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Grazie, Gianni [Pitella, Chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament].
Let me start by saying that last year, I remember very well, I was with you for the first Africa week and I remember I told you: it is good to feel home, because I feel a bit less lonely in my daily fight to build a privileged partnership with Africa. And it is good to see a strong political family, a strong political group in the European Parliament and a lot of people, young people and NGOs, civil society, friends from all over Europe and Africa coming together to invest highly in the key strategic partnership we have in this century - which is the one between the European Union and Africa.
This will work only if we give a strong political push to it and if we stay committed, dedicated, consisted, because the challenges ahead of us are quite high; we are on the same side and we are not living in a time of the world in which we can afford playing it alone. We need friends, we need partners, we need to be together to try and strike the good way out of the problems we are facing and the world is facing. I particularly like the hashtag of this week – "#withAfrica" - because until now we have been talking about things to do for Africa - the aid approach. I think this "#withAfrica" is the essence of the partnership we are building. I'll try to give you a sense of what we managed to build in this year and a half, also thanks to the political push that you - and this kind of initiative - have given to the work in the European Union institutions.
First of all, let me mention the fact that over the last year the attention - the political attention and the public attention - towards Africa has increased enormously. Just one signal of it: never before the G7 and the G20 had Africa and relations with Africa as the key main element on their agenda. All Asian players - not only China that has a traditional interest in Africa -, but all Asian players are scaling up their investments in the African continent. This is good. But the point is the one Gianni was mentioning: what kind of investment are we looking at for Africa and with Africa? For us, Europeans, the key point, especially when we work with Africa, is to have investments that truly benefit the people, create good jobs especially for the youth, protect Africa's environment which is the biggest resource the world has; equal opportunities beyond ethnicity, gender, social background and big investments in good governance, human rights and a special attention to the role of women in Africa.
These are the key elements of the daily work that I am doing, that we are doing, in the EU institutions and this is also the political agenda of this political family and of all of us here. And the two things are related. The big push that this political family has given to the EU approach towards Africa has transformed the European agenda on Africa and with Africa. I would like to thank you for that, because the strong, clear approach has helped us moving the big boat of the European institutions into the right direction when it comes to our partnership with Africa.
In everything we do with Africa, we have two guiding lines: one is partnership – 'with' and not 'for' - and the second is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I think that this year, we finally managed to move from the 'for' to the 'with', from the aid perspective to the partnership perspective.
We are going to have later this year in November the African Union- European Union summit where we will clearly send this strong political message: the European Union and the African Union have moved to a different kind of relationship, not donor recipient, but two political partners covering all aspects of our relationship.
First of all, recognising that Africa is a changing continent. Take a couple of examples, even in the areas that are more complicated. Take democracy and good governance and rule of law and human rights. There are good stories coming from Africa. There are some very worrying stories, but there are also good stories coming from Africa. Take The Gambia where we have seen people standing up for their rights. We have seen people standing up for freedom and in the end democracy won - through peaceful means with the support of the European Union and with the support of the regional organisations and the sub-regional organisations. This is an element that for us Europeans - and this is not an isolated case – which is particularly important. If you look at the state of regional cooperation in the world today, you have many reasons to worry. But if you look at Africa you see some good stories coming up. This is true in that region. This is true in the G5 Sahel. I remember very well when I started [my mandate] almost three years ago, we started [to build] a strong political partnership with the G5 Sahel. We started the practice of having ministerial meetings with the G5 countries every year, once in Europe, once in the region, as well as meeting with the Presidents of the G5 Sahel countries. For the first time ever, the European Union was present at the Summit of the G5 Sahel [in November 2015] and today the European Union is the first - and more I would say a solid - supporter of the initiatives that the five countries take together when it comes to facing the challenges, but also taking the opportunities.
When they decided, two months ago, to establish a joint force to combat terrorism but also the trafficking of people, arms, drugs -that are cross-border-, the European Union was there from day one. I was there with the foreign ministers in Mali that very same day saying 'we are with you, we will support you'. Two months later, in August, the €50 million of support from the European Union were delivered to support African solutions for African problems. Because we know very well that the ownership and the knowledge of our brothers and sisters is not something anyone can substitute to. No one can do it better than our African friends when it comes to facing the realities on the ground. And so this is good for the situation on the ground, this it is good for the citizens of these countries but this is also good for us.
Another example: the day after tomorrow here in Brussels [on 29th September], I invited the Foreign Ministers of the countries of the Horn of Africa [IGAD members] trying to strengthen their internal work, their way of working together to find solutions to complicated problems. So the European Union is, I think, fully in line with the priorities that our political family shares to strengthen the regional cooperation inside Africa and supporting it.
Second element – of which I'm particularly proud - during this last year, we have increased enormously the nature of the relationship between the African Union and the European Union. When the new African Union Commission started, I was the first to visit the Chairman of the Commission [of the African Union] Moussa Fakia in Addis Ababa, and we decided to work as partners on everything: peace and security, sustainable development, migration, climate change, economic investments and growth, human rights governance… you name it. In all these sectors, the EU and the African Union have a strong political dialogue and partnership.
Again - we will highlight this during the upcoming AU-EU Summit- we moved forward. We decided that we would not only exchange and compare notes, as we say in these occasions, but also we would take decisions together. If there is one crisis here or there in the African continent, we coordinate our positions, we come out together either in private messages, initiatives on the ground or in public statements. So we act as one trying to fine tune the messages that we take. One step further: last week in New York, during the ministerial week of the General Assembly of the United Nations, we launched the first ever trilateral collaboration between the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations. This is the way to go: regional to regional and multilateral.
If you look at our agendas, the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations share exactly the same agenda when it comes to sustainable development, when it comes to climate change, when it comes to peacekeeping and security.
