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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Opening remarks of President José Manuel Barroso at the 6th EU – South Africa Summit
6th EU-South Africa Summit/Pretoria
18 July 2013
I want to associate myself with the words of gratitude pronounced by President Van Rompuy for the hospitality that you have shown us today. We are also grateful to be part today of the celebrations in honour of former President Mandela.
Unfortunately, our Summit discussions are taking place against the background of the ill health of the Madiba, a man much loved by the South African people and by the world. More than ever our thoughts are with him, his family and all of South Africa.
President Mandela was the founder of modern South Africa, the father of South African democracy, and it is fair to say that he did an excellent job as South Africa has now solid institutions and a mature democracy capable of whithstanding the hardest probes. South Africa is now “master of its faith; captain of its soul” as William Henley wrote in the Madiba’s favourite poem, Invictus.
I will have tomorrow the possibility of paying tribute to Nelson Mandela and to his and South Africa’s long road to freedom in a speech at the Cape Town University and a visit to Robben Island.
So let me now turn to our Summit.
Today's meeting is a further opportunity to engage frankly in a constructive and open spirit on a range of issues of direct and great significance to both of South Africa and the European Union.
Consolidating our partnership to stimulate growth and employment is one of the top priorities and a great challenge that we share. I would thus like to thank you for having proposed it as a central topic for today's discussions.
In Europe we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. We can be more positive than one year ago on the economic recovery now underway. However we should not be complacent. Risks still exist. There is no alternative to continuing implementing structural reforms and improving our economic governance.
And part of our strategy in Europe is precisely to build closer relations with our strategic partners, such as South Africa. Europe was born as an open project and remained open throughout its history. It is by keeping this openness and working together with the rest of the world that we will increase prosperity and create jobs.
In the case of our strategic partnership with South Africa this is cemented by our bilateral Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement, which provides increased opportunities for two-way trade, growth and jobs. The EU is South Africa's main trading partner with 25% of the trade share, and the first foreign investor with three quarters of the overall FDI stock and also the most important development partner - and we intend to maintain these positions!
Despite our relations with other regions of the world which are certainly positive and can only benefit both Europe and South Africa it is important to recall and not forget these basic facts that underpin our relation. It shows that not only we talk the talk but we also walk the walk.
The Southern African Development Community – Economic Partnership Agreement (SADC-EPA) that we hope to conclude soon, represents in our view an additional asset for our relation and for our shared goal of increasing prosperity to our people.
We are confident that, on this basis, today's summit will allow us to tackle even the difficult and sensitive issues in a spirit of friendship and mutual understanding, while continuing to deepen and broaden our co-operation. A long walk is composed of small steps. Let this Summit be another step of our joint walk together.
I look forward to our discussions.