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Remarks by HR/VP Josep Borrell and Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen at the press conference on the Joint Communication towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op maandag 9 maart 2020.

Opening remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell

This is one of the most important international partnerships that we are going to build. That is why we are here, the two of us together [with Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen], to stress the fact that this joint communication is an important first step towards a new partnership with Africa. From now on, we need to engage with our African partners on establishing joint priorities.

We will have a summit with the African Union in October, which will be the culminating moment for our work on this Strategy with Africa, when we should jointly agree on common priorities and deliverables. We need to make our partnership visible and concrete for African and for European citizens alike.

The European Union is Africa's first partner by all accounts: trade, investment, development, cooperation, security. We want this to continue, to scale it further and make it even more efficient. The European Union and the Member States - because the intergovernmental part and the community part have to work together - we have geopolitical interests in Africa. Our growth and security depends on what happens in Africa, maybe more than on any other part of the world.

If we want to reach our climate change goals and manage migration - just two pressing issues, migration and climate change - Africa is the key partner. There is nothing more important for us from the point of view of climate change and migration than what is going to happen in Africa. Africa can count on our renewed support to meet its objectives in terms of sustainable development, digitalisation, climate change and governance, peace and security.

After our meeting in Addis Ababa (link is external), I went to Sudan and I witnessed how much the youth play a determining role on Africa's future. The future of Africa, as much as the future of Europe, will be determined by the response we give to their political and economic aspirations.

I want to stress how important our partnership is and is going to be. As High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission, this will be one of the most important endeavours I will have to face together with all the Commissioners of the cluster for a stronger Europe, and very much in particular Commissioner Urpilainen in charge of international partnerships. As I said at the beginning, this is one of the most important, maybe the most important international partnerships that we are going to work [on].

My last word is to reiterate that the European ties with Africa are not about or for Africa, nor about Europe or for Europe. It is about two continents, two sister continents that have to work together for the future of their people. That is why the communication that we are presenting today is a first step in a process that will take until the autumn of this year, and beyond, towards a new Strategy with Africa.

It is very difficult to stress how important it is, from many points of view, and especially for the most important political guidelines of the Commission - and climate change and migration are two of them, maybe the most important, but not the only ones. Digitalisation, wealth, job creation, the better understanding among our people is part of this rich and impressive work that we have in front of us.

Opening remarks by Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen

Ladies and gentlemen, representatives of the media. I want to thank HRVP for a very fruitful cooperation in preparing this communication. I also want to thank the whole College for contributing to this comprehensive Strategy - and my fellow Commissioners for their commitment to this new partnership with Africa and the willingness to engage politically on the outreach of this new Strategy.

So, why a new Strategy, some might ask. It is a fair and good question. But so is the answer. This Strategy with Africa is a Strategy of the new geopolitical Commission. What do I mean with this?

We live in a multipolar world, where we face increasing competition. At the same time, the realities are shifting in Africa. Economy is booming and the young population is growing rapidly. The old narrative and perception of Africa as a continent of instability and threats is challenged by huge emerging opportunities.

Then there are the big global mega trends. Climate change and digitalisation already change the way we live. They are transforming our economies and societies. At the same time, the multilateral international order is under threat. When we believe in cooperation, some push for unilateralism.

These realities provide us both with a challenge and an opportunity. We want Europe to be stronger in the world. We can achieve our goals together with our partners.

Not everything has to change. The new comprehensive Strategy builds on the priorities agreed at Abidjan in 2017 and the successful work of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs and its inclusive Task Forces. Now it is time to scale up and take the partnership to a new level.

Therefore, what now needs to change is how the geopolitical Commission engages with Africa. I see our new approach built on four pillars.

First distinctive character is obviously our political priorities. We want to unlock the potential of the Green Deal. We aim to harness the digital transformation to benefit our twin continents. We want to boost sustainable investments and jobs as well as private sector development. Together with our partners, we intend to continue working for peace and good governance, by defending our values and the multilateral order.

Secondly, compared to our competitors we stand alone in our ambition of sustainability in all three dimensions. We really anchor our work to the Sustainable Development Goals and work tirelessly towards sustainable social, economic and ecological future.

Thirdly, we take specific focus on engaging those who are drivers of the change: youth and women as well as the private sector. In order to unleash the whole potential of our partners' societies, we need all on board by empowering them in an inclusive way.

Finally, we acknowledge that this is teamwork. We need to really be Team Europe. Only coordinating better, simplifying procedures and working closer together with our Member States, our Financial Institutions, as well as the civil society and private sector, we will succeed in our new partnership with Africa. At the global stage, we will defend multilateralism by building coalitions with our African partners.

This is why, in the strategy we propose 10 actions to take forward our partnership in 5 key areas:

  • Partnership in green transition and energy access
  • Partnership in digital transformation
  • Partnership in sustainable growth and jobs
  • Partnership in peace and governance
  • Partnership in migration and mobility

This communication is a first step in a process. We have consulted our stakeholders and we will continue to with our African partners, civil society, business, and other stakeholders. We need to understand what is important to everyone in both continents and agree on a joined up approach. And I see this as a tangible, results-oriented approach bringing concrete benefits to the citizens on both continents. We have ample time for consultations and exchanges until our joint Summit in October in Brussels.

Last, but not least. To me, this Strategy represents our reach out to the future of Africa, to our common future. To the young and the women, who want to live an inspiring life, full of opportunities and want to build a better future. To them I say: you can count on us, we are your partners.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-186033

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