Your Excellency, Mrs. Yldiz Pollack-Beighle, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Honourable Minister Lalinie Gopal,
Lieutenant-Colonel Danielle Veira,
Members of the National Assembly,
Other Representatives of the Suriname State, the Diplomatic and Honorary Consular Corps, Development Partners, Civil Society,
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this reception commemorating the Europe Day. I am always happy to be in Suriname, enjoying your rich and diverse culture. And I always have a feeling that Europe is around the corner.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
On 9 May each year we celebrate Europe Day. We celebrate a visionary declaration that led to what we know today as the European Union; an idea that changed the European continent forever.
On 9 May 1950, after two devastating world wars that left Europe on its knees, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman made a proposal to bind together former enemies by linking their economies in such a way to make future wars impossible. In 1957 six countries established together the European Economic Community by signing the Treaty of Rome.
The Treaty of Rome was the beginning of an ambitious journey of European integration. The founding fathers of the EU decided to settle their differences around a table rather than in battlefields. They replaced the use of armed forces by the force of law. As a result, Europe's troubled past has given way to a peace spanning seven decades and to an enlarged Union of 500 million citizens and 28 countries, living in freedom in one of the world’s most prosperous economies.
While we look to the future, it is also an opportunity for the EU to take stock and to note clearly the enormous amount we have achieved. Europe is home to the world’s largest single market and second most used currency. It is the largest trade power and development and humanitarian aid donor. It is a major diplomatic force with 140 Delegations in third countries and a presence in every corner of the globe. The European Union helps keep the world more sustainable, as shown by the leading role it played, in the Paris Climate Agreement and in the adoption by the United Nations of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to say a few words about the EU's co-operation with Suriname.
EU relations and cooperation with Suriname are carried out both on bilateral and regional basis, the latter within the framework of the on-going EU-CELAC and EU-CARIFORUM dialogues. Suriname is party to the "Cotonou Agreement", the partnership agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union. The Cotonou Agreement will expire in 2020. The expiry of the Cotonou Agreement, covering 100 countries with a total of some 1.5 billion people, is the opportunity to rejuvenate the EU's relationship with its ACP partners, taking into account the current global context.
Future collaboration between the EU and Suriname will be expanded through a new EU/ACP agreement which is now being negotiated and under this agreement we will have new and more flexible funding instruments being introduced which will make our cooperation much easier.
It is not always the easiest thing to work remotely but last year in December we were able to bring a Polish pianist to perform at the Centrumkerk church and together with our good friend Sharda Ganga and her team along with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Mrs. Jennifer Geerling-Simmons we had a successful Human Rights seminar. At that event we also honoured Mrs Elfrieda Cederboom-Ritfield as the EU Delegation's human rights awardee for 2018. The human rights award is an initiative we started in 2017 to honor individuals or organizations making valuable contributions in the area of human rights.
The good transport links Suriname has with Europe are an opportunity to export more, especially your horticultural crops. Last year in May I had the privilege to launch with His Excellency President Bouterse the Suriname Agriculture Market Access Project (SAMAP) project. SAMAP is a 4 year EURO 12.8 million project that aims to boost the marketability of Suriname‘s unique agro-products. With SAMAP we hope to strengthen the ‘Made in Suriname’, brand that the Europeans and other consumers around the world would identify as quality products. Suriname has great potential for growth and with its European links the sky is the limit.
We should expect similar results as the banana industry has experienced being a beneficiary of the EU’s special framework of assistance for traditional ACP suppliers of bananas. The volume of assistance dedicated to the restructuring of Suriname's banana industry over the last ten years has been more than Euro 22 million. This assistance as you can all appreciate has helped to successfully increase the efficiency and productivity of the banana sector which also due to its privatisation has led to further increased competitiveness.
In the important area of mitigating climate change the EU extends congratulations to Suriname in its ratification of the Paris Agreement, on 13 February 2019 and the hosting of the High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation [HFLD] nations conference. Already, Suriname will benefit from the Caribbean Regional Resilience Building Facility which has a budget of EURO 27.7 million to plan for long-term resilience and climate-smart growth strategies, and to design and implement innovative policy and investment initiatives.
We will soon launch our call for proposals under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights [EIDHR] for 2019 which will be advertised in the Surinamese newspapers. These calls are geared towards attracting submissions from civil society and NGOs to propose projects for funding in the area of human rights and democracy. On this note I want to highlight how impressed we are by the quality of civil society partnerships we have had in Suriname and we look forward to continuing the regular and fruitful dialogue with CSO's here.
To continue building on our cooperation it is important to talk regularly. In this regard I want to thank Her Excellency Minister Pollack-Beighle and her very capable staff for the successful political dialogues we have had over the past years, the most recent being held here in Paramaribo on April 12, 2019. We had wide ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern and both the EU and Suriname remain committed to our partnership which has existed since the early 1970's.
Good partnerships result from constructive dialogues and according to the EU's High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy / Vice-President Mrs. Federica Mogherini in her most recent opinion piece on EU/Caribbean relations, 'our EU-LAC strategy contains a series of concrete proposals for the sustainable development of the Caribbean – from investments in climate resilient development, to the sustainable use of maritime resources, to public-private partnerships in the most hi-tech economic sectors. We want to strengthen the cooperation we have already started on some issues of strategic importance, such as the improvement of human and citizen security, the fight against organized crime and the improvement of public services.'
In line with this strategy, a criminal justice reform project is in the pipeline for Suriname. In the same vain, in March, a scoping visit has been realized in Paramaribo to assess the threat from Maritime Trafficking to the EU and the existing capacities in Suriname to deal with the threat. The intention is to include Suriname in the Seaport Cooperation Project (SEACOP) that helps countries to build capacities and strengthen international cooperation between countries on the cocaine route in order to more effectively fight against maritime trafficking.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
As I close I want to highlight an article I came across last weekend from renowned columnist David Jessop who I am pleased has taken to writing a balanced review of the recently published paper, 'The European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean: Joining Forces for a Common Future' where he has given a most constructive analysis and a correct view of the role the EU plays on the world stage: “Aware that in today’s world there are different international players competing for influence, economic presence or even political and societal models, the EU’s intention is to develop relationships based on bi-regional and sub-regional partnerships that emphasise shared cultural and social values and the centrality of helping build prosperity and development through partnerships.''
In that light my friends I can surely say that together we shall continue our partnership into the future.
Thank you and Happy Europe Day!