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Today, I had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to discuss the economic, political and security situation in the DRC and the region.
The European Union has invested heavily in a democratic, prosperous and stable future for the DRC. The EU is the country's principal partner and is conducting two crisis management missions in the DRC aimed at supporting the authorities with police and army reform.
Mr Matata Ponyo told me about his government's reform programme, in particular the priorities for macro-economic consolidation, strengthening of the business climate, and governance, and gave an update on the preparations for the continuation of the electoral process.
Whilst welcoming his commitment, I encouraged the Prime Minister to proceed quickly with the reforms needed to firmly anchor the rule of law and democracy in the DRC, with particular regard to reforming the security sector and to the electoral process. It is in the European Union's interest to provide support to well-governed, democratic states that respect the rule of law and human rights and act for the benefit of their citizens.
We also discussed the serious situation in the east of the country, which is prey to the military activities of armed gangs, with tragic consequences for the civilian population, in particular women and children. I voiced my deep concern at the growing number of displaced persons and refugees, and gave assurances that the European Union would continue to lead the humanitarian effort.
I took the opportunity to reaffirm the Union's solidarity with the DRC as regards respect for its territorial integrity, and stressed the urgent need for an immediate halt to the supply of all aid, in particular from abroad, to the M23 group and the other armed groups operating in the east of the country. All the countries in the region need to condemn the military activities of the armed groups. The DRC also has a responsibility to strengthen the basic consensus in the Kivus region and to affirm the rule of law in those provinces.
Lastly, I called for dialogue between the DRC and its neighbours and the seeking of political solutions. There can be no lasting political solution without the return to a positive regional dynamic in the Great Lakes. In that regard I welcomed the practical confidence‑building measures, such as the Joint Verification Mechanism at the border between the DRC and Rwanda.
It is through a combination of national determination and regional and international cooperation that we can find the way to a lasting peace. The European Union is ready, as a reliable partner and friend, to continue to work towards that shared goal with all the relevant players.