European Union External Action

Opening speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the 1st annual African Union-European Union Ministerial Meeting

Bruxelles, 22/01/2019 - 13:13, UNIQUE ID: 190122_4
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Bonjour et merci tout d'abord pour votre présence ici.

Un an après notre Sommet [Union africaine-Union européenne] d’Abidjan, nous nous retrouvons encore tous ensemble et démontrons à nouveau l’importance que nous accordons à notre partenariat et notre détermination à rapprocher nos deux continents.

Comme l’a dit Moussa Faki devant le Parlement européen, pendant sa visite à Strasbourg, je cite: « Nos cultures et nos civilisations (sont) différentes dans leurs spiritualités et dogmes structurants, mais (ils sont) complémentaires dans leur humanisme et leur essentielle et impérissable inclination à la liberté ».

Dans le monde compliqué d'aujourd'hui, l'Europe et l'Afrique sont plus proches que jamais.

En Europe comme en Afrique, nous ressentons le besoin et le devoir d'assumer nos responsabilités sur la scène mondiale.

En Europe comme en Afrique, nous recherchons une plus grande autonomie, mais nous savons aussi qu'en même temps, tous les défis du monde actuel exigent une coopération plus étroite entre les peuples, les gouvernements et les continents.

En Europe comme en Afrique, nous croyons au multilatéralisme, en tant que système non seulement plus efficace, mais plus juste pour gérer la complexité du monde d’aujourd’hui.

L'Afrique évolue à un rythme impressionnant. Certains la décrivent encore comme une "bombe à retardement", mais je suis convaincue que les jeunes de l'Afrique veulent prendre leur destin en main, et c'est un énorme potentiel que le continent partage avec le reste du monde.

A chaque fois que je voyage en Afrique, je vois un continent qui ne veut plus être traité avec la complaisance du passé, je vois un continent qui assume pleinement ses responsabilités pour la paix, la sécurité et la croissance de tous les Africains.  

This was the spirit of Abidjan. Just over a year ago, we all agreed that it was time for a partnership of equals, to turn the page, to change the way in which we work together. We have always worked together, but there is now a new approach. We recognise a simple fact: we share so many interests, that the only smart choice is to join forces to address them together.

This does not mean ignoring our divergences – that by the way we sometimes also have inside our two organisations; this does not mean ignoring our history – and sometimes the heavy history that we share – but it means to address them as partners do – through engagement and consultation, talking and listening to each other.

All of us – Europeans and Africans – want a stronger Africa; it is in our interest. With quality jobs for young people, with more inclusive societies, with peace and security for all.

And in spite of all difficulties and conflicts, positive change is happening in many parts of Africa and we are proud to support and encourage it – from democratic change in the Gambia, to reconciliation in the Horn of Africa.

The European Union is engaged like no other world power to support positive change in Africa. Let me mention our contribution to peacekeeping missions that is unparalleled, as our contribution to development. We are proud to be and remain the first donor when it comes to sustainable development, but also humanitarian aid.

Nine of our European missions are deployed in Africa or off its shores. We have set up with the [Africa – Europe] Alliance [for Sustainable Investment and Jobs], the largest plan ever to attract private investment to the most fragile parts of your continent.

But since our Summit in Abidjan, we have also changed the way we work together. More and more, we discuss together our common priorities, and we find ways so that each one of us can contribute in the best possible way. More and more, we are putting our strength behind African solutions to African problems.

Migration is probably the field where our cooperation has already produced the most striking results since last year. Thanks to our cooperation that we launched in Abidjan, and together with the United Nations, we have managed to save tens of thousands of people from detentions centres in Libya. To each one of them, we have given the possibility to go back home and learn a new job, go back to school, or start a new company – all with our support.

But in Abidjan we agreed to go well beyond the issue of migration – however important and delicate that is. I want to stress this very clearly: our partnership goes far beyond the issue of migration.  

First, Abidjan was about peace and security. Our Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2018 steps up our cooperation with the African Union on peace, security and governance to a new strategic level.

