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Andrej Šter, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia: Presentation of the Slovenian EU Council Presidency Programme to the European Parliament Committee on Development (DEVE)

Mr Borrell,

Distinguished Members of the European Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be here today to present to the members of the European Parliament Committee on Development the programme of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the field of international development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Since it became independent in 1991, the Republic of Slovenia has developed successfully. It is the first of the new Member States that joined the European Union after 2004 to be given the opportunity to take the helm of this community of European nations with a population of almost 500 million.

Despite technological progress, economic growth, positive effects of globalisation, action that goes beyond national borders, and interconnectivity, the modern world is still an arena where life opportunities are unequal and economic development is unbalanced. In the light of this, one of the major challenges before the international community is answering the question of how to ensure prosperity for all humankind and how to achieve a more balanced distribution of benefits and burdens brought about by globalisation.

Development cooperation is not just an expression of developed countries’ solidarity towards developing countries but it is something that is in the vital interest of each and every one of us.

As the largest development aid donor worldwide, the European Union has a special responsibility for providing efficient support for the development efforts made by developing countries, particularly least-developed countries.

In this context, the Slovenian Presidency faces a special challenge, as the approach of the new Member States brings a new dimension to the European Union’s development cooperation. We will be looking for ways to effectively integrate the new Member States into all areas of development cooperation. Those of us in the new Member States are currently focusing our development cooperation on neighbouring countries, however, in line with European values and EU development policy we are prepared to extend our bilateral development cooperation in geographical terms to developing countries and, specifically, Africa. Slovenia will promote these processes.

As the first trio Presidency in the history of the European Union, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia prepared a joint eighteen-month Presidency programme. A joint programme ensures consistency, efficiency and continuity in our endeavours. The joint programme concentrates mainly on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, primarily in Africa, and improvement of effectiveness and the division of labour in the area of development aid. Each country of the trio also defined its own Presidency priorities.

This cooperation has been an excellent experience for Slovenia. I would like to thank my two colleagues, the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Ms Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, and the Portuguese State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Mr João Cravinho, for their excellent cooperation and support. We count on their support also in the coming months.

Distinguished Members of the European Parliament,

Effective cooperation between the institutions of the European Union is important for the success of the EU’s activities and in this the European Parliament plays a special role. We are convinced that close cooperation with MEPs will continue, since they represent an important link with civil society whose support is vital for the success of development policies. In this context I should like to highlight the dialogue between the European Parliament and the parliaments of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that will also be reflected in the meeting of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly to be held in Ljubljana in March 2008.

The European Consensus for Development is the foundation of European development policy. The commitments to increase the effectiveness of aid and to consider the fundamental principles of coherence, complementarity and coordination serve as a basis for the implementation of development aid between the Member States and the European institutions. Slovenia will endeavour to ensure full respect for the said principles at the European level in order to jointly contribute to global sustainable development.

The Slovenian Presidency will place great emphasis on reaching the Millennium Development Goals which range from combating extreme poverty and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS to ensuring the provision of universal primary education by 2015. We have reached the mid-point of the fifteen-year period envisaged for the achievement of these goals. The progress reported last year by the United Nations inspires us with optimism. The report shows some progress even in the most challenging regions. However, it also indicates great challenges that we will face in the next few years and highlights the need to use additional resources and targeted public investment.

As one of the world’s leading donors, the European Union plays an important role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals; a task which nevertheless requires “more and better aid”. The European Union has fully committed itself to meeting these Goals at numerous international conferences, for example in Monterrey and Paris. Slovenia will therefore make every effort to prepare efficiently for the conferences in Doha and Accra which await us in the second half of 2008.

The European Union has also committed itself to increasing development aid. Its aim is by 2015 to earmark 0.7% of gross national product (GNP) for development aid, taking into consideration the special status of the Member States which joined the European Union after 2004. In spring, on the basis of the European Commission’s 2007 Annual Progress Report, we will evaluate progress in achieving the financial commitments and agree on recommendations in respect of the follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey for the conference to be held in Doha at the end of 2008.

To achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 we need not only more aid but also “better aid”.  To improve the quality of its development aid, the European Union adopted important measures providing for complementarity and the division of labour as well as development policy coherence. I am firmly convinced that there will also be progress in the right direction during Slovenia’s Presidency. As regards complementarity, the division of labour and monitoring of progress towards realising the commitments of the Paris Declaration, during the German Presidency the EU Council committed itself to implementing the principles of the EU Code of Conduct. The Slovenian Presidency will continue to monitor the implementation of the Code of Conduct and I firmly believe that implementation of the Code will be the European Union’s contribution towards the work of the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness which will take place in Accra in September this year.

In November 2007, on the basis of the first two-year report submitted by the European Commission, the Council adopted a “package” of conclusions on development policy coherence. For the Slovenian Presidency, coherence between research and development is of the utmost importance. We intend to submit to the Council in particular the conclusions on women in science, including the development dimension of this issue. We will also continue the work done by the Portuguese Presidency in the field of migration by improving policy coherence on the basis of the conclusions adopted by the European Council in December 2007.

It is my firm belief that in the coming months we will be able to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 by providing more and better aid to partner countries, which means that we will keep our promises, fulfil our commitments and prove the credibility of the European Union as an important donor in the international development community.