We decided together with Moussa Fakia and with [the Secretary General of the United Nations, António] Guterres to move, from now on, one step further not only our bilateral cooperation – which is very good with the United Nations and with the African Union-, but to set up a mechanism for regular consultation among the three of us. I think this can constitute a very solid, political, global alliance to push forward the main topics of our political agenda: environment, sustainable development, human rights - all the things we have been fighting for in these last years.
Let me also touch upon the migration issue. I think here we have to fight a narrative that identifies the North against the South and the South against the North; Africa against Europe, Europe against Africa. If we fall into this trap, the battle is lost because if one loses the other wins and vice-versa. In Europe - the best, let's say - the best culture of Europe is when we invest in win-win solutions, where we identify common ground and we identify solutions that can be of value to both the sides. And actually at the end of the day we find out that we are all on the same side.
I believe migration is exactly that kind of area because we are talking here about saving lives of African men, women and children. It is not an issue for Europeans only. It is a top priority for our African brothers and sisters: saving lives in the desert, offering economic opportunities and also democratic channels for participation in their own communities, trying to find a way of opening regular channels, dismantling the criminal organisations that, not only trade death, but also put at risk security on the ground because many of the traffickers not only traffic women and men, but also traffic drugs and arms, disrupting the entire economies of communities. So, in fighting smugglers and traffickers, in offering economic opportunities, in protecting human rights and good governance, in opening regular channels, in managing migration together we have a common agenda. And, finally, I think we got it: we started to do the right things together especially in partnership again with the UN agencies - UNHCR and IOM.
This week [on 27th September], the European Commission announced 50 000 opportunities for resettlement. This means that something is changing on this side of the Mediterranean Sea; that we are starting to understand that- as Gianni was saying - we have to share responsibility, decide together what is good for our people and understand also that there is a positive story on migration. I always say: if migrants, all migrants, were to disappear from Europe tomorrow morning, entire sectors of the European economy would simply collapse. So there is a positive agenda.
But we need to manage and we can manage together through partnership. One other thing which is also always related to migration: we are partnering with the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration to try to save people, especially those in the detention centres in Libya. Up to now we have helped 15 000 African people to get back from Libya to their own communities, from the detention centres, and assisted voluntary returns with high human rights standards. We want to do more of that because our approach is not denying the problem, the problem is there and the problem has always been there.
We are trying to face it together with the United Nations and with African partners. It is tough, it is awful, but it's the only way to go: offering assistance, help, sometimes saving lives and offering ways back or protection in Europe and not only in Europe because we also have to share with others - for those who need protection.
I will now refer to the Africa Emergency Trust Fund that Gianni mentioned:
It's about identifying with African partners - not only governments but also local communities and NGOs and civil society, women and youth organisation- projects that make the difference in the local communities. We understood very well that parachuting money from top down does not necessarily make the difference. What we need to do is analysing on a case by case basis and adopt targeted measures, decided together, with the actors on the ground: ownership, ownership…
And then the second pillar we have are the Sustainable Development Goals. Gianni mentioned it: as I speak the new External Investment Plan is entering into force. Thanks for the wonderful job we've done together – the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament - and I would like to thank Linda [McAvan, Member of the European Parliament] and other colleagues here for an excellent work we have done. Without us in this room, this would have probably not been in place. This [the EU external investment plan] means bringing the private investments that are needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals where they are most needed and less frequent – in the fragile places. We are aiming at mobilising €44 billion targeting them from the private sector, targeting these investments in the most fragile countries to support the Sustainable Development Goals. So matching private investments - which also means profit for the Small and Medium Enterprises - in the places where these investments can create good jobs, targeted at reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
Sometimes we hear references to the need for a "Marshall Plan" for Africa. Now just look at the numbers: we don’t have a "Marshall Plan" for Africa, we have a "European plan with Africa" which is a totally different story but which is already in place. It is starting to be up and running. But we are making it. We do not need to dream of it or ask for it. We are making it: we, here, in this room and institutions.
The EU and its Member States invest in Africa and with Africa €20 billion a year. Isn't this a European Plan with Africa of the size of the Marshall Plan?
Now, with the €44 billion of private investments we aim to mobilise, we can add the private element that is needed. Because we know very well the Sustainable Development Goals will not be met without private investments. Such a plan could only come from the European Union because we are mobilising public money, we are working with our partners in the African countries to identify how, where and when to invest in a strategic manner. And we are accompanying the projects on the ground because we know very well that, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises, especially for those that care about sustainability and human rights, they are very often lost or scared about investing in countries that are complicated. So what we are putting in place is not only the financial guarantee but also the technical assistance on the ground, in Africa with, through the European Union embassies, to accompany European Small and Medium Enterprises to invest in fragile areas in a sustainable manner. I think this can be the element that can make the difference.
Last point, sorry, and then I close. Last week I was in New York together with another Commissioner from our family, Neven Mimica, and with António Guterres, who is someone we know very well, and with Amina Mohammed [Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations]. We launched a new initiative that is going to be very important. Because you mentioned women rights; women rights as part of human rights is something that especially for Africa, but also in Europe, cannot be underestimated. We launched a new initiative to fight violence against women all around the world, with a special focus on Sub-Saharan Africa putting € 500 million on it – working in partnership with the UN agencies, with local actors on the ground and especially with NGOs and civil society.
I believe this is also investing with Africa in the future of a great continent. So this is our kind of investment: partnership, working with Africa and mobilising all the different elements of our work. I believe this is a result of an investment that our political family has done over the last years. If this is starting to see the light, it is also thanks to us and I think now it is going to be very important to continue to be a leading force towards a stronger partnership between the European and the African brothers and sisters with whom we share the same destiny and also - I think - the same present.
Thank you very much.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I144264