charge to receive counselling and information. These telephone lines are extremely important and I ask your understanding as I wish to repeat them again in front of the cameras (933 and 116). Last year I proposed to all of you to join us as goodwill ambassadors for these telephone numbers. In case you have truly disseminated them, please continue doing so. In case you have forgotten the numbers, please join this great alliance defending the rights of women and children. Each of you can make a difference.
Last year I focused my speech on the joint work done in terms of human rights and I am pleased to inform that Zambia has made further progress in enhancing the rights of people with disabilities, prisoners’ rights, and the protection of refugees. More has to be done in terms of freedom of expression and let me take this opportunity to welcome the position taken by the President of Zambia to protect journalists. It is time to put a halt to the impunity of those who like to call themselves “political cadres” and instead perpetrate violence.
At this juncture, dear friends, I wish to share some thoughts on three priority subjects: (i) economy; (ii) reconciliation; (iii) rate of growth of population
Economy: I think we are all conversant with the situation and its causes. The macro-economic situation is difficult and the path ahead is narrow, but there is a path ahead. The time is to implement as a matter of priority a “large upfront and sustained fiscal effort” as recommended by the IMF, without delays. Zambia is a rich country, blessed with natural resources (land; water; mineral resources; etc), and can do it, provided it follows the IMF’s sound advice, which is very much in the interests of the people of Zambia.
Reconciliation: Zambian society is divided. This is the opinion of the vast majority of Zambian interlocutors with whom I have built close relations, regardless of their political affiliations. It seems that it is becoming almost unavoidable to categorise people amongst those who are pro and against, those who are green and those who are red as if there were only two colours in life instead of a rainbow. There is a tendency to focus on what divides rather than what unites; to make debates personal rather than issues-based; and to look at the interests of some rather than the public interest. All efforts aimed at reconciliations are very much welcomed.
Population growth: As already raised by my colleague, the British High Commissioner, it would appropriate to look at megatrends for the next 20 to 30 years. In this framework the rate of growth of population stands out as an important trend that Zambia has to analyse in depth. Zambia's rate of growth of population is reported at 3% per year. This means that the Zambian population is expected to grow from around 17 million today to 25 million by 2030 and 41 million by 2050. The most positive school of thought speaks of a “demographic dividend”. But let's remind ourselves that a dividend always follows an investment. Hence one has to prepare to invest in education, health, water and sanitation; job creation; ….. you name it. Policy makers have to ask themselves whether the necessary investments are feasible, sustainable or whether corrective measures in terms of rate of growth of population have to be taken. An in-depth analysis is a priority.
Lastly I wish to thank you for your kind attention and invite you to join me in a toast to H.E. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, to a prompt recovery of Her Honour Inonge Wina, the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, and to the well-being and prosperity of the People of Zambia.