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Opening Address by the State Secretary Andrej Šter at the Conference on the Challenges of EU-27 Development Policy

Dear Ministers,
Representatives of the European Institutions,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to greet you in Slovenia, during our Presidency of the EU Council, and to extend a cordial welcome to all the participants in the Conference on the Challenges of the EU-27 Development Policy.

Slovenia is proud to host such an important event in the area of development cooperation.  I am pleased that so many of you have responded to our invitation. Allow me to express my thanks to the European Commission for making a significant contribution to the preparation of the Conference.  Its participation in the preparation of today's event, as well as in other activities of the Slovenian Presidency in the area of development cooperation, is beneficial and valuable.

I firmly believe that today’s discussion will be a useful contribution to further improvement of the EU development cooperation policy. I trust that the results of the meeting will give an impetus to our efforts to strengthen the European development policy and contribute to achieving our common objectives.

Europe has demonstrated its desire, willingness and strength to enhance partnership in the area of development cooperation.  We are the largest global donor and contribute more than one half of the overall world development aid. Thus, we largely contribute to the improvement of living conditions of many people, institutional capacities of countries, administration, democratic development, human rights and international peace and security.

Efficient development cooperation stands at the top of priority tasks of the international community. We have undertaken the commitments as to the level of development aid. These are demanding, but imperative and, hopefully, feasible. The cooperation between the Member States is continuously strengthened and makes our development aid more efficient. Our ambitions are unambiguous:  to attain eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Slovenia’s experiences in the area of development cooperation are modest in global terms but nevertheless important. Our main activities focus on the support to the Western Balkan countries undergoing transition and EU accession processes. We are also successful in public finance capacity building. International Trust Fund for Demining, ITF, has been involved in solving the issue of anti-personnel mines and in providing physical and social rehabilitation to mine victims, thus helping them reintegrate into the society.  The Foundation TOGETHER contributes to the psychosocial well-being and improvement of the mental health of children affected by armed conflict.  These are all areas where Slovenia should make use of its comparative advantage, its experience, knowledge and skills.

We are aware that attention should be given to the areas in which the achievement of Millennium development goals will require particular efforts. In this context, Africa is one of the key partners of the European Union. The conclusions of the African-European summit held last December in Lisbon foresee a stronger partnership between the two continents in future.

Slovenia endeavours to pursue common European development goals and to increase the assistance to Africa. If we wish to succeed, the cooperation between the EU Member States will be crucial, because through synergy we get a multiplier effect.

I believe now is the right moment to consider the future of the EU development cooperation.

The world has been confronting the challenges of the twenty-first century  Climate changes caused, to a large extend, by man have disastrous consequences.  It is expected that the conditions will deteriorate if we do not take serious steps.

We strive to establish peace and security since the global stability has not been assured yet. Conflicts in individual countries which very often result from poor economic conditions as well as poor management, do not effect only individuals and states but lead to frequent regional conflicts.

The respect for human rights has not been realised to the extent needed. Too many times, vulnerable and marginal groups are affected such as children, women, the elderly and minorities.

Trade still encounters obstacles which affect the development of individual countries.  Economic conditions require a comprehensive development and may significantly affect the quality of life.

We have to face these issues and to ensure meeting at least the basic human needs such as safe food and drinking water, sufficient medical and social care, elementary education, since they guarantee human dignity.

The challenges which we confront also require improvement of our effectiveness. The European Union is willing to deepen the efforts laid down in the EU Code of Conduct on Complimentarity and Division of Labour between Donors. Its implementation depends on us all. In this context, it is necessary to stress the importance of policy coherence in development cooperation both at the EU level and at the level of the Member States.  It is necessary, to listen to a larger extent, to the Member States which joined the Union after 2004.  All the Member States should take the opportunity to play an active role in framing and implementing the European development policy. I hope that our debate will contribute to this goal.

One of the keys to attain our joint success is the transfer of knowledge and exchange of experience in the field of development cooperation. Technical seminar to be held in the margins of the conference is organised for this purpose. Slovenia and eleven Member States will attend the seminar on the European Development Fund for the first time in 2008. On this occasion I would like to express my thanks to the European Commission and other organisations as well as the states which enabled their experts to participate in this seminar.

It is essential to inform the citizens on development issues since only in this way it is possible to provide support to attain Millenium development goals in Africa and elsewhere.  The work of local communities and other non-governmental stakeholders as well as non-governmental organisations who carry out extraordinary activities in this field at the EU and local levels is of utmost importance for educating and raising the awareness of citizens about development cooperation.

Allow me to conclude that Europe is progressing in the right direction to strengthen and deepen its activities on the stage of international development cooperation as a key player.   It acquires experience and transfers findings and it endeavours to pursue appropriate ways and fresh ideas which would additionally enhance its activities under the circumstances of the twenty first century.

I am convinced that the results of our conference will significantly contribute to the development mosaic which we build together.

Thank you for your attention and allow me to invite Mr Louis Michel, European Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, to take the floor.


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Date: 18.02.2008