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Speech by Andrej Šter, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia at the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly

Dear Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Ms Glenys Kinnock and Mr Wilkie Rasmussen,

Dear President of the Council of Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Mr Ali Farah Assoweh,

Dear Members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to meet you and welcome you to Ljubljana. During Slovenia’s EU Council Presidency, two events involving representatives of the ACP Member States will be organised, namely the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, representing one of the major events in the field of development cooperation, and the meeting of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers. Almost half of Slovenia’s Presidency has now passed, and thus far it has successfully achieved its objectives. A number of key events are still ahead of us, such as the session of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council in the development ministers format, a high-level discussion on the Millennium Development Goals to be held in New York at the beginning of April, and the said meeting of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers to take place in Addis Ababa in June. I hope that the following words will answer some of your questions. If not, I would be delighted to answer them at a later point in this session.

Dear Members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, you are an essential component of successful dialogue between EU and ACP Member States. You are not only the voice of the people, but also a key component to establishing dialogue with civil society, the support of which is crucial to a positive outcome of development policies. The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly represents a unique forum unifying members of the European Parliament and the parliaments of the ACP States and involving them in discussions on the interconnection between the North and the South. I am pleased to note that today’s discussion will also touch upon the most delicate issues in this field.

Cooperation between the EU and the ACP States constitutes a priority of the European development policy, building on close partnership based on the Cotonou Agreement. This partnership is aimed at strengthening the economic, social, and cultural development of the ACP States, and at promoting their cooperation with the EU. Dialogue between equal partners is essential in this regard. The Cotonou Agreement was revised in 2005. Now the Parties to the Agreement which have not yet ratified it should do so and thus enable the implementation of the tenth European Development Fund. I call on everyone to do their utmost to accelerate delayed ratification processes.

In the next financial period, the tenth European Development Fund (EDF) is to allocate nearly EUR 23 billion in development aid to the ACP States. The EU Member States which joined the Union in 2004 have for the first time contributed to the Fund, thus providing new cooperation opportunities. On 18 February 2008, Slovenia organised a conference on the operation of the EDF for representatives of the new EU Member States. At the beginning of this year, the EU Council adopted legal instruments for the implementation of the tenth EDF. The programming of the EDF – a joint responsibility of the EU and ACP States – should now be concluded. The Joint Parliamentary Assembly has also been engaged in the programming of the EDF, which will further strengthen dialogue between EU and ACP representatives.

Economic partnership between the EU and ACP States is built on the Cotonou Agreement, as well as last year’s intensified EPA negotiations. By 31 December 2007, a solution compatible with the regulations of the World Trade Organization had to be found in order to avoid disturbances in trade with those ACP States not falling into the category of least developed countries. I am pleased to note that negotiations on interim agreements were concluded in time and that since 1 January 2008 the ACP States have had unimpeded access to the EU market. I am particularly pleased that a comprehensive regional economic partnership agreement with the Caribbean was initialled. EPA negotiations also need to be launched with other ACP regions, since only comprehensive regional agreements can have maximum development impact. The commitment of the EU and ACP States to comprehensive regional EPAs was reaffirmed at the latest meeting of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers in May 2007.

Further EPA negotiations will be built on the development dimension and regional integration, the latter being the key objective of the European development policy, since it contributes to higher economic growth, ensures greater political stability, strengthens mutual trust and cooperation, and, in the long term, abolishes poverty, eradicates diseases and resolves conflict situations. The development dimension needs to be formulated in cooperation with individual partner regions, taking into account their specific requirements and aspirations. In this regard Slovenia will endeavour to consider the needs of the ACP States to the utmost. The June session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers will offer an opportunity to review the progress made and to lay down further guidelines on EPA negotiations.

The EU will provide technical assistance for the adjustment to the new trade regimes through different financial mechanisms, including the Aid for Trade initiative. In the Aid for Trade Strategy adopted in October 2007, EUR 2 billion are envisaged for this purpose, starting in 2010. In accordance with the Strategy, 50% of the Aid for Trade funds will be reserved for the ACP States.

As the EU Council Presidency, Slovenia welcomes the Joint Africa-EU Strategy adopted at the Lisbon Summit in 2007 and its First Action Plan, which has significantly strengthened relations between Europe and Africa. Both continents are important global players which can act jointly in numerous fields where they face the challenges of the modern world. The Strategy elevates the level of EU-Africa relations, and its new mechanisms to be introduced into our relations will, together with the existing ones, create new synergy which is to give much needed momentum to the development of your countries.

