European Union External Action

HRVP's address at Regional Security Summit, Abuja, 14 May 2016

Abuja, Nigeria, 14/05/2016 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 160514_03
HR/VP speeches

I think I'm the only person in this room that is for the first time in Abuja and in Nigeria, and I would want to thank you very much for hosting and organising this Summit here and also for the invitation that allows me to join my first very presence here with this very important summit. I'm really glad to be here for this summit, and let me tell you why.

Your Excellency, President Buhari,
His Excellency, President Francois Hollande,
Distinguished Heads of State,
Honourable members of the Nigerian government,
Heads of Organisations and Agencies,
Members of the diplomatic community, Excellencies, dear friends,

(First visit): I think I'm the only person in this room that is for the first time in Abuja and in Nigeria, and I would want to thank you very much for hosting and organising this Summit here and also for the invitation that allows me to join my first very presence here with this very important summit. I'm really glad to be here for this summit, and let me tell you why.

(Africa’s potential): First of all, because I believe Africa and this region is a land of immense potential. You look at Nigeria and it couldn’t be more evident. Your oil industry is the most obvious example, but it’s not just about natural resources. There is an even greater wealth in this place, and that’s the people of Nigeria, and all the people of Africa. They are, and you are the strongest asset to defeat any terrorist threat and insecurity threat.

This is the sixth Sub-Saharan country I visit in one year, and wherever I travel to Africa I meet young people who are eager to learn, to share what they know, to do something good, and to build a better life for themselves and their families. Nigeria is a country of entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, country of innovation. Our duty – a moral duty, and a strong interest as well – is to make the most out of this potential. This is your interest and our interest alike.

(Security, development, regional integration): Investing in your security that goes together with investing in your growth and in your people, investing also in regional cooperation; all these priorities are central to our work today.

(Radicalisation as a common challenge): Security threats and terrorism are clearly holding back your potential. And this is a battle we can only fight together, as partners and friends. Our youth, both in Europe and here, are being targeted by the terrorists’ propaganda. Of course our societies are very different.
But the path to radicalisation is sometimes similar – it is built on disillusion, the lack of hopes of good jobs, the lack of positive role models, and also the lack of appropriate role that our youth can find in the societies, in the communities they live in. Radicalisation is a common challenge taking different shapes.

(Terrorism as a common challenge): We have all been targeted by terrorist attacks. My office in Brussels is just 200 meters away from the Metro station where one of the attacks took place on the 22nd of March. And here, in Nigeria, you know the face of terrorism all too well. And today I will meet the families of the Chibok girls. We must never forget two things: one, why terrorist organisations are so scared of girls in education: Because education is what makes girls – and also boys by the way, – powerful. And powerful girls and boys is what can make any country strong and resilient. This is what they want to destroy. And the second thing you must always remember as Europeans is that Africa is hit incredibly hard, much harder than Europe by terrorism.

(No clash of civilisations): And we must also not forget this has nothing to do with a clash of civilisations. This is so evident here in Nigeria, where Boko Haram constantly targets mosques and Muslims. Boko Haram are not a voice of Islam – they are an enemy of Islam. Just like the Lord’s Resistance Army has nothing to do with the Lord. Only with warlords, child slavery, and black magic.

(Unity): So what the terrorists want to divide us. They want us to look at each other, even in this room, with fear, with suspect. This makes our cooperation today, yesterday and in the future, even more important, and our responsibility so big. And this is why this Summit is so crucial, because we need to bring together countries and partners to build, as we say in the Summit, “to build peace and development through the consolidation of collective efforts.”

(Comprehensive approach): So our work against terrorism begins with security, but goes well beyond that. To invest in our security, we need first of all to invest in our people. They are the recipe to win the fight. We can’t win without good schools and hospitals, good vocational training and good jobs (especially for young people, both boys and girls), good governance against corruption, good tribunals with the guarantee of no impunity and justice for all. We all know that bad governance and corruption are also holding back Africa’s potential. So let me thank President Buhari, who just got back from the Anti-Corruption Summit in London. Let me thank him because he has put the fight against corruption at the core of his agenda, clearly saying that corruption is about STEALING MONEY, and that needs to be stopped.

