Honourable Dr. Joyce Laboso,
Honourable President of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly,
Excellency, Chairman of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors,
Honourable Members of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure once again to welcome you to Brussels for these series of your Parliamentary meetings. Many of you, especially Members from the Pacific, traverse long distances to get here. I therefore hope that by now you have recovered from the long journeys and are ready for the work that you still have to accomplish in the next 2 days. This is indeed testimony of the seriousness with which you take your duties as Representatives of your respective Parliaments and countries.
Allow me to welcome in a special way those of you who are attending these meetings for the first time and wish you all the best in your assignment in this August Assembly and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
Madame President,
I had the privilege of addressing your Assembly for the first time during your 32nd Session held here at ACP House on 14 June this year. After that session, I joined Members from the West African region for the 10th Regional Meeting that was hosted in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria, by the National Assembly of Nigeria from 17 to 19 July 2013. I take this opportunity to reiterate our gratitude to the hosts for their warm welcome, hospitality and good organization.
Madam President,
Before I go any further, I would like to make special mention of the elections that took place in Mali, Zimbabwe and Togo in July 2013. The ACP Group has been engaged with the issues in Mali since the Rebel uprisings in the North of the Country and the Coup of 22 March 2012. With the support of the international community and individual Member States in Africa and Europe, in Particular France, Mali was able to resolve its political crisis and hold successful Presidential Elections on 28 July 2013.
As ACP Parliamentarians, you also played an important role in this process; with the forceful advocacy of your colleague Hon. Assarid, you were able to keep the Malian issue alive in the JPA. Since the JPA participated in the observation of these elections, under the leadership of Hon. Laboso on the ACP side, I am sure you will have an opportunity to get a fuller account of the electoral process in Mali.
I take this opportunity to congratulate President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for his success in the election, as well as the losing candidate of the second round, Mr. Sumaila Cissé for graciously conceding defeat. However, the victory belongs to all Malians, as well as the rest of Africa and the ACP Group, who refused to give up hope for a democratic, peaceful, secular and united Mali.
A few days after the Malian ballot, Zimbabweans also went to the polls for harmonised Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections on 31 July 2013. At the invitation of the Government of Zimbabwe, I am pleased to inform you that the Committee of Ambassadors was able to send an Ambassadorial Elections Observation Mission to observe the elections. In the face of speculations about possible violence emanating from sections of the international media, I am glad to say that the elections proceeded very peacefully.
I also wish to take this opportunity to congratulate President Robert Mugabe on his success at the polls, and all Zimbabweans for having conducted themselves peacefully during the entire electoral process. As the Ambassadorial observation mission stated in its Report, these elections should mark the continued economic and social reconstruction of the country.
The ACP Committee of Ambassadors also responded to the invitation of the Government of Togo to observe the Togolese legislative elections that were held on 25 July 2013. Having been briefed regularly by your colleague the Representative of Togo Hon. Selom Klassou, your Assembly is aware of the controversies that had surrounded these elections, which had been postponed 3 times from the date they were initially supposed to have been held in October 2012. These elections also passed without incident, and congratulations are deservedly due to all the Togolese political parties and the Togolese people for the success of the elections.
Madam President,
These elections demonstrate the progress and continued development of African political institutions and worthy examples for us in the ACP Group as we seek to resolve the other outstanding or emerging political challenges elsewhere in the Group.
Madam President,
In the period since your last meeting, I have taken sometime to Represent the ACP Group in High-level meetings in the Pacific and Caribbean regions. I honoured an invitation to attend the Thirty-Fourth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) held at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from 4 to 6 July 2013. I was pleased to witness the progress that CARICOM is making towards closer integration through the establishment of Agreements and Protocols in specific areas, such as education, social security, disaster risk mitigation, public health and aviation security. The Heads of State also pronounced themselves very forcefully in areas of major concern not only to the Caribbean but to the entire ACP Group, such as the UN’s Post 2015 Agenda.
