Honourable Louis Michel, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly,
Honourable Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, President of the Senate of the Republic of Romania,
H.E. Teodor Melescanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Fellow Parliamentarians, Members of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank you for the honour of addressing the Joint Parliamentary Assembly once again. Before I continue, allow me to also commend the Government and the Parliament of the Republic of Romania for hosting us and the good hospitality and facilities they have extended to us since our arrival in Bucharest.
Your Excellencies,
Honourable Colleagues,
Our meetings come at a difficult time when the ugly pall of terrorism is hanging over our countries: the terrorist attacks in countries such as Kenya and G5 Sahel countries, and now this past week’s attack in New Zealand. These heinous acts are an attempt to spread fear and hatred. We must not allow such acts to divide our societies, we must reiterate the urgency of working better together globally to eliminate violent extremism in all its forms. Similarly, we cannot turn a blind eye to some of the natural disasters happening in some ACP countries, for example, in the last two days tropical cyclone Idai has hit the southern Africa countries, specifically Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. We therefore express deepest condolences to the families and those that lost their lives, and stand in solidarity with the countries affected by terrorism as well as those affected by cyclone Idai. We call for a collective approach that will combat terrorism and scale up responses to such devastating acts of nature.
Your Excellencies,
Honourable Colleagues,
Each time we meet, I always ask myself the question: What truly unites us as an Assembly, what brings us together? Although it is true that our frame of reference is to contribute to the eradication of poverty, our ideals must be informed by some other loftier ideal. Otherwise, we risk getting mired in details, procedures and ideological debates. I wish to submit that what brings us together is human solidarity; the fact that regardless of which part of this planet we call home, which philosophical strand feeds or sustains our ideological and intellectual beliefs, what cultural heritage shapes our identity, or what our religious beliefs and practices are, or if we have any religion at all; regardless of such distinctions and many others, we are all human beings.
This is why all development interventions and cooperation instruments need to be grounded in a deep sense of the appreciation of our common humanity – that we are individuals with intrinsic self-worth, and that we are sisters and brothers within one human family, inhabiting one planet as our common home and heritage. Our otherwise laudable concerns, such as economic growth, job creation, improvement of the standard of living, and sustainable development, can only be authentic if a concern for humanity as a whole is taken into account.
Honourable Colleagues,
We meet at a time of critical importance in our history, when we are negotiating the way forward for our partnership. We look back and acknowledge that this partnership has grown both in the diversity of the issues covered, as well as in the amount of resources allocated for cooperation. I would like to submit, however, that this partnership should not only be measured in terms of statistics, but also the solidarity that it has helped to build among peoples of the South and those of the North.
As we approach the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement, and conduct negotiations for a new agreement we need to see how we can enhance and strengthen, rather than diminish, the partnership. This calls for a strong joint parliamentary assembly that will play a key role in supporting the ambitions of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement.
Since 2015 this Assembly has adopted concrete and key resolutions that strongly call for an assembly that is fit for purpose, efficient in its approach, and impactful for our people and the generations to come. It is therefore my sincere hope that when the negotiations begin on the institutional framework of the partnership, the negotiators will recall the positions of this august assembly that call for a strong parliamentary dimension at the ACP-EU level.
From an ACP perspective, I still believe that the assemblage of African, Caribbean, and Pacific entities must be non-negotiable. It is this configuration that has brought us this far. We MUST therefore resist any attempt, however subtle or discreet, to separate the A – C – P. Such a separation would serve to fuel scepticism in the ACP and beyond, suggesting an intention to divide and rule Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. This dangerous vulnerability would also serve to strengthen the convictions of sceptics of ACP-EU cooperation, who see it as a more explicit attempt to preserve imperialist objectives under the guise of streamlined cooperation. As such, I am making a special appeal to our colleagues and friends in the European Parliament to stand together against any such tendencies.
Honourable Colleagues,
During this 37th Session of the JPA, we will address issues that fall within the international processes and agendas, such as the implementation of the global compact, the adequacy of our economic policies to meet the challenges of climate change, and Brexit. The ACP Parliamentary Assembly has already been focusing on these issues over the last few days and it is my hope that we will bring the same determination and steadfastness to debating the issues that are on the agenda of this session, which as usual, cover some of the current themes in international affairs and development discourse.
Honourable Colleagues,
Allow me to add my voice to the current debate on Brexit. This is a process that has captured international interest and at ACP level. It certainly has a limited impact on the foundations of ACP-EU cooperation, and we are hopeful of continued cooperation between the new EU27 and the ACP Group.
