Speech made by H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia at the meeting with ACP Group of Ambassadors, Brussels April 16th 2013
Hon. Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, Secretary General of the ACP Group, Excellencies, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first of all thank you for this opportunity to meet Your Excellencies, here, today. It is indeed an honor for me to address this gathering of our representatives of the ACP Group of States in Brussels. Meetings of this type would definitely give us an opportunity to share our thoughts on how our ACP Group should direct its partnership with the European Union, with which we strive to further strengthen our long- standing strategic partnership, identify the challenges we all face as a Group and chart out directions on how best we could resolve them.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate H.E. Hon. Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni on his appointment as Secretary General of the ACP Group and wish him all success in the discharge of the heavy responsibilities bestowed upon him.
My thanks and gratitude also goes to H.E. Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, former Secretary General of the ACP Group of countries for his leadership, which has enabled our Group to articulate our aspirations in the partnership with the European Union. I would like to wish him all the best in his new post as the joint AU/ UN Representative for Darfur, where I am confident that, he once again, will contribute greatly to the peace efforts of our Sub- Region of the Horn of Africa.
Our partnership with Europe has come a long way. Today, the ACP Group has a membership of 78 countries bringing together the entire Sub- Saharan Africa, as well as those of the Caribbean and Pacific island States. It is gratifying to note that our group has been able to maintain one of the most important kind of a North – South cooperation, which fact came about after protracted negotiations with our European partners. Therefore, we must rightly feel proud of the solidarity and the unity of purpose that guided our Group in those negotiations. We need also to maintain this unity and solidarity in the years to come.
On a gathering like this, it is important, I believe, that we reflect on some of the priority issues that are vital to the partnership among ourselves and with the European Union today. Today’s priorities are completely different from what we started with decades back. Issues of peace and security have become issues of equal, if not greater importance to that of development and trade in our engagement with our European partners. I would like to seize this opportunity to call upon our Group to be more determined in its actions over the issues of peace and security, keeping in mind that we cannot achieve development in the absence of peace and security in our respective regions.
We must also recognize the importance of solidarity we had built amongst us in the ACP group and the need to strengthen it further. With such sense of solidarity, I am of the view that we would be better placed to rise up to the many challenges that we face as a group of developing countries with limited capacity and resources at our disposal. Issues of global nature, such as climate change, for instance, need solidarity in convincing the developed world to be committed to the efforts of mitigating the effects of carbon emissions.
Today, I am in front of Your Excellencies in my capacity not only as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, but also as the current Chair of the African Union, at a time when there is an all too palpable sense of optimism, and rightly so, about Africa’s future. Thanks to the genuine efforts exerted by Governments to improve the business and investment climate in their respective countries, Africa is attracting foreign direct investment not only from the developed world but even more so from the emerging countries at an unprecedented scale. In most parts of our continent, regional economic integration processes are being expedited thanks to interconnectivity in infrastructure and free movement of the peoples and goods. I believe, this wind of optimism is also blowing across our Caribbean and Pacific States, whom, we feel, are united with us Africans, with common destiny, history and the similarities of the challenges they face in their quest to bring a change in the lives of their populations . Nonetheless, we should bear in mind that sustaining this trend would not always be an easy task.
Let me at this point provide you with a birds eye- view of what the Ethiopian Chairmanship of the AU has outlined as Priorities of its one year Presidency of our continental organization. Our priorities are aimed at continuity with the progress Africa has achieved thus far, including working for maintenance of peace and stability among other things. The Ethiopian Chairmanship of the AU will focus on the 50th jubilee celebration of the OAU/AU, Africa’s post 2015 development agenda, issues of governance related to ensuring fair, peaceful and democratic elections, Africa’s institutional capacity building and sustaining the continent’s growth momentum.
At the start of my intervention, I have talked about the different nature of the challenges we face in our partnership with the European Union and that mainly deals with resolving conflicts especially in Africa. Let me dwell for a while on my own country’s efforts. In Ethiopia, we started from the premise that our poverty alleviation and development efforts would remain unrealized if we fail to put in place a democratic system and legal institutional mechanisms aimed at curbing threats to peace. There is a clear recognition of the fact that Ethiopia’s own efforts at poverty alleviation and development could only succeed if there is peace not only in Ethiopia but also in the entire neighborhood. That is why Ethiopia has always been keen to support in every possible way the peace efforts in Somalia and between Sudan and South Sudan, as well as for the start of dialogue with Eritrea, aimed at resolving issues that would open the way for normalization of the relations to ensure durable peace between the two countries.
On the development front, we have put in place an ambitious plan called the Growth and Transformation Plan. The goal is to reach a middle- income status by the year 2025. The Plan period from 2011- 2015, is where infrastructure development is one of the main priorities and agricultural productivity is expected to double during the same period. Development of clean energy sources, which today is a little over 2100 mega watts would increase to 10,000 megawatts. We believe that the massive energy projects underway mainly from renewable sources , including that of the Great Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River ,with a generating capacity of over 6000 megawatts would help us not only to satisfy our domestic needs , but also to supply electricity to our neighbors , which some of whom are already interconnected. We believe that with these projects and other interconnections like railway infrastructure we would be better placed to meet both our objectives of ensuring peace and stability and economic integration of our sub- region.
In conclusion, I must emphasize that it is high time that our ACP group recognizes that its role has to be enlarged. Our agenda for the partnership with the EU must obviously encompass issues of trade and development, but it should also focus on resolving conflicts and work towards creating conducive environment for a much more robust engagement with the EU. On the other hand, it is also high time that the European Union, as our traditional development partner be more understanding to the needs of ACP countries in their efforts to diversify their development cooperation, trade and investment ties with the emerging economies. I now would be happy to take questions that Your Excellencies might want to pose.
I thank you.