The first meeting on its implementation was held just yesterday and we set timelines for action in a number of areas, including progress towards a strong human rights compliance framework for African peace operations and on monitoring elections.

Clearly, our work on African peace and security is not new; it dates back many years. But together we have agreed to help and support our African friends as they take greater responsibility for peace and security on their continent.

This is what we are doing in the G5 Sahel, building on the G5 countries and their Joint Force and supporting them with an integrated approach, which combines the political, diplomatic, security, development and humanitarian aspects. But also in Somalia, where our strong investment in AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] goes with our support to Somalia’s federal state-building vision of inclusive politics, security and economic recovery. In Central African Republic, our military training mission [EUTM RCA] is part of a larger peace process led by the "African Initiative", which we hope can be successfully concluded following Commissioner [for Peace and Security of the African Union, Smail] Chergui's recent mission that we fully support. 

The next step that we have agreed since Abidjan is to further deepen our trade and investment relationship. We, in this room, believe that Africa can be a continent of opportunities – is a continent of opportunities. Yet we know that too many, around the world, only see Africa as a land to exploit. This is not the European approach. Not us. We want Africa to prosper for the sake of its own people – because a strong Africa, that belongs to Africans, will also make Europe and Europeans stronger.

We strongly believe in our last proposal of a new Africa-Europe Alliance [for Sustainable Investment and Jobs] but only together, can we create a framework that brings more private investment to Africa. We Europeans are working to make investment in Africa less risky, and you - our African friends - can work to make your countries more attractive, working for better regulations, a better justice system, and fighting corruption. Together we can ensure that the African youth have the skills they want and need, investing in education and vocational training.

Investments need a market and your historic decision to set up a Continental Free Trade Area is a game changer, which we totally support: we are ready to work together to turn all our bilateral trade agreements into a continent-to-continent free trade agreement. It would be the first agreement of that kind, all around the world, and the most powerful investment in a more just and fair global trade system. Let me add: it would only be natural between among the two continents that are the closest on our globe.

This leads me to the third field of our cooperation before I conclude. Together we can protect the multilateral system and also move towards a more cooperative governance of global affairs.

Together, Africa and Europe represent 82 countries out of 193 at the United Nations. We have the critical mass to shape the global agenda. We also have the responsibility to shape the global agenda.

Let me say that our trilateral cooperation with the United Nations is already showing the way forward. Both the European Union and the African Union believe in the UN as the center of gravity of global politics. We are demonstrative that through multilateralism we can address the most sensitive issues of our times.

There is no going back from Abidjan - we believe. What we have started there is the most innovative partnership between two regional organisations all around the world. Let me make clear that we aim at building the regional African partnership under the Post-Cotonou agreement on the basis of our Joint Strategy and of the work we started in Abidjan.

Because Abidjan is about a fairer partnership, a partnership where we both accept our responsibilities, and we help one another to fulfil them. A partnership – I would like to add – based on proximity and friendship.

This is what our young people are asking from us - I believe. They do not ask for charity. They ask to contribute. They ask to participate. They ask to do their part and to take their own responsibilities. They ask for an opportunity to do so. This means quality education, a fairer economy, and more inclusive societies.

Ultimately, this is what brings us here all together. This was the main goal of our Summit Abidjan: to build a partnership that delivers first and foremost on our young people's aspirations. I would like to thank our young people who, starting from Abidjan, contributed to the work of our constitutional set-up. It is the greatest challenge of our century, I believe, but I also believe we have taken the right path together.

I thank you so much for your presence here. It is the first Ministerial Meeting after our Summit in Abidjan. I believe this opens the way for a more structured cooperation among us at ministerial level, to ensure that we give continuity and that we coordinate positions in between the summits in the most effective manner among us that are – as I often say – not only so close culturally and politically, but also geographically and from a human perspective.

With this, I thank you for your attention and I pass the floor now to my co-chair [Richard Sezibera] - the Foreign Minister of Rwanda and Chair of the African Union side - and then to the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union [Smail Chergui].

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