In the field of energy and climate change common positions and interests have been identified to eliminate the causes and effects of global warming, taking account of the necessity of economic growth and development. We understand that trade and infrastructure are essential components of sustainable development, which is only possible in the global sphere. Trade regulations need to be globalised in order to seize the opportunities created by globalisation. In this regard, we need to consider the requirements of developing countries and respect the principle of equal opportunities. The development of infrastructure boosts regional cooperation and integration into the world economy. The establishment of an infrastructure partnership between the EU and Africa is a right step in this direction.

Development cooperation is not only an expression of solidarity by developed countries with developing countries – it is also vital to the interests of us all, therefore Slovenia is now sharing its experience and knowledge with countries that are walking a similar path that we have already trodden. Slovenia has traversed the road of transition towards economic prosperity. It is also the first among the countries that have joined the European Union since 2004 to preside over the Council of the EU. The accession of new Member States introduces a new dimension into EU development cooperation; therefore, Slovenia’s EU presidency is a particular challenge in this area. We will seek methods for effectively involving new Member States in all fields of development cooperation. Several have defined their role regarding this only after their accession. With every passing year, our contribution has been more and more prominent, our trade and cooperation with you have been enhanced and our example clearly shows how close regional integration can boost development and the well-being of citizens.

The wide range of activities encompassed in development cooperation is a massive undertaking for the Slovenian administration. Apart from the priorities selected by the Trio presidency (Germany, Portugal and Slovenia) which rank high on the international agenda – such as attaining the Millennium Development Goals, Economic Partnership Agreements and aid effectiveness – we have, for this reason, also opted for topics in which we have experience and thus comparative advantage.

The European Union devotes particular attention to the promotion of the rights of children and satisfaction of their basic needs, both in its internal and external policies.

Children and adolescents constitute a third of the world’s population and more than a half of the population in developing countries. Nevertheless, their rights are often neglected or abused, and even when adopting decisions that concern them their voice is usually not heard. It is precisely the children who suffer most in extreme situations, such as natural disasters, crises, unstable situations or armed conflicts.

The Slovenian Presidency devotes particular attention to strengthening the humanitarian and development dimension of this issue. I am convinced that by means of development cooperation mechanisms we can significantly contribute to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. In this context, cooperation between EU Member States and ACP countries based on partnership principles is of vital importance. We will endeavour for partner countries to develop their own capacities and effective systems of responding to the needs and rights of children.

Under the Slovenian Presidency the Council of the European Union will also devote attention to the needs of children in humanitarian interventions, especially children warriors and unaccompanied minors, including education of children in extreme situations. Furthermore, we will strive for a close link between the humanitarian and development dimensions of EU’s external action in a continuum of aid, rehabilitation and development for the benefit of children.

Distinguished Members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly,

Slovenia is aware that despite technological progress, economic growth, positive globalisation effects, transcending the borders of nation states and interconnection, the world we live in still tolerates unequal opportunities and uneven economic development. In our opinion, one of the greatest challenges for the international community is therefore to find the answer to the question of how to guarantee prosperity to all of humanity and to equally distribute both the advantages and disadvantages imposed by globalisation.

In the year 2000, world leaders set the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. We are now at the midway point of the 15-year period and we feel encouraged by the progress reported by the UN last year. Progress is evident even in the regions where the challenges are greatest. In the coming years we will have to face these challenges, and for this purpose additional resources, targeted public investments and especially additional knowledge and tools will have to be mobilised.

Some of the most important Millennium Development Goals are: combating extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education by 2015. These three development goals will be the topic of the thematic debate that will take place on 1 and 2 April in New York at the initiative of the UN General Assembly President.

A primary goal of EU’s development cooperation is the eradication of poverty in the context of sustainable development. As I have already mentioned, the progress made in the last seven years differs considerably among individual regions. Unfortunately, Africa is lagging behind. Therefore we will have to invest additional efforts in African countries in the future to achieve these goals. The European Union will participate in the drafting of a strategy of partner countries for the reduction of poverty, development and reforms, especially those focused on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. This is also in the interest of lasting peace and security of us all.

In December 2007 the European Council called upon the European Commission to draw up by April 2008 a special communication that would centre on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and the ways in which the EU could contribute to this end. The debate on this topic will be reopened at the June European Council.

HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria are the deadliest health hazards of our age, causing six million deaths every year. We will continue to pay a great deal of attention to this issue with regard to attaining the MDGs. We will endeavour to strengthen the cooperation of the EU Member States with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

As the world’s leading provider of development aid (last year, a total of EUR 48 billion was committed for this purpose), the EU feels particularly responsible for effectively supporting the efforts of developing countries, especially those of the least developed ones. As a major global donor, the European Union has a key role to play in the achievement of the MDGs, which requires “more and better aid”. These commitments were adopted at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey and at the Second High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Paris.

On the basis of the European Commission report for 2007 published in April, we will assess the progress made in achieving these financial commitments, and agree on recommendations for the Doha Conference as a follow-up to the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, to be held at the end of 2008. Allow me to underline that quite a few EU Member States already at present exceed 0.7% of gross national income allocated for development aid.

The issue of more and better aid will be dealt with at the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness to be held in Accra from 2 to 4 September 2008. The event will be organised with a view to taking stock and reviewing the progress made in implementing the Paris Declaration and to underlining the importance of aid effectiveness in the context of all MDGs. Accra will deal with issues such as untied aid, the predictability of aid and the division of work. In the coming months, the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) will draw up a declaration entitled the “Accra Agenda for Action”. By endorsing the Paris Declaration, the EU demonstrated its determination to fulfil not only the provisions thereof, but also four additional commitments (increasing the share of budgetary assistance; implementing assistance for capacity building through coordinated programmes; the avoidance of new implementation units; and reducing the number of uncoordinated missions by 50%).

In order to improve the quality of its development aid, the European Union has already taken significant steps to ensure complementarity and the division of labour. During the German Presidency, it adopted the Code of Conduct on Complementarity and Division of Labour in Development Policy; the Slovenian Presidency will make the first steps towards the implementation of the Code. I believe that practical examples of this will also be regarded as the EU’s contribution at the High Level Forum in Accra, which will persuade other donors to start implementing it as well.

In addition to the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, Accra is to host another important conference – UNCTAD XII. The event will focus on “Addressing the opportunities and challenges of globalisation for development”. It will be aimed at finding ways for the developing countries to make use of globalisation for achieving faster economic development and reducing poverty. I am convinced that UNCTAD XII will provide an opportunity for debate, the building of trust and a better mutual understanding. The EU’s priorities include: South-South trade and regional integration; primary products and trade in natural resources; investment and competitiveness; and the strengthening of UNCTAD through reform and the establishment of links with the least developed countries and Africa.

Migration represents a particular aspect of relations between the European Union and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States. The Union strives to promote positive links and achieve synergistic effects between migration and development and to create conditions for migration to positively affect development and vice versa.

The EU would like to maintain its active role in the international community in fighting climate change and to set an example by faithfully implementing the existing international commitments. In this context, we will work towards reaching a consensus on a global and comprehensive international agreement on the reduction of emissions after 2012, based on the common but differentiated responsibilities of states in the fight against climate change. Climate change is becoming a threat to international security, and the adjustment to it our common challenge. The extent of the negative effects of climate change and the influence on international security are also evident from the joint report by the European Commission and the EU High Representative, which was presented last week. Without immediate action, the poorest countries that are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change will fare the worst.

Distinguished Members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly,

The Slovenian Presidency devotes its efforts and attention to following and responding to current developments. In line with your endeavours and in agreement with our European partners, we have condemned the recent attacks on the opposition in Burundi; together, we are striving for the soonest possible reconstruction of democratic institutions in Fiji and are interested in the completion of formal procedures required for the signing of comprehensive EPAs with the Caribbean as soon as possible. This will be an important milestone and we hope that it also provides an effective incentive for bringing negotiations with other regions to a close, possibly this year with the Pacific as the next success story.

Intensive cooperation between EU Member States and ACP States also requires a high level of public awareness. It is important to note that EU citizens regard the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the civil society, governments, and citizens of recipient countries as the most competent authority to decide on development cooperation priorities.

The opinion of EU citizens thus clearly reflects the fact that decisions on priorities and the related use of funds also fall within your competence. I believe this is a proof of confidence in your work and I am convinced that the successful meeting of the Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly in Ljubljana will further testify to your good work.

Thank you for your attention.


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Date: 19.03.2008