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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso at the press conference following the 6th College-to-College Meeting of the European Commission and the African Union Commission
Press conference/Addis Ababa
26 April 2013
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
Indeed we are a little bit late, probably very much late, and I apologise for that. But the reason was the quality, the depth, the richness of our discussions: very open and constructive discussions on very important topics.
I am really happy with the quality of the conversations we had just today. I believe this is the added value of these kind of meetings, not just to have, let's say, a traditional diplomatic type of meetings. It's also a more business-like approach, in the sense that we are trying - of course building on political goals – to deepen concrete ways of addressing very important issues, for both Africa and Europe, regarding namely growth, sustainable growth and development.
So I am really delighted to be here today for our 6th meeting of the European Commission with the African Union Commission. I had the privilege of launching this process and of co-chairing all of these meetings so far and I can really tell you that our cooperation is growing in breath and depth. We have now a network of dialogues and a density of contacts that in fact is much more developed than before 2007, when we had a Summit in Lisbon and we defined a joint Europe-Africa strategy.
And this meeting takes place in a symbolic year for the African Union, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the continental integration. The 50th anniversary of the African Union is so important also for this pan-African vision. We in the European Union also are developing this vision. We believe that the role of the European Commission on one side and the African Union Commission on the other, have, of course in a different context, many things in common. It is the idea to put together the resources, the competences, the capabilities of our Member States for a wider perspective.
The reality is that throughout these last decades Africa has been transforming itself for the better and we are very happy and proud to be partners of Africa in this process.
The African Union has been playing a role in all these important matters for Africa, namely in the efforts to develop a strategic vision for the continent; tackling crises in the short-term, and designing long-term policies for the political, economic and social development of Africa.
50 years ago all this seemed a distant prospect, but as President Mandela has recalled us many times: it all seems impossible until it’s done. And now we are doing this.
I am therefore particularly honoured that the European Commission has also been part of this process through our consistent and continued support to the African Union Commission, to Africa’s integration, and to our bilateral partnership.
These College-to-College meetings are precisely part of our partnership. This meeting that concludes in its plenary form will now continue throughout the day, and we are now having in mind particularly the 4th Africa-EU Summit that we will host in Brussels in April next year.
We have set in motion a process of reviewing and refreshing the Joint Africa-EU Strategy in order to make it more efficient.
Our truly remarkable cooperation has been materialising in a number of areas. First and foremost peace and security, where together we have been addressing challenges for instance in Mali and in the wider Sahel region, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, in the two Sudans and in Guinea-Bissau. I take this opportunity to welcome the effective African leadership in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, which the European Union has supported politically and financially since the beginning. 1 billion euros have been committed to the support of this agenda through the Africa Peace Facility.
Let me also praise the African Union’s consistent and unequivocal rejection of unconstitutional changes of government and ensure you of our determination to support Africa’s ambitious agenda for the promotion of democratic governance and human rights.
We have also agreed to step up our cooperation to promote sustainable and inclusive growth. This is a challenge for both Africa and the European Union, and the urgently- needed progress in empowering women and creating decent work opportunities for young people will benefit both sides.
I think that our cooperation works because it delivers concrete outputs, from fighting the scourge of malaria and other tropical diseases to borders security, from climate change to trade. Between 2007 and 2013, the European Commission has invested more than €24 billion on cooperation with Africa.
Africa is today experiencing one of the biggest growth rates of any region in the world. The potential for our economic cooperation is immense. Africa also has a favourable demography with its population expected to double by 2050, many of them, most of them young, and certainly dynamic and eager to build a prosperous live.
The European Union has been consistently the African continent’s main trade and investment partner, accounting with a total of one third of overall trade. This is why we also have addressed this very much in detail.
There are many untapped opportunities to expand our mutually beneficial cooperation. We have been working on this, today we have addressed among many other issues, for instance, the importance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development.
So, to conclude, I am encouraged by our discussions, by our common determination to keep our two organisations as the drivers of the process of integration in both Europe and Africa. I think that we can give a very important contribution not only of course to the well-being of our citizens, but also to a global order based on the principles of peace, democracy, development and justice.