The Slovenian Presidency will also devote special attention to the position of children and women in armed conflicts. By so doing, it will continue and build on the efforts undertaken by the Portuguese Presidency, which has made an important step towards synergy between security and development as well as towards strengthening the EU response to critical situations. I am convinced that, through development cooperation mechanisms, we can help improve the difficult position of both these vulnerable groups in cases of armed conflict, and this will also boost the EU’s contribution towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Slovenia has prepared a study on instruments providing for development aid for children affected by armed conflict. We shall strive to bridge the gap between the European Union’s commitments and the fulfilment of said commitments with the aim of providing children affected by armed conflict with better conditions in which to live and grow up.  The relevant European Commission documents and the recommendations of the study will form the basis for drawing up conclusions to be discussed at the Development Council Meeting. During the Slovenian Presidency a study will also be drawn up on the position of women in armed conflicts in the context of EU development policy.

HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria are the most important global health problems of our time. Together they cause six million deaths per year. We will continue to devote the utmost attention to this issue with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We will also make every effort to strengthen cooperation between EU Member States and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Africa is an obvious priority area in European development policy and the Slovenian Presidency will therefore build on the results attained by the German and Portuguese Presidencies. Slovenia will start preparing for the implementation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy and its first action plan, both adopted at the Africa-EU Summit held in Lisbon in December 2007. Progress in the EU-Africa partnership will be very important on account of not only the close ties between Europe and Africa but also the warnings that Africa is lagging behind in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

Economic Partnership Agreements represent an important area of cooperation with African as well as Caribbean and Pacific countries. Last year we witnessed intensive negotiations on these agreements. We are pleased that the negotiations on temporary agreements were completed in good time and that the ACP countries have not had problems accessing the EU market as of 1 January 2008. Now we need to continue negotiations to conclude comprehensive EPAs in which the aim of the dialogue with ACP partners must be the maximum development effect of EPAs and their contribution to the regional integration. A very important role in this respect will be played by the meeting of the Joint ACP-EU Ministerial Council taking place in June 2008 in Addis Ababa. Slovenia will make every effort throughout to ensure that negotiations take account as much as possible of the proposals of parliamentary representatives from both EU and ACP countries.

The procedures necessary to start implementing the 10th European Development Fund, allocating over EUR 22 thousand million in aid to the ACP countries – a third as much again as the 9th EDF – are expected to be completed in the short term. For the first time contributors to the European Development Fund will include the EU Member States which joined the European Union after 2004. On 18 February, Slovenia will organise the Conference on the Challenges of EU27 Development Policy dedicated to in-depth discussions about the cooperation between different European stakeholders in the development cooperation field. As part of the conference there will also be a seminar on the European Development Fund attended by the representatives of the non-governmental sector.

The EU will continue to encourage the process of reform of the United Nations, which is necessary to ensure efficient multilateralism and achieve synergy between the endeavours of “developed” countries and the needs of their partners. We wish to build trust in the development efforts within the United Nations, which is of key importance in ensuring sustainable development in the world.

In April 2008, Accra will host the twelfth ministerial conference of UNCTAD. The central topic of UNCTAD XII will be “Addressing the opportunities and challenges of globalisation for development”. The aim is to find ways for developing countries to harness globalisation to boost economic progress and reduce poverty. The discussions at UNCTAD XII will focus on key trade and development issues and on the new situation in the geography of the world economy. At the meeting, the EU will emphasise the achievement of the millennium development goals, sustainable development, gender equality and the stable and democratic development of African and other least-developed countries. It will pay significant attention to the reform of UNCTAD, too.

The EU must continue to play an active role in the international community in the field of combating climate change. In this context, we will strive to reach consensus on a comprehensive global international agreement on reducing emissions after 2012. The impact of climate change on the international community is a politically sensitive topic, adapting to it is a challenge we all share. For developing countries, climate change constitutes a development challenge which slows down the achievement of the millennium development goals. We advocate stepping up dialogue between the EU and developing countries in this field. The establishment of the Global Climate Change Alliance is an important step in this direction.

We face new challenges in the area of humanitarian aid. An increased number of humanitarian crises further aggravates the living conditions of vulnerable inhabitants of developing countries. The Portuguese Presidency saw the adoption of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. During Slovenian Presidency, the Action Plan to implement the Consensus will be prepared. Slovenia will devote special attention to political discussions in the Council concerning the improvement of European humanitarian aid, including the identification of an appropriate forum within the Council to address the issues of European Union humanitarian aid.

Development policies are closely connected with the education and awareness of the public as regards development cooperation. Only if everyone is better informed can we proceed towards making an even more active contribution to the resolution of development problems and to implementing the millennium development goals in Africa and elsewhere.

Non-governmental organisations are extraordinarily active in this field at both EU and local levels.

Distinguished Members of the European Parliament,

the programme of the trio Presidency and the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency are ambitious. If we are to be successful in achieving them, we have to count on the support of the European Parliament. We are aware that cooperation between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union is of key importance for shaping policies that have an effect on millions of people throughout the world. I am certain that our joint efforts and cooperation with the trio Presidency representatives will result in a report on the successful implementation of our eighteen-month programme at the end of the Slovenian Presidency.

Thank you for your attention.


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Date: 29.01.2008