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Welcome to our Europe Day celebrations.
Sixty-nine years ago today, French Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Schuman proposed a joint authority to oversee French and German production of coal and steel, after two devastating World Wars. Old enemies became partners and allies. This decision changed the course of European history, and started an ambitious and remarkable project of European integration. The European Union is a living and successful project of peace, partnership, shared values and solidarity, within and outside our borders.
Today the European Union is a power of 500 million citizens, the second largest economy in the world. We are the first trading partner of most countries around the world, and the first provider of development and humanitarian aid worldwide. What we invest in development and humanitarian aid is more than all the rest of the world combined.
The European Union is also a global cooperative power. We reaffirm each day our commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based international order. Multilateralism is in our nature and DNA, it is in our history. Today's global challenges can only be tackled with global responses, and international cooperation is more needed today than ever.
It is our collective responsibility to work towards a more peaceful, secure and prosperous world for present and future generations. The EU is working with partner countries and organizations around the world to prevent conflict, to protect and promote peace, security, human rights, and sustainable development, to invest in clean energy and to combat climate change.
Together with our partners, we have consistently taken action to maintain and implement major international agreements, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The EU is also contributing to a stronger and more effective multilateral system, because we want to take our part of responsibility for our common home. This is the best investment we could do, and we will continue to support the United Nations and its work.
Today the European Union has become an indispensable partner and reference for those all around the world that believe, as we do, that cooperative multilateralism is about our universal values, but also about our collective interests, a matter of global and national security.
A fundamental and long-standing partner of the EU is Africa. Positive change is happening in many parts of Africa and we are proud to support and encourage it.
Nine of our European Peace Missions are deployed in Africa or off its shores. We have agreed with the African Union to step up our cooperation on peace, security and governance to a new strategic level. We are supporting our African partners as they take greater responsibility for peace and security on their continent.
We are also working with our African partners to better manage migration together, under the principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility, with an integrated approach.
The European Union believes that Africa is a continent of opportunities. We have set up the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, to attract more private investment to Africa and to create the needed jobs.
The Cotonou Agreement framing the relations between the EU and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) will come to an end in 2020, and a new agreement is currently being negotiated. It will modernise and improve our cooperation, in order to better address our mutual challenges and interests together, in a spirit of true partnership.
This is the second Europe Day I am celebrating here with you in Liberia. I arrived in September 2017, at a very significant time for Liberia's own journey from conflict to sustained peace and unity. I feel very privileged to have witnessed Liberia’s first transfer of power from one elected Government to another through a competitive multi-party system.
Liberia has come a long way in the last years, and this is recognised by all. The democratic and peaceful handover of power following the 2017 elections and UNMIL's withdrawal were possible thanks to the sustained efforts of all Liberians. Nevertheless, there's still a way to go to consolidate peace and stability, and all Liberians must work in the same direction. We, the European Union and its Member States, are deeply committed to continuing to support Liberia's peacebuilding and development efforts. These efforts though, cannot succeed in a negatively charged political environment. This is why, as a strong multilateral partner to Liberia, the EU continues to remind all stakeholders of the importance of a constructive dialogue that will address the country's problems.
The European Union and its Member States will support the implementation of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, and align our development programs with the PAPD. We stand ready to support Liberia's efforts to build a solid and stable economy, as well as to foster an enabling business and investment environment. We will continue to support Liberia's efforts to protect Human Rights, fight Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and promote gender equality and women empowerment.
I feel proud of the work of the colleagues of the EU Delegation to formulate, implement and monitor many programs and projects financed by the EU in Liberia. Allow me to pay tribute to them, but also to those supporting the National Authorizing Officer, who is the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, for their constant efforts.
In the last year, we signed the ‘Youth Rising’ 20 Million Euros project on Technical and Vocational Education and Training. Liberian youth represent a great opportunity for the future of this country. This project is designed to equip the youth with skills that match labour market demands and help them become entrepreneurs themselves. We also signed two large contracts to bring electricity to 38.000 residents in Montserrado County, and another one to protect wildlife and biodiversity. We are preparing new projects open to civil society organizations through our recently launched calls for proposals (still open for those interested) to support the cocoa and fisheries sectors, or in support for peacebuilding and reconciliation. The EU values the crucial role played by the civil society in Liberia, and all over Africa.
The EU has signed with the UN the Spotlight Initiative, with an initial investment from the EU of 250 million € (around 300 million USD) for Africa. Liberia is one of the eight African countries to benefit from the program in its first phase. The program will target gender inequality and gender-based violence. We hope to launch this programme formally in the presence of His Excellency President Weah very soon. The new EU-UN Spotlight Initiative is going to make a significant investment in Liberia to fight sexual and gender based violence, and harmful traditional practices, working together with the Government, civil society, and traditional and religious leaders.
The European Union has bilateral trade agreements with Liberia on fisheries and forestry, designed to support sustainable management of natural resources. These agreements seek to help create jobs and revenue today, but also help ensure that future generations will continue to benefit from Liberia’s abundant forests and water resources tomorrow.
The European Union is a solid, committed and reliable development partner of Liberia. But we are also a strong political partner of this country. In the last year, the European Union and its Member States have held two comprehensive political dialogues, the last one on Monday this week, where we have addressed many different issues, from the state of the economy to human rights. The European Union and its Member States have also maintained a regular dialogue with His Excellency President Weah and other Ministers, and this open and frank dialogue is highly praised from our end.
The EU Delegation is deeply grateful to the Embassies of EU Member States in Liberia, France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, for their valuable work to strengthen the partnership between the European Union and Liberia each day. I would like to express my deep gratitude and recognition to EU Member States Ambassadors and their staff for their constant support and dedication to the EU project.
The European Union supports the excellent work being done by the UN Country Team and ECOWAS and African Union Missions in Liberia. I would like to recognise and congratulate these three Institutions for their constant work in support of Liberia's peacebuilding and development efforts.
As I conclude, I'll go back to where I started. Sixty-nine years ago, we Europeans realised that instead of fighting one another - as we had done for too long, causing incredible suffering - we could have better results in cooperating and working together. It was a success. It led us to build a common space of democracy, rights, freedoms, economy and peace. It also led us to become a global cooperative power and force for peace and prosperity around the world. Of course there have been difficulties, ups and downs, along the way, and we still face challenges today. 2019 will be a crucial year for the European Union. We will have elections for the Parliament in a few days, and a new "European Government" before the end of the year. But the EU will remain committed to its values and principles, within and outside its borders. We Europeans build the European Union every day, at home and abroad.
I would like to sincerely thank the team of the EU Delegation who has organized this event for you. Dear colleagues, once again, you did a great job and you also have artistic talent. After both speeches, the "EU Delegation song" will be played. The lyrics have been written by the staff and all singers are from the Delegation. Thank you for your kind attention.
EU Ambassador Hélène Cavé, Head of Delegation, Monrovia, 9 May 2019