European Union External Action

Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the opening session of the High-level conference "Towards a renewed partnership with Africa" at the European Parliament

Bruxelles, 22/11/2017 - 21:31, UNIQUE ID: 171122_23
HR/VP speeches

Brussels, 22 November 2017

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Grazie Antonio [Tajani, President of the European Parliament],

Président [de la République centrafricaine, Faustin-Archange] Touadera, c'est un plaisir de vous revoir ici à Bruxelles.

Cher Abdoulaye [Diop, Ministre des Affaires étrangères, de l'intégration africaine et de la coopération internationale, du Mali],

C'est vraiment un plaisir d'être ensemble.

C'est vraiment important d'être ici ensemble au sein des différentes institutions européennes siégeant à Bruxelles, mais surtout avec nos amis, nos frères et sœurs africains.  

Comme vous le savez, dans quelques jours, nous participerons, au sommet entre l'Union européenne et l'Union africaine. Plusieurs d'entre nous ont parlé de cinquième sommet. Mais, c'est le premier sommet entre nos deux unions. L'Union européenne et l'Union africaine se rencontrent pour la première fois en tant qu'Unions, pour définir des objectifs communs, et des réponses conjointes. Nous nous rencontrons d'égal à égal, comme vrais partenaires, comme frères et sœurs, comme voisins. Seulement quatorze kilomètres nous séparent: il n'y a pas de voisins, d'amis, de frères et sœurs plus proches que nous.  

Et je suis heureuse d'être ici avec le Président [de la République centrafricaine, Faustin-Archange] Touadera et avec le Ministre [des Affaires étrangères, de l'intégration africaine et de la coopération internationale, du Mali, Abdoulaye] Diop. Ils sont parmi les protagonistes principaux de cette nouvelle relation que nous avons commencée entre l'Union européenne et l'Union africaine, entre l'Europe et l'Afrique, de cette nouvelle façon de travailler ensemble. Je pense à tout le travail que nous avons fait avec le Mali et le G5 Sahel [Mali, Mauritanie, Burkina Faso, Niger et Tchad] – le Ministre a fait référence à cela – ou à la conférence de Bruxelles sur la République centrafricaine l'année dernière.

Ce sont de bons exemples : nous avons cessé de travailler simplement pour l'Afrique. Nous avons finalement commencé, ces dernières trois années, à travailler avec l'Afrique, ensemble, en tant que partenaires égaux.

Ceci n'est pas un slogan: c'est une pratique de dialogue continu qui dure déjà maintenant plusieurs années.

Nous, les Européens, avons tout intérêt à contribuer à la paix, à la sécurité et à la croissance du continent africain. Ce sont des priorités pour les Africains, et ce sont des priorités pour l'Union européenne.

Mais ce n'est pas à nous de tracer la voie vers ces objectifs. La route est décidée par nos amis africains. Ce que nous pouvons et voulons faire, et que nous sommes en train de faire maintenant en tant qu'Union Européenne, est d'accompagner l'Afrique sur la route, avec notre soutien, avec tout le respect, qui, parfois, n'était pas existant lors de notre histoire d'amitié – disons les choses comme elles sont – avec toute la force de notre Union, dans tous les secteurs où nous pouvons faire la différence.

So I would like to discuss some of the priorities that we constantly hear from our African friends, which have become now our shared priorities.

First, one of the great urgencies of our times. And I would start from this, not because it would be at the centre of our summit in Abidjan, but because, as my friend, the Foreign Minister of Mali mentioned, this is a top priority for all of us as human beings. We cannot ignore the reports on the inhuman treatment of migrants in Libya. Let me tell you that unfortunately, this is not new, and as an Italian – and I know, Antonio [Tajani, President of the European Parliament] has experienced the same – we have heard so many stories of migrants, and especially women arriving on the coast of Lampedusa telling us stories of slavery. And, it has been years that we have said as Europeans – first I have to say more as Italians – we have to face the dramatic situation of our African brothers and sisters that are in slavery in those centres. And this is why, it has been years that we have worked hard to try to save lives, protect people, dismantle criminal networks. But, everytime that we have new waves of news, new waves of reports coming out, it is a sad moment.