(Resilience):  All this – from good governance to good healthcare – this is what we call resilience: the glue that keeps a community together, makes it strong against external threats and internal threats. Our work on the resilience of our societies might seem somehow faraway from “hard-core” security: it is not. In French we would say: tout se tient.

(Trust Fund): Everything is connected. And we have shared interests that make it possible and easy and convenient for all of us to work with a real spirit of partnership, with a win-win approach, even when it is less evident at the first sight. Take our work on migration. The idea behind the European Union’s Trust Fund for Africa is to address the root causes of migration. But look at the projects that we are financing in this region, which are already worth 200 million euros, and 120 million euros, mainly on security, is coming in few weeks. When we work to bring clean water to 160,000 people in Chad – we are contributing to the well-being of your citizens, and to the security and stability of the whole region and to the security and stability of the whole world. In Northern Nigeria, we are investing over 40 million euros to bring those who have fled from Boko Haram, back to their homes and their lives. And we are investing to rebuild houses, to restore electricity, to repair roads and bridges. And by doing so we are contributing to the well-being of these people, and to the security and stability of the region, and also to our own security and stability.

(Security cooperation): This is the real meaning of our work on security and anti-terrorism. This is example of what we call the comprehensive approach. The two sides of our commitment can only go together. As we invest in development, as we provide humanitarian aid, we are also supporting you in your fight for security, and ourselves in our own fight for security. The European Member States, you have heard that from Phillip, are providing the military and intelligence expertise. We have helped Chad and Niger balance the costs of military operations and we are contributing with further funding of security projects, the 120 million euros I just mentioned.

(Multi-National Joint Task Force): This cooperation will continue and will grow stronger. And let me tell you: our contribution can only be more effective if you, African friends, pool together your resources and choose the path of regional cooperation. The Multi-National Joint Task Force is a step in the right direction. Any threats we face don’t stop at borders. This is why, especially in a region like this, we cannot stop at borders either. You invest in your security, in our security, if you invest in regional cooperation. And this is why I am so proud to announce today with the African Union Commission the 50 million euros for the Multi-National Joint Task Force. I believe our bilateral relations can only benefit from stronger regional architectures. Look at each and every crisis that is shaking this continent and also our region. None of them is purely local. The causes are very often trans-national – and so must be the solutions.
Existing organisations, as the African Union, can and must be further strengthened. So also the G5 Sahel. I look forward to our next ministerial meeting in June. It's going to be the 3rd in less than one year. And this is exactly the rhythm and pace of our cooperation.

Together we can build a network of bilateral, sub-regional and regional organisations. Together we can move towards a more just and cooperative world order, where all continents and all regions have their place and their role on the global stage. A world order where Africa finally holds the place it deserves, and the place that the world needs Africa to take because together with the place also goes the responsibility.

(EU-Africa Summit 2017): Next year, Africa and our European Union will come together for our fifth Summit. I have a proposal for all of us: Let’s make something big and important out of it. We are not in a business as usual mode. From terrorism to climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals implementation, to the many crises we face together - and let me underline the reference to Libya as some of us have done today- we need to work together and we face important months and years ahead. It is our interest, as Europeans, to see a strong Africa, because your strength is our strength. We need a secure Africa, because your security is our security. We need Africa to finally seize its full potential.

And our interest and strong will is to invest on it. To invest in security, invest in your economies, in your infrastructure and in your people, investing in regional cooperation. In one word, working with Africa, and not just for Africa. Because Africa doesn’t need patrons: it needs partners. And in Europe, believe me, you have a partner, and you have a friend.

Thank you.

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