The Co-President of the ACP-EU, His Excellency Musikari Kombo

The Co-President of the ACP-EU, His Excellency Louis Michel

The Co-Secretary General of the ACP-EU JPA His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas

The Co-Secretary General of the ACP-EU JPA His Excellency Marco Aguiriano Nalda

Honorable members of the National Assembly of the Republic of Suriname,

Members of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Honorable Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

We in Suriname are very glad to be able to welcome you all, ACP en European Parliaments alike to Paramaribo for this 24th session of the Joint meeting of the ACP countries and their European counterparts.

We are delighted in fact, because you being here today means we have been able to achieve what we set out to do as Surinamese parliament almost exactly two years ago. We have burst out of the cocoon we had been kept in for much too long. We came out of the isolation we were in and no longer we get puzzled looks when we state anywhere in the world that we are from Suriname. We have, to the world, become Suriname now and stopped being Dutch Guyana. We have achieved our goal of really becoming an active member of the community of nations. Welcome to Suriname.

The joint meeting of the EU countries with the ACP nations is many ways, a very special event. It brings together countries that have shaped the economical and political system of the world as we know it today and the countries that have been instrumental in that process. It brings together countries that we have come to address as developed and countries that have not yet been able to rise from the disturbance of centuries past, the so called underdeveloped nations, former colonies. It brings together the North and the South. And this makes it a forum with special value to all of us, especially in the ties we live in.

In my statement to the ACP countries I have said that we are living in special times, times of transition in many areas. We experience fundamental changes, not only in the global economy and political order, but even mother Earth is now presenting us the results of centuries of human activity, in ways that will severely impact the lives of our peoples. And it is becoming clearer that the impact will be on the lives of all peoples of the world, not only the ones living in the south.

It does not matter which aspect of our lives we consider. Be it the political system, economy, climate food or energy, we face a world that is so interconnected that no nations can escape the influence of the rest of the world. Not one country can know for sure that climate impacts will come down only on other peoples far away from where they live. The world economy is impacting everyone in one way or the other. So we have no choice but to face the challenge together. That is why this meeting can be of great importance, at the very least to the countries participating I this gathering.

If we are able to recognize the ways in which we are important to one another, if we can identify new ways of mutual support, this can be a fertile ground for growth, not in the traditional economic sense of the word, but growth towards more sustainable societies in every part of the world we live in. And I mean sustainable in every sense of the word. This means that we will have to broaden the perspective we work from.

I am optimistic that we will be able to find new ways for a new century in which we all count and in which we all contribute. I wish you a successful meeting.