Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zambia,
Honourable members of the Government of the Republic of Zambia
Excellences, dear colleagues Ambassadors from European Union Member States
Dear friends of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased and deeply honoured to take the floor on behalf of the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Zambia and COMESA and on behalf of all diplomatic missions of the EU Member States accredited to the Republic of Zambia. I can be fairly brief in my opening remarks for this political dialogue session between the Republic of Zambia and the European Union.
Let me start by expressing our gratitude to you, Honourable Minister, for recalling the close partnership between the Republic of Zambia and the European Union and the importance, in this context, of a regular and comprehensive political dialogue between us. Article 8 of the Agreement between the European Union and the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries provides the framework for our political dialogue. In this framework, we regularly engage in a comprehensive, balanced and deep political dialogue leading to commitments on both sides. Our common objective is to exchange information, to foster mutual understanding, and to facilitate the establishment of agreed priorities and shared agendas. The political dialogue also helps strengthen Zambia-EU cooperation within international fora as well as promote and sustain a system of effective multilateralism. Let me reiterate in this context our wish to have a lively and interactive discussion among us. On our side, as was already the case during previous political dialogue sessions, Ambassadors from EU Member States will come in on several points and contribute their views on the various items on our agenda.
Let me also thank you, Honourable Minister and your collaborators for the very smooth cooperation in setting up this meeting and in defining our agenda. We agreed that our dialogue today would strongly focus on the electoral process. We will of course also discuss the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as the Cabinet just yesterday approved the Covid-19 vaccine program for Zambia. We look forward to exchanging with you on the economic and financial situation of Zambia. Another important point on our agenda will be the programming for the Zambia – European partnership in the period 2021 – 2027. Finally, we will compare notes on the regional situation in Southern Africa. In addition, the EU side would like to raise briefly two issues under “Any Other Business”: Firstly, a possible mining project in the Lower Zambesi National Park and, secondly, the legal situation of (former) refugees in Zambia.
The crucial challenge of climate change for the world does not appear directly on our agenda today. Yet as part of the “Green Deal”, it is among the top political priorities for the EU and its Members states in their international partnerships. We recently embarked into shaping our new Zambia-EU partnership for 2021-2027. We identified climate change and “green recovery” among the priorities of our renewed partnership for the coming years. We therefore suggest further reflecting on EU-Zambia joining forces in combating climate change under this item 5.
Item 5 will also be an occasion to present and exchange with you on identified priorities for our future partnership, which turn around:
Let me seize this occasion for thanking through you, Honourable Minister, all the numerous stakeholders on the Zambian side who engaged with us in recent weeks in order to define the main priorities for the Zambia-EU partnership in 2021 - 2027.
There is a good reason why our common agenda for 2021 – 2027 can be so ambitious. The reason is that we build our future cooperation on the foundations of a longstanding, stable and profound partnership between the Republic of Zambia and the European Union and its Member States. Since your independence, our relations are increasingly close, comprehensive and intensive. The EU attaches a lot of importance to its partnership with Zambia and with the Zambian people. A primary interest of the European Union and its Member States is, that, Zambia maintains its position as a peaceful and stable country, a force for peace and stability in Southern Africa.
Our sincere wish is therefore to see that the elections in August 2021 take place in a peaceful manner. There should be a level playing field for all candidates and people should freely express their choice through the ballot box.
The European Union is open for dialogue and exchange of views with all stakeholders: the authorities and institutions, the political parties as well as civil society and the churches. In the same vein, we hope that all these electoral stakeholders will do their best to secure an open dialogue and a participatory process among Zambians.
We noted with a great satisfaction the positive remarks that H.E. President Edgar C. Lungu made on the electoral process and on election observation during this week’s annual greeting of the diplomatic corps. We welcome in particular the restated commitment by the President of the Republic and by the Government of Zambia to hold “free, fair and transparent elections in line with the Zambian Constitution and internationally accepted standards.” We all agree that Zambian people deserve elections they can trust. We now look forward to receiving the formal invitation to deploy an EU Election Observation Mission.
As you will be aware, last week we had an EU exploratory mission here in Zambia. The mission’s objective was to assess the political and electoral situation. In particular, they assessed whether an EU Electoral Observation Mission to Zambia would be useful, feasible and advisable. During their stay, they had very substantive and fruitful exchanges with all stakeholders in the electoral process. They will now submit a report on their findings to the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Mr Josep Borrell, who will then decide on the possible deployment of an EU Electoral Observation Mission. Honourable Minister, please convey to the Vice-President of the Republic and to the various ministries involved our sincere gratitude for the very warm welcome and cooperation that the members of the EU team received during their exploratory mission in Zambia.
Let me conclude by reaffirming once again the close Zambia-EU partnership and the high quality of our political dialogue. We look forward to a fruitful and interactive exchange. In agreement with you, Honourable Minister, I now formally declare open today’s political dialogue session between the Republic of Zambia and the European Union.
Thank you for your attention.