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It was a great pleasure to welcome President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa at today’s Summit.
South Africa is one of the 10 countries in the world with whom we share a special relationship. This Strategic Partnership is based on the importance of our bilateral ties – the EU is South Africa’s largest trading, investment and development partner - and it is based on common values, such as political democracy. But it is also a recognition of South Africa’s growing political role regionally and globally.
This fifth Summit has been a good opportunity to reaffirm once again how much we value the EU’s Strategic Partnership with South Africa. Our discussions have allowed us to take stock of recent progress and pave the way for further dialogue and cooperation.
We welcomed new steps, such as enhanced cooperation on space, South Africa’s participation in the EU’s student exchange programme, and two new dialogues: on human rights as well as on disarmament and non-proliferation.
The focus of today’s discussions was on the economy: how to stimulate growth and employment through our Strategic Partnership and contribute to global economic recovery. We underlined the key importance of open and competitive economies, while also discussing ways to tackle poverty and inequality, and protect the environment.
These questions have become even more acute in the context of the recent mining violence in South Africa. The events at the Marikana mine were a tragedy and I welcome the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by President Zuma.
On our side, I assured President Zuma that EU leaders remain determined to guarantee financial stability in the euro area, to implement far-reaching structural reforms and to improve the current architecture of the Economic and Monetary Union. A lot of progress has been made recently.
I welcomed President Zuma’s support for the euro at the recent G20 Summit in Los Cabos and in particular South Africa’s pledge of USD 2 billion for the increase in IMF resources.
But the risks to the global economy do not stem from the euro area alone. All G20 members need to do their part in bringing the world economy back on the path of growth and implement their commitments in a timely way, as agreed in Los Cabos. Global growth depends on structural reforms in each of the countries of the G20.
We also discussed peace and security issues and in this context, I underlined our shared responsibility for conflict prevention and conflict resolution.
The European Union greatly values President Zuma’s facilitation efforts in Zimbabwe. A peaceful and credible constitutional referendum would be an important milestone on the way towards democratic elections, and would facilitate further lifting of EU restrictive measures against Zimbabwe. We have already relaxed many of our measures, which should add further momentum to speed up reforms in Zimbabwe.
We both support the efforts of Joint Special Representative Brahimi in finding a peaceful, political solution to the crisis in Syria. Ending violence, killings and repression is our key priority. I expressed the hope that South Africa, as a non-permanent member, would help the UN Security Council uphold its responsibility. We agreed on the need to coordinate our efforts and engage with all actors with an interest in this tragic conflict.
I stressed that the complex security challenges in the Sahel and Somalia need to be tackled in a comprehensive way, in the first place by Africa itself. The stability of these two regions is also of direct interest to Europe. The EU is using all the tools at its disposal to tackle poverty, terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime: from the delivery of humanitarian aid to support for the justice and security sectors and crisis management.
In this context, South Africa and the EU are exploring further possibilities for cooperation in the fight against piracy, building on our existing deployments in the Indian Ocean region and on ongoing capacity building efforts for navies of the region.
To conclude, the relations between the EU and South Africa have never been as deep and wide-ranging as today and we are eager to make them even stronger.
The presence of many South African Ministers and European Commissioners at today’s Summit is a proof of the vitality and the relevance of our Strategic Partnership.