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Karel De Gucht EU Commissioner for Development and humanitarian aid Progress, challenges and prospects for the EU-South Africa Partnership Cape Peninsula University of Technology South-Africa, 10 September 2009

Commission Européenne - SPEECH/09/381   10/09/2009

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SPEECH/ 09/381

Karel De Gucht

EU Commissioner for Development and humanitarian aid

Progress, challe nges and prospects for the EU-South Africa Partnership

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED


Cape Peninsula University of Technology

South-Africa, 10 September 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distinguished guests,

L et me start by saying that it is a privilege for me to be able to address such a distinguished audience at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, at the eve of the 2nd South Africa-EU Summit in Kleinmond.

I visited South Africa a number of times, most recently as Belgium’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. And this is in fact my first visit abroad since I was appointed Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid only a few weeks ago.

Every single time I visit this country I get inspired by a great sense of optimism. South Africa's recent history is a story of hope, courage and determination. It provides lessons, not only for Africa, but for the entire world.

It has been fifteen years since democratic rule started in South Africa. In this period, South Africa has managed to establish strong and credible institutions, attracted increasing foreign investment, improved the lives of millions of South Africans and initiated countless programmes to boldly and successfully address issues of poverty.

Of course the challenges remain enormous: from rising unemployment and the economic slowdown to issues relating to the legacy of apartheid and the building of a true "rainbow nation".

But I am encouraged by the resolve of the new South African administration, and of President Zuma in particular, to tackle these challenges upfront with the aim of creating – as Minister Trevor Manuel put it earlier this week – "a truly non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and democratic society."

South Africa is also assuming its role as a leading power in the region, playing a key role in helping to establish peace and security on the African continent.

This role in peace and security and the support the EU can provide illustrates I believe very well the potential and the challenges of the South Africa – EU partnership.

South Africa is leaving no stone unturned to establish peace and security in Africa. It is a major player in virtually all mediation and peace keeping efforts: in the Great Lakes, in West Africa, Sudan, the Horn and – obviously – in Southern Africa.

South Africa has also been a driving force in establishing the Pan African Architecture for Peace and Security under the aegis of the African Union. In record time, the African Union endowed itself with strong institutions: the Peace and Security Council is today the reference point for all major crisis situations in Africa. The AU has been deploying numerous missions, in most of which South Africa has taken an active part: Burundi, Darfur, Somalia…

As European Union we follow these evolutions with great interest and even admiration. We know from experience how hard it is to integrate numerous countries, each with its own history, outlook and background. Since 1993, the EU has formally created its Common Foreign and Security Policy - , underpinned by new institutions, such as the Political and Security Committee, and gifted with a single face – that of Secretary General and High Representative Javier Solana.

I acknowledge this Policy still has some important limits. The most important of these is probably that all decisions have to be taken by unanimity between members in the Council. Sometimes this has prevented the European Union of acting collectively, quickly and forcefully

But in many cases the EU has played a key-role and spear-headed international efforts to bring peace and stability : I am thinking for example about Europe's role in the Balkans or indeed in Africa, where the EU has been very active notably in supporting the African Union and regional efforts.

What is unique about EU external action is that it focuses very much on the "development-security" nexus. You cannot have development without security; but equally you cannot have long-term security without development. This is the reason why the EU mobilizes a vast array of instruments in its external action in Africa, ranging from military to political ones; from humanitarian to development assistance.

One of the most prominent instruments at our disposal is the Peace Facility for Africa. With a budget of almost half a billion euro, the Peace Facility is designed to support the development of the African Peace and Security Architecture, as well as the financing of African peace and mediation operations. The European Union, has helped finance for example the African Union Peace Mission in Sudan and Darfur and the African Union Mission in Somalia.

Importantly, this Facility is triggered by a formal request by the African Union, leaving the latter organisation the leading role. This is indeed a clear policy of the EU to support 'African solutions to African problems'. Peace can never be imposed from the outside.

This brings me to a more general point. Our relationship should be based on responsibilities fully assumed and shared between partners with equal rights and duties. What we need is a political partnership on an equal footing.

We must put behind us that outdated, post-colonial relationship of "donor" and "beneficiary" and work towards a new honest, open, respectful political dialogue.

Europe, for example, must ensure that aid is not scattered, but focused and aimed at bringing real added value, or that its internal policies do not hamper Africa's development.

Africa, too, has its responsibilities, and this includes the strengthening of governance, the building of strong and effective institutions, and the respect of human rights.

And yes, this also goes for Zimbabwe. I will not come back on what happened in that country over the last decade, but let me look at the future and commend President Zuma for his efforts. We have looked with great interest at the President's visit to Zimbabwe just over a week ago. It strengthened our idea that South Africa can and will make a difference. This weekend I will go to Zimbabwe, with my troika colleagues. The message I will bring is very clear and it is a positive one, but not just a "free for all": The EU is ready for a rapid normalisation of relations, including the resumption of our full cooperation, but what we expect from the Government is an early and full implementation of its own programme, that is, the Global Political Agreement (GPA). This echoes what President Zuma said at the SADC Summit. We all know that sticking points remain. And there are other areas of concern such as human rights abuses, or the respect of democratic principles and the rule of law.

I agree with what President Zuma said in the past. We must engage rather than "shout from far away", as he put it. That is not what we want. And it is not what we do. The EU is and has been saving lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, as first donor and first provider of humanitarian aid. So, let me offer my support to your efforts and let us be partners with one single goal: a renewed Zimbabwe that offers all of its people a bright future. Let us engage together, to the full.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distinguished guests,

What I wanted to make clear through these examples is that the EU and South Africa can make a difference; and that we need to substantially step up the political relationship between us to do so.

That's why South Africa and the European Union decided in October 2006 to establish a Strategic Partnership.

A Partnership built on our common values and interests, our joint belief in solidarity, democracy, multilateralism.

Together we aim to move from political dialogue to active political cooperation.

At the Summit tomorrow, we will discuss with President Zuma the financial crisis and the upcoming G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. This includes reforming the international financial institutions to reflect changes in the world economy.

We will also talk about climate change and the challenges it poses on the developing and the developed world. We have no choice but to make the upcoming Copenhagen conference a success.

We also review progress made on a whole range of new areas of cooperation that have been introduced over the last twelve months. Today, the European Union and South Africa have established a structured dialogue in no less than fourteen different areas, ranging from environment, space, education over maritime transport to migration and energy.

As such, the Strategic Partnership can and will yield concrete results for our citizens, in the European Union and in South Africa: it will contribute to peace and stability, it will help address global challenges such as the economic slowdown or the effects of global warning, it will expand trade relations and investments between our societies.

But, maybe even more importantly, this Partnership will increase human exchanges and bring closer our citizens, making an end to simplistic stereotypes and paving the way for a fundamental change of thinking about what Europe and Africa are and what we can achieve together.


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