But, it is also a window of opportunity for us to join forces, politically and with our societies, to put pressure and face the situation as it is, and try to find the solutions. And, this is why I was in touch immediately after this new report came out with President of the African Union, Alpha Condé, and we agreed that our cooperation – Europe and Africa – is even more needed today. And it is going to increase exactly on how to tackle this situation in more concrete terms.

I have just discussed a few hours ago, here in Brussels, with my friend Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, on how to translate this common priority into new concrete actions, that we jointly, European Union, African Union, African countries, and the United nations, can do to progress in this situation.

I said before, that our goal is and must continue to be the closure of detention camps. I said it in front of this hemicycle in Strasbourg, a few months ago. This has always been the position of the European Union. And – I think – it is only good if we join forces to make sure that our brothers and sisters that are detained in these camps in Libya can count on our common support to return to their home countries, with the help of our partners in the international organisations, starting from the United Nations agencies. Because in the meantime we are working full time and full speed, and with all our resources and determination – as European Union – precisely to prevent and stop all kind of abuses that have just been once again exposed.

So, what are we doing as the European Union?

First of all, we are working with the United Nations Agencies – the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and the International Organisation for Migration [IOM] – so that they can work inside Libya, and all along the route. Thanks to our support, starting from our financial support, they are now saving lives and improving the living conditions of thousands of African men, women and children, inside Libya and along the routes.

And together with the UN Agencies, we are also providing them with an opportunity to escape from all that suffering. And, I can say that by the end of this year, we will have helped, in just twelve months, 15,000 African brothers and sisters to go back from Libya, from these detention camps, to their home countries, to their local communities, with also the financial support for them to begin a new life, start their own economic activity, or learn a new job. I know 15,000 is a drop in the ocean. But, it is the first time we are doing this. And I think that, if we join forces, we can definitely improve this work. We need to do it, and I think, that only together we can do it. And it is not only this.

After a long time we have been discussing and working on this, a few weeks ago, with the European Commission, we announced 50,000 opportunities for resettlement for those that are in need of international protection, because regular channels and the protection of those in need are the only possible alternative to irregular traffics. So, it is also a way of saving lives.

But let me remind us all one important thing: 80 per cent of African migrants and refugees move inside Africa, and not from Africa to Europe. Most African refugees are hosted by their African brothers. This is something that our African friends can never forget, because it is part of their daily life. This is something that, we Europeans, must never forget. Because, we tend to forget it from time to time. And we tend to perceive that migration and refugee flows are a matter of concern only for Europe. The majority of these movements happen inside the African continent. And this is why, in the Summit next week in Abidjan, we will face together the issue of mobility and migration with a positive agenda, to see how we can both benefit from the movements between our continents, across the Mediterranean sea, but especially, how the African Union and the European Union can together set a positive agenda for managing this global phenomenon in the global context of the United Nations Global Compact on Migration and Refugees. Because together, through our partnership, we can define the ways in which this phenomenon can be managed in a sustainable manner.   

Our development policy makes us collectively, as European Union and Member States, the largest donor by far, not only in Africa but also in all the rest of the world. But for Africa, let me mention one data that is often forgotten: we invest in Africa €20 billion every year. Antonio [Tajani, President of the European Parliament] often refers to a Marshall Plan for Africa. If we put together all that we are doing, we have a Marshall Plan for Africa. The question Antonio [Tajani] put, how do we use this money, how do we make sure together – Africans and Europeans – that this has the maximum impact on societies. And, when I talk with our African partners about the future, it is not development that comes up more often, it is other two words: investment and security. And you have heard this today from our two friends.

We need to do better and I believe that over the past three years, we, the European Union, have come up with new initiatives and innovative tools to deliver on these two priorities.

On investment, first of all. Today, only four per cent of global foreign direct investment goes to Africa. That's about €50 billion per year, and it only goes to certain parts of Africa – and let me tell you – not necessarily to those that needed the most.   

So, with the European External Investment Plan that we have just launched, we can raise at least €44 billion – to start with, then I am open to consider expansion – in private investment by 2020.

This is the largest ever investment programme for Africa. I hope and I expect that others will join this effort. For instance, I hope that our Member States – and I know, here, I speak with different hats – will put adequate resources into this, to make this major investment plan even bigger.

