Address to the opening of the 3rd South Sfrican-Swedish Binational Commission, 8 October 2003

Your Excellency, Deputy Prime Minister Winburg,
Distinguished Members of the Swedish and South African Delegations

Deputy Prime Minister, thank you very much for the warm welcome which you have accorded my delegation and I.

This warmth is indicative of the state of relations between our Governments and peoples and will set the tone for the deliberations over the next few days.

Allow me, Deputy Prime Minister to begin by paying tribute to the late Minister of Foreign Affairs Anna Lindh, who was a wonderful friend of South Africa and Africa. Her commitment to the development of the continent was strong and remarkable. Please accept, once again, our heartfelt condolences.

Madame Deputy Prime Minister, it is indeed a great privilege to preside jointly with you over the deliberations of this third meeting of the Binational Commission.

This BNC was founded on very strong and warm foundations in 1999. It was established because it was recognised that ours is a special friendship and partnership, which we should continue to deepen and widen.

Dear colleague, our deliberations take place during an extra-ordinary time.

The international arena has changed dramatically since the last meeting two years ago. When we last met, the attacks of September 11th had just occurred, bringing with them far-reaching implications to international relations. Several major terror attacks have since been committed in various parts of the world, including on the African continent.

We have also witnessed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq bringing with them new threats to the international multilateral system of governance, and the United Nations has been adversely affected.

It is our strong view that multilateralism remains the key to the resolution of international disputes. We must all dedicate ourselves to working hard to revive the influence and central role of the United Nations in international multilateral governance.

Ladies and gentlemen, I must once again emphasise the warm nature of bilateral relations between our two countries. This warm friendship was quite evident during the constructive meetings held by Prime Minister Persson with President Mbeki during the Nordic Summit in Molde last year.

It is clear to us from this meeting and the many others between cabinet ministers of our two countries that Sweden is indeed a true and proven friend of the African continent. Sweden's commitment to stability, progress and sustainable development, on the basis of an equal and constructive partnership, is highly valued.

Your support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development is most encouraging, particularly because we view NEPAD as a comprehensive global plan of action to tackle poverty and address the developmental needs of Africa as a whole.

We trust that our endeavours as Africa, bolstered by the commitment of forward-looking industrialised countries and multilateral institutions, will provide the very necessary debt relief, open their markets to African products, invest in the continent's future, share technologies and contribute to peace-keeping initiatives.

We are happy that we can count on the support of Swedeny in fulfilling our vision to make the 21st century, the African Century.

Since the South African - Swedish Partnership Week nearly three years ago South Africa has continued to make steady progress politically, economically and socially in the consolidation of our democracy which celebrates its 10th birthday next year. Our work to address the legacy of our past as well as the pressing social needs of our people remains firmly on track.

For South Africa, this Binational Commission forms part of our determined efforts in our young democracy to take charge of our own destiny.

As South Africans, and Africans, we seek to integrate ourselves ever more in the rapidly globalising world economy and we need strategic partners such as Sweden, to achieve higher levels of growth and employment and also increase the international competitiveness of our economy.

We therefore place high value on this Binational Commission, which has proved to be an effective tool to deepen and diversify the cooperation between our two countries in a number of key areas.

Allow me to express my personal appreciation, as well as that of the South African Government for the constructive spirit of cooperation, which has distinguished the preparations for this important bilateral mechanism.

Please allow me to make brief comments on the activities of the Committees of the BNC:

Social and Development Cooperation Affairs

Sweden's continuous and active development cooperation support to South Africa, since 1994, amounting to over one billion rand illustrates Sweden's commitment and constructive support for the development needs of South Africa. The focus of Sweden on particularly disadvantaged provinces and communities, is also much appreciated.

We look forward to seeing this cooperation continuing to draw on South African policies and priorities, and lead to even better, streamlined and focused interventions.

The number of joint science and technology cooperation projects between our countries is increasing continuously and we are particularly encouraged by the good progress that has been made in the exchange of expertise and transfer of technology that has taken place through innovative partnerships.

Given the rich and varied cultural heritage of our two countries, it is imperative that we actively enhance and promote academic as well as scientific exchanges. It is also important that we continue to exchange knowledge and experience in the field of the arts and education.

I was very heartened to learn that the sound relations in the educational field are to be expanded.

Economic Affairs

There is much scope for greater foreign direct investment by Swedish companies in South Africa, as most of the sectors we have identified for investment and export promotion, match those in which Swedish industry has shown strengths.

Priority should also be given to the participation of Swedish companies in the small and medium sized enterprise sectors in South Africa, specifically those sectors which have the greatest potential for much-needed job creation.

I also believe that it is important for us to maintain dialogue on multilateral trade issues, in particular on the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

We believe that the WTO is vital to increased global trade and economic growth, from which all countries stand to benefit.

Political Affairs

South Africa and Sweden share similar values of what type of world we would like our children and future generations to grow up in, a respect for human rights, good governance, the rule of law and others.

It is this fundamental outlook and convergence of views, which forms the cornerstone of our relations, going back to the days of the struggle against apartheid. The unflinching support received by the people of South Africa from Sweden, in their quest for freedom, justice and dignity has not been forgotten.

Deputy Prime Minister, I wish to reaffirm that it is indeed a pleasure for all the members of my delegation to be in Sweden.

We look forward to innovative and productive discussions over the next two days.

I am convinced that we will be able to register tangible and concrete progress at our concluding meeting.

I thank you.

The speech was be read by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Aziz Pahad, on behalf of the Deputy President.
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