We know that this is also a critical issue for Romania, especially as it is at the helm of the leadership of the EU.
There is an urgent need for the initiation of trilateral discussions involving the EU, UK and ACP governments on putting in place the necessary regulatory and administrative arrangements to ensure continuity in the use of essential trade documentation in trade with the UK, until such time as alternative comprehensive and operationally effective ‘UK-only’ systems are in place. Equally true is for the EU to make an early commitment in this regard, continued use of trade documentation systems over which the EU has proprietary rights.
We are of the firm view that if the disruption of ACP exports is to be minimised, then these administrative arrangements will need to be put in place before the UK formally leaves the EU customs union and single market. We believe such EU action would be entirely consistent with its commitment to policy coherence for development and its specific commitments to consultations with ACP countries in areas where developments in EU policies could adversely impact on ACP economies.
It is becoming more and more apparent that we may have to renegotiate many of our existing trade agreements, treaties and protocols. We are pleased that we will have the opportunity to address this issue at length during these meetings.
Honourable Colleagues,
The goals we have set ourselves as a group cannot be achieved in isolation. One cannot underestimate the power of partnerships and the role of multilateralism. Partnerships formed in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the bedrock of the achievement of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and in this regard, I am pleased to state that the ACP Group can explore possible partnerships in different fields of interest.
The world today is more interconnected than ever before and we are aware that improved access to technology and knowledge encourage the sharing of ideas and the promotion of innovation. Coordinating policies to help developing countries, such as those in the ACP Group, remains vital to achieving sustainable growth and development. I am pleased to learn of the interaction the ACP had with the Romanian Government, academia, and civil society at the Women’s Forum, where there were opportunities for sharing best practices in addressing the global scourge of human trafficking. I am also pleased to note that our agenda has another opportunity for interaction with the Romanian government, which will allow us to explore further opportunities that will lead to the inclusive economic development of our countries.
With regard to multilateralism, no one can deny that it is the only possible response to the challenges we face. This is why the ACP Group is calling, now more than ever, for vigorous United Nations’ support to advance multilateralism. The new modernised ACP-EU agreement will also play an essential role in the commitment to multilateralism, which will allow us to jointly tackle today’s global challenges of building peaceful and resilient States, ensuring respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democratic principles. Allow me to indicate that four of the non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are from ACP States. We know that such a role is essential for increasing the visibility of the ACP Group as well as for advancing the agenda of our ACP-EU partnership.
Your Excellencies,
Honourable Colleagues,
As I conclude allow me on my own behalf and on behalf of the ACP Group, to pay tribute to a champion of this partnership my dear friend and colleague, the Honourable Louis Michel. I am aware that this will be the last JPA assembly that he will be chairing as Co-President. In this regard, we must tell you that your contribution to the ACP Group has not only been felt at the parliamentary level, but also in many other fora.
Your vision for defending the development of nations remains unwavering. I recall your initial engagement as the officer in charge of political relations with the ACP Group, when external relations were divided between DG Relex and DG Development. You were also the champion for budget support and the governance incentive tranche. Among other works, you wrote the famous Afrique-Europe: L’indispensable alliance and were the initiator of the first European Consensus for Development, which was recently modified. This Consensus describes the shared vision and framework for action for development cooperation between the EU and its Member States. It is a blueprint that aligns the EU’s development policies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As part of your activities at the European Commission, you were a European Commissioner for Development from 2004-2009, following which you served in our Assembly as the JPA Co-President.
Dear colleague and friend
Dear Louis
I would like to acknowledge with deep gratitude your dedication and commitment to the ACP-EU JPA, as well as your endeavours to address humanitarian needs and to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. In closing, you have presided over the affairs of this assembly with exceptional commitment and vigour, even when you were sometimes unpopular. All those here present and those who went before us love you just the way you are.
Allow me to wish you well in all your future endeavours, because I know you are not going to retire to the beautiful beaches of Europe, but that you will continue to work for the benefit of humanity. Allow me to quote an African proverb: “The young man’s horse is fast, but it does not know the path….the old man’s horse is slow but it has cut a path.” We know that we can continue to count on you to defend the unity of nations and support the cause of development. As an African proverb says: “Happiness is never achieved, it does not reside in appearances, each of us builds it with our hearts, as we go through life.” All the best, dear Louis!
Honourable Colleagues
I will end on this note, and thank you all for your kind attention.