It has been now less than a week since the European Commission has taken office. And here I am, in the heart of the African continent.
I have chosen Africa for my very first visit outside of Europe. I hope my presence at the African Union can send a strong political message. Because the African continent and the African Union matter to the European Union and to the European Commission.
For my first visit, I have chosen the continent hosting the world's fastest growing economies. A continent with immense ambition and aspirations, but also with immense needs.
And I have chosen the African Union's headquarters – as the home of all African people, from Cairo to the Cape.
For us, for the European Union, you are more than just a neighbour.
Both our Unions are built on a dream – a dream of peace and a dream of economic prosperity in our continents. And therefore it is for me of utmost importance that – I also think that our founders – both in Africa and in Europe – knew that only unity could make our continents strong in a changing world.
The African Union is a partner I count on and I look forward working with in the spirit of a true partnership of equals.
Today, I am not here to present some grand plan for Africa. I am here first and foremost to listen.
I am here to listen to you, Chairperson. I am here to listen about the trends shaping Africa and the African Union, about the developments across the continent, about the political and economic priorities. And I am very grateful for the intense discussion we have had, the exchange of experience. I cherish your knowledge I could listen to.
Therefore, today it is a great opportunity for me to introduce also what we did in our debate: the three priorities I do have for the European Union.
First of all, it is the fight to stop global warming – we call it the European Green Deal.
The second is a plan to make Europe fit for the digital age.
And the third is the aspiration to be a geopolitical Commission.
And on all three priorities, we have seen in our discussion that there is room for greater cooperation between Europe and Africa.
You here on the African continent understand climate change better than anyone else. You just told me about the deserts advancing, you told me about the floods becoming more frequent and more violent. But you are also experimenting on new solutions, from the Great Green Wall to reforestation for example here in Ethiopia.
The digital economy is also a growing sector in several African countries. Digital pioneers and tech hubs are proliferating, from South Africa to Tunisia, from Rwanda to Ethiopia. Young people are asking for more investment, better education and stronger infrastructure – we have been talking about that, that it is necessary to invest in that.
And finally, we share the same interest in expanding our partnership of equals. We have been speaking about security and peace and you, Chairman, just spoke about the content of our discussion. Both the European Union and the African Union, we are multilateral structures by definition – and as such, we can be the backbone of the United Nations' system, but we also can be very strong partners within the United Nations system.
We have an intensive year of cooperation ahead of us. I am grateful that you just invited us to a College-to-College meeting at the end of February presumably, then followed by a Ministerial and then followed by the summit in 2020 in Brussels. Today, I have seen already that many of our priorities and interests coincide, as we have just spoken about the interest in peace and security. We have been speaking about the topic of migration, too.
Honestly, I do not have all the answers to these challenges. But I am convinced that together we can find answers. Together we can find and build solutions that work for Africa and for Europe alike.
je vous remercie encore une fois, je vous remercie pour votre merveilleuse hospitalité. Et j'espère une coopération très étroite avec vous dans les années à venir. Dans notre discussion, vous avez dit, c'était très joli et cela je le rappelle : « Nous sommes des voisins – vous avez dit – et nous avons un destin commun. »