From 3 to 6 September 2013, I participated in the 44th Pacific Leaders Forum. The core issue for discussion at the Leader’s Forum was the impact of climate change on the Pacific countries. The high vulnerability of Pacific Island Countries to disaster is well known. This is further exacerbated by their often small land areas as well as their narrow, subsistence based fragile economies.
On the occasion of the Leaders Forum European Union Commissioner for Climate Action Mrs Connie Hedegaard, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Director General Dr. Jimmie Rodgers and I on behalf of the ACP Group of States, signed the "ACP-EU Building Safety and Resilience in the Pacific" programme. The European Union (EU) will provide 20 million Euro to support the Pacific states in addressing the impacts of climate change and the urgent need to improve resilience to natural disasters.
At the 4th Global Review of Aid for Trade: Connecting to Value Chains, held from 8 to 10 July 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland, I reiterated the need for the ACP Group to foster trade and investments among its Members. Our States’ ability to integrate fully into the global system and benefit from increased trade and specialization is constrained by a range of policy and other barriers to trade associated with various aspects of their geography, institutions and infrastructure.
These structural constraints, policy barriers and other barriers restrict the ACP countries’ capacity to trade both with each other and with non-ACP countries in the ‘North’ and ‘South’.
Searching for ways of promoting trade in general and trade among themselves is central to the promotion of growth and development, the creation of employment and the reduction of poverty, especially in the current context of growing populations in the south, and particularly in the ACP grouping, and recession in the industrial countries.
I urge Members to look at how they can bring their influence to bear on their national governments and the regional parliamentary bodies in which you belong on how to realise the potential for intra-ACP trade.
Madam President,
Speaking about trade, I would like to state that this is one of the major reasons for the proposal to establish an ACP Bank. According to a recent Study commissioned by the ACP Secretariat, financing gaps worth more than USD 400 billion in ACP countries can be improved by setting up a major trade and investment bank to serve the Group’s 80 members.
We however acknowledge that this will need a very high level of political backing to get off the ground, especially in mobilising the initial capital sum of US$ 2 billion. Again, the role that you can play within your national institutions to support this measure cannot be underestimated.
Madam President,
As I end, I would like to recall that in my last address to your Assembly, I informed you of the Agreement of the 37th Session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers on the 11th EDF for the period 2014 to 2020 amounting to €33 billion. The process for the programming of the resources at regional and national levels has probably already started. The JPA has in the past expressed concern about the marginalisation of Parliamentarians especially at national level in the identification of national priorities for funding. I would like to urge you to take up these issues with your respective EDF National Authorising Officers in the Ministries responsible for Finance so that you can be involved at a very early stage in the formulation of EDF Country Strategy Papers.
Honourable Parliamentarians,
Only last week we hosted the members of the ACP Eminent Persons Group chaired by Nigerian elder statesman Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The EPG are pursuing their mandate of re-envisioning the ACP family of nations with vigour and inventiveness. They will soon be embarking on regional consultations in our six regions to meet with and dialogue key stakeholders. We count on you to engage with them and make suggestions that will help take the ACP forward. Time and again, when we have worked together we have been able to accomplish great undertakings of this nature. We are inspired by hope and sustained by the indomitable resilience of our people who are asking to be led towards a better future. On my part I will provide the necessary leadership within the Secretariat to ensure that we serve our nearly one billion people with zeal and commitment to purpose.
Madam President,
Before I end, I am pleased to inform you of a new initiative that the Secretariat is taking with its partners to promote closer relations within the ACP, especially amongst non-state actors. Today the Secretariat will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Press Clubs Federation to work together to create an ACP-wide federation of press clubs. This body will serve as a hub for networking, communication and collaboration amongst our press bodies, while also linking to governments, the private sector, and civil society.
It is hoped this will help to increase collaboration at the intra-ACP and ACP-EU levels amongst these different sections of society. A range of activities jointly organised with our European counterparts will target the visibility of the ACP Group and the use of media and communication as tools for development. Your esteemed presence at the signing ceremony and reception downstairs, immediately following today’s plenary session, will be highly valued.
With these few words, allow me wish you successful deliberations for the rest of your proceedings and meetings.
I thank you.