Address by the President of the ACP Council of Ministers, Hon. Dr. Abdallah OMARI KIGODA, Minister for Industry and Trade of Tanzania at the Opening – 39th session of the ACP-EU Joint Council of Ministers, 19 June 2014, Nairobi – Kenya
Your Excellency Hon, Uhuru KENYATTA, C.G.H., President and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, of the Republic of Kenya;
Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Colleagues,
Mr Andris PIEBALGS, EU Commissioner for Development,
Hon. Alhaji Muhammad MUMUNI, ACP Secretary-General,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and Plenipotentiaries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Government and people of Tanzania and the Eastern African region, it is an honour and privilege for me to welcome you all to the 39th Session of the ACP – EU Council of Ministers.
It is also a great honour for us to have with us this morning, H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta who, despite his very busy schedule and the current situation in certain areas of his country, has found the time to grace us with his presence.
First and foremost, I wish to extend our sincere gratitude to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya, and the Government and people of this beautiful country for agreeing to host the 99th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers and the 39th Session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers. Since our arrival in this beautiful city of Nairobi, we have been treated to wonderful hospitality in addition to the excellent facilities put to our disposal for our work.
Coming from a neighbouring State, I can attest that we in Tanzania appreciate and share the geo-political challenges faced by the people of the Republic of Kenya like any other East African State. Many of our citizens still live in poverty and our governments struggle constantly to reconcile the several competing needs in our national budgets, in the face of limited public resources.
Despite all these constraints and within the context of the East African Community, we are registering noteworthy strides in economic development in our region. Our development partners, particularly in Europe, are called upon to continue to support these development efforts in the ACP Group of States.
In addition, as the ACP Group of States, we must transform the idiom of solidarity into meaningful action and tangible support to make a difference in the lives of our ordinary citizens. This is the true meaning of the Georgetown Agreement, which has been reinforced by the historic partnership between Europe and the African, Caribbean and Pacific nations through the Cotonou Partnership Agreement.
Over the last couple of days, we on the ACP side have been deliberating on a range of matters relevant to the ACP Group of States, as well as to our strategic partnership with European Union. To this end, we believe that our continuing engagement with Europe within the framework of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement is essential to ensuring our harmonious integration into the global economy and to expanding the opportunities for growth and long-term sustainable development.
While prudent macroeconomic management is bearing fruit in many ACP Countries, in terms of increased growth and improved welfare, it is also sadly true that the plague of poverty among our people continues to be a nightmare. The spectre of youth unemployment and the phenomenon of joblessness remains a major challenge.
The political situation in a number of ACP States, particularly in Africa, namely Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan, Somalia, among others, continue to test our solidarity and capabilities in resolving political conflicts that have displaced many women and children, who endure horrendous acts of abuse as a consequence of these conflicts.
As we strive to meet our development challenges, we also need to meet our commitments of good governance as enshrined in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. To this end, we welcome the political progress in a number of ACP countries, such as Madagascar, Fiji, Malawi, among others.
As we meet during this 39th Session of our Joint ACP-EU Council of Ministers, the profound changes taking place within Europe itself are not lost on us. We face a new Europe with a much expanded membership, differentiated institutional architecture and changing geopolitical priorities.
We in the ACP Group would be wrong to take our privileged partnership with the EU for granted. At the same time, it would be a great mistake on Europe’s part to turn its back on an old and time-tested partnership. We are aware that there are some in the New Europe who see the ACP-EU system as a relic of an old post-colonial order that no longer has a place in our new millennium. As we peer into the post-2020 world, when the Cotonou Agreement expires, the ACP-EU Council of Ministers needs to urgently reflect on how our partnership can be re-engineered within the context of a new world order.
It is in this spirit that an ACP Working Group on the Future Perspectives of the ACP Group and the Eminent Persons Group, have been deliberating over the past two years, to map out possible scenarios for the future of the Group. I therefore wish to propose that the 40th Session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers should dedicate a substantial portion of its agenda to deliberating on the post-2020 ACP-EU relations.
In the increasingly interdependent world in which we live, the ACP Group and the EU will continue to need each other. Like in all relationships, there will always be one or two sticky areas. One such is the slow progress in finalising the EPAs with Africa and the Pacific regions. While urging our colleagues to speed up the process towards a final agreement, we appeal to our EU partners to continue to show more flexibility and understanding of the regional-specific aspects of these negotiations. We continue to underline the philosophy that no ACP State should find itself in a disadvantageous position as a result of the conclusion and application of these Agreements.
The on-going global discourse on the UN post-2015 development agenda is of great importance to the ACP-EU Partnership. It is in this vein that we will adopt an ACP-EU Joint Declaration on the post-2015 development agenda, as not only an important contribution to the work of the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, but also influence the general debate when the Inter-governmental negotiations officially begin within the UN General Assembly later this year.
In conclusion, I trust that this 39th Session in Nairobi, Kenya, will serve once again to bring us closer together on this and other issues on our agenda. I wish us all very productive deliberations.
Thank you for your kind attention.