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European Commissioner for Development
Cooperation: the way forward for Europe and Africa
At the Africa-Central Europe Economic Cooperation Forum during the European Economic Congress/Katowice (Poland)
13 May 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This afternoon’s session centres on cooperation. Cooperation has always been at the heart of the European project, bringing the peoples of Europe together in solidarity around shared values and interests.
Time and again this approach has enabled us to make shared problems into shared solutions.
The European project has always been outward-looking as well. We understand that, even in tough times like these, the answer lies in cooperation, not isolation. That’s why we’re looking to deepen our economic and political relationships across the world.
No more so than in Africa, the continent with the fastest growth rate in the world, the youngest population, and the biggest economic and societal changes.
To fight poverty, but in our own interest as well, we must remain a world leader in development cooperation. We need to step up our engagement with Africa, both bilaterally and through the joint EU-Africa partnership. And we must remain supportive of democratic change and accountable governments, of development efforts and together seize existing economic opportunities.
To do all this and take our development policy forward we have our Agenda for Change. The Agenda for Change is about fostering change in developing countries around the world. In particular it stresses the importance of inclusive and sustainable growth and democracy and good governance to poverty reduction. It is also about making our development work more efficient and effective, getting greater impact from our investments and focusing on the countries that most need our help. These changes should help accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and, beyond them, towards the elimination of poverty once and for all.
The development funding we provide can produce great results, but cannot be a cure-all. So it also needs to be used as a catalyst for other sources of development financing, like domestic resource mobilisation and private investment.
Role of the private sector
The private sector is a crucial development partner. We want to do more to create an enabling environment in which the private sector can contribute to economic development in partner countries through investment, innovation and job creation.
We will seek new forms of engagement with the private sector to ignite and sustain growth and to create jobs, with the ultimate goal of lifting people out of poverty. And we will use blending mechanisms to leverage additional public and private resources, unlock investments in partner countries and increase aid effectiveness.
Central European countries supporting Africa’s development
It’s clear, then, that central Europe has a strong role to play in Africa, by providing development assistance and encouraging the private sector to invest. Kapuscinski - this great figure of journalism and literature, I am currently reading his latest book- left an important legacy on the relations between central Europe and Africa and in the field of development cooperation.
Beyond this, our partner countries can draw much inspiration from your experiences of economic transition, democratisation and state reforms. We highlighted this in a recent policy paper on “EU support for sustainable change in transition societies”.
Poland is already putting its transition experience into practical use. It devotes much of its development cooperation programme to upholding civil liberties, establishing the rule of law, protecting human rights and developing a vibrant civil society.
And your countries are active in many other development areas as well.
For example, in Ethiopia I’ve seen how the Czech NGO People in Need, with government help, is supporting more than 7 thousand poor and vulnerable women in 396 self-help groups in urban areas. These women receive no money. Instead they receive training which shows them how to start their own business, encourages them to save as a group and aids their personal development. Their newly-acquired skills and sources of income benefit the whole family. So the overall number of people supported by the project is actually closer to sixty thousand.
This kind of project highlights the development potential in everyone, provided they are given opportunity. Indeed, no society can truly grow and develop unless its people have the freedom and opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.
This is something those of us from the former Soviet bloc understand only too well. It makes us value the support and cooperation we now have as EU members even more highly.
It’s this kind of support and cooperation the EU and all its Member States need to show to Africa. Working together we can achieve so much more.