This will try to focus private sector investment first of all in the areas that need it the most, which means the fragile parts of the continent, and to invest this money to create good jobs, particularly with micro, small and medium enterprises and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, for instance upgrading African connectivity, investing in renewable energy and in digital solutions.

At the same time, our African friends know that economic growth is possible only with peace and security. And they told us very clearly, also today.

Right now, ten thousand European women and men in uniform are serving in Africa, sometimes we don't perceive that the European Union is a security provider. In Africa we are one of the first ones. We are partnering with African forces, including in Mali, but in many other places. Because, we care about Africa's security, for Africa, but also for ourselves. We want it to be sustainable security. And this is why, we want this to be done with and by African forces in the lead.

For this reason, our European missions have already trained thirty thousand African soldiers, policemen and judges, because, for us, security is never only military, it is always also rule of law and strong institutions.  

And today, we are doing even more. As my friend mentioned, the European Union was the first to support the G5 Sahel countries, when they decided – I remember I was there in Bamako that day – to establish a Joint military Force, and we will continue to do so. And, we will organise in Brussels a conference to raise support, both financial and military, to this joint force, to make our friends in the Sahel able to tackle the security challenges that they face and that we face, because, if they face a security challenge, we also face it.

Let me add another point, that you also mentioned, and I was glad you did it on the capacity building in support of security and development. I am glad this European Parliament has accepted my proposal to have this initiative in place. And I would like to thank colleagues here in this room, that have supported and worked on this, because Africa needs professional trained and equipped security forces, if we want our development policies to be effective, and our aid to reach those that are most in need.

And, you may be surprised that I have not yet mentioned the main issue, the main theme of our Summit in Abidjan – that is, the youth, girls and boys of our continents. And, let me stress girls, because sometimes we only focus on boys. Girls and young women, and women in general, are the beating heart of Africa, and I think also of Europe. But, actually, I have mentioned youth, because everything we do, it is with and for our young people.

It is not just one issue among others. This is not just one priority among others. It is the centre, the lens through which we see all the different initiatives we are taking. So, when we work on investments, on job creation, on migration, on e-governance, on climate change action, this is the work we do with and for our youth.  

Half of the African population is under twenty. So, it is simply impossible to find the right answers – not only for the future, but also for the present – if we don't work for the African youth but mainly with the African youth.

This is why I am glad that young Africans from different parts of the continent together with young Europeans and including the diaspora of young Africans in Europe have been working in the last weeks in Africa and in Europe to prepare the Summit. They will give an input to the Summit. I met them a few weeks ago, here, in Brussels. Moussa Faki [Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission] met them a few weeks ago in Addis [Addis-Ababa]. And they will have a key role in the Summit next week with concrete ideas of how we can make policies effective for them, which means, for the present of the two continents.  

And, we are working with our youth, not just for them, as we are working with Africa, and not just for Africa. And this is why our Summit next week will be different.

So, to conclude, we go to Abidjan with new ideas, with new initiatives – with an unprecedented investment plan, with our migration work that for the first time ever has turned into a real partnership, which is – I believe – the key to manage this phenomenon effectively, and with all our common work and support for peace and security.

We go to Abidjan together with the United Nations. And let me say that we will have, there, further step in something unique we have started – a trilateral cooperation between the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations. Because together we can push forward so much of the global agenda that the world and not only our two continents need. On different issues, peacekeeping, economic and governance reform, investment, sustainable development, action on climate change: all of this, if led together by Europe and Africa with the United Nations, can really change, not only – again as I said – our two continents, but the rest of the world.   

So, we go to Abidjan, probably for the first time ever, as partners, as political partners, overcoming the donor-recipient kind of relationship, that belongs to the past. We are starting a new page, a page of political partnership, which means that we set our direction together, and each of us accepts the responsibility to contribute its own way on all the priorities.  

We are doing something new. It is a new kind of partnership we start not only for our people, but for the entire world. And I believe, here, we share a responsibility to humanity. And I believe we can honour this task, that indeed is heavy, but I think that our continents are able to carry this responsibility on our shoulders. So, I thank you very much. And the summit is not the end of it. The Summit is the beginning of it. We will continue our work from the day after.

So – to take the words of a colleague, that has intervened before – thank you, vive l'Afrique, vive l'Europe.

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