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Remarks by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, following the 10th EU-AU Commission-to-Commission meeting plenary session

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 27 februari 2020.

Thank you very much M. President,

Thank you once again for the very warm welcome. And indeed, I can pick up at the moment where you finished your statement. Yes, we have come here - for me it is the second time to be here, I came right away at the beginning of my mandate. When I came into office, it was my very first visit abroad, here to the African Union, because I am convinced that the two of us - the African Union and the European Union - we are natural partners. And we have a lot in common, so we have a lot to win if we work closely together and exchange experiences and knowledge and look for win-win situations.

For me, it was important to bring as soon as possible the whole College to the African Union. And indeed, I was told it is the largest delegation ever, as a College, to go abroad, to visit here the African Union. So never ever has the European College been in such a number abroad to visit a partner. And this is a strong message and a strong sign, too, I think today. We came here to discuss topics, to listen a lot, because indeed we are preparing our Strategy with Africa. We will publish it in due course, but the goal is to fill this roadmap with more dense content and with the common knowledge, so that aiming at the Summit in fall, we will have a comprehensive Strategy with Africa on our common path to move forward.

The topics we have been discussing, indeed at the very beginning, the topics are the same as we have within the four round tables. So, at the moment being, the Vice-Presidents and the Commissioners are sitting together discussing these four topics we have identified. And we are looking forward to the feedback. In our bilateral, of course, the topic of peace and security was an important one. And we both agree - this is my deep conviction - that it is of utmost importance to enable and empower the African Union and the African Member States to defend their home countries and their regions against terror, to put them in the situation that this is possible, so to empower here. And we have been discussing the different scenarios, be it in Libya, be it in Sahel, where more support is needed. But in a prudent, respectful way, to enable and empower the local entities to fight the enemy. Because they know best who the enemy is, they know best where the terror comes from, they know best what the specificities of a certain region or a certain area is are.

We have been discussing the Free Trade Area, and I can only commend the African Union to this success. Because the two of us, we know that tearing down barriers between Member States for free trade is the best way to prosperity. And we agree that it is also a very interesting project on the level of the European Union and the African Union to open business opportunities and investment opportunities for investors from both sides. For example, for investors from Europe, it is of course more attractive to look at one entity, which is the Free Trade Area, and not to deal with 20 or 30 different regulations, but to have to do with one system of regulation. So the Free Trade Area - I am convinced - will boost a lot prosperity and business opportunities that are necessary. Indeed, the European Union is the largest investor and the largest trade partner, we want to maintain that and we are counting on the development of this Free Trade Area.

We have been discussing the topic of climate change extensively. And nobody knows better than the African Union what climate change does, how urgent it is that together we move forward to a more respectful way to produce and consume towards our planet. We have been discussing the opportunities where we can work together very closely. We just are starting to develop the European Green Deal, which goes to all the policy areas to look at what does harm to the planet and what are clean and sustainable technologies and ways to produce, so that we can join forces here. We are determined to speak to our business communities who are very interested in investing in sustainable technologies and to open to them the whole field of knowledge we have on green technologies, green financing, so here, too we see a common path we can move forward.

And indeed the topic of skills, the investment in women and youth, is number one on the agenda. It is the investment in health, the investment in education where we know it pays off enormously, it is building the future that we have together. So thank you very much for a very good exchange.

It is already a long lasting partnership - 15 years, we have counted that - so far, but what we do now is taking it to the next level. We agreed that it is smart to look at what did work and to emphasise that and to put a lot of focus on, indeed, the topics of trade, of Free Trade Area, climate change and digitalisation.

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