13 April 2011 Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Representatives of Regional Institutions, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is my singular honour to welcome you to this 9th Ministerial meeting of National and Regional Authorising Officers. I wish to extend a special word of welcome to all the delegations participating in this session. Your presence at this meeting is testimony to your understandable interest in the ACP-EU Partnership, and particularly to its Development Finance Cooperation component. Honourable Ministers, This 9th meeting comes at a time when a number of adjustments are taking place on the international scene, against a backdrop of financial, institutional and humanitarian crises. The inexorable process of transformation will, without a doubt, lead to the emergence of new geopolitical realities that will see a shift in traditional interdependencies with the risk of greater asymmetry. Given the multiple challenges it must meet in the coming years, the ACP Group must ensure that any future solution provides guarantees for the fundamental aspects of development finance cooperation. This requires that all of us, at all levels, demonstrate a great capacity to analyse and anticipate, to be able to adapt and seize any opportunities which may arise. Furthermore, the needs to consolidate the democratisation processes currently underway, as well as the growing demand for participation voiced by women and youth, in particular, throughout the world, compel us to broaden and deepen the group-to-group and society-to-society dialogue, while at the same time making it more transparent. They also require that we do not give philosophy precedence over pragmatism. Honourable Ministers, There is no doubt that Development Finance Cooperation is at the heart of our cooperation with the EU, and as Authorising Officers of EDF resources in your respective countries and regions, you are the leading agents for its administrative, technical and financial implementation. It is in that regard that, pursuant to Article 33 of the Cotonou Agreement, an ACP-EC Development Finance Cooperation Committee has been formed at the Council of Ministers level, with greater responsibility for the management of the modes and conditions of development financing. We are all aware of the changing institutional architecture of the New Europe; in particular the changes that have taken place since the implementation of the EDF in the last few years. One of the reasons we remain attached to the European Development Fund is because of its predictability in providing the Group with financial resources to combat poverty and poverty-related diseases in our countries and regions. The EDF has fostered growth in diverse sectors and the development of a special culture of openness and mutual accountability which has made the ACP-EU partnership a model of development cooperation. It is in that respect that the principle of ownership of aid—introduced through the Cotonou Agreement—is closely linked to the idea that the spirit of partnership between donors and recipient governments is essential to the success of sustainable development cooperation. Another specific feature of the ACP-EU partnership is the co-management of aid, which is based on the sharing of responsibility between executing agents. It also implies taking joint decisions within the various bodies established for that purpose, thereby creating synergies in the decision-making process. Predictability and security of resources are crucial, since they are determining factors in the medium- and long-term planning of sustainable economic and social development projects and programmes. Before yielding the floor, allow me to briefly touch on the recurrent issue of slow or low utilisation of EDF Funds by some of our states and most of our regions. In the face of the many urgent needs of our peoples, we must endeavour to address this issue squarely, build capacities, and master the systems, processes and procedures so as to increase the use of available EDF resources to meet our developmental challenges. Maintaining the quality of the ACP-EU partnership is fundamental to preserving the achievements of several years of a form of cooperation often described as exemplary. It is fortunate that you have this opportunity, before the entry into force of the revised Cotonou Agreement, to discuss a number of important issues on your agenda, notably those for which an exchange of views with the European Commission is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Honourable Ministers, I wish you a pleasant stay in Brussels, and every success in your deliberations. Thank you.