Speech at the Swedish Binational Commission, 10 October 2003

Deputy Prime Minister Winberg,
Members of the Swedish and South African Delegations,

Over the past three days we have witnessed, yet again, the rewards of the strong and warm relations that exist between Sweden and South Africa.

We can attribute this excellent partnership partly to the strong connection between our two nations.

This third meeting of the South African-Swedish Binational Commission has given us another opportunity of further consolidating this relationship and our areas of co-operation. This is crucial for South Africa, especially given that we are in the process of charting the way forward for the next decade of building a better life for all our people.

We are also pleased to have spent these two days with our friends here, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of freedom in our country, to be celebrated in April 27 next year.

We look forward to successful celebrations with the Swedes as we together recall the victory against apartheid. We will also be remembering our heroes who sacrificed a lot for their belief in freedom and justice, such as your late Prime Minister Olaf Palme, a hero among heroes in the struggle for justice.

Madame Deputy Prime Minister, coming back to the business at hand, we must really congratulate the three committees on their hard work which has made this BNC so successful in both content and process.

If one looks at the progress that has been made during these past two days, I am pleased that the importance of NEPAD has been strongly emphasised throughout and that Sweden has reaffirmed its commitment to the renewal of the African continent.

I am also heartened to see that South Africa and Sweden have agreed on areas to continue to cooperate in the international and multilateral arena.

Our two countries share a belief in the peaceful resolution of conflicts. We also believe strongly in multilateralism and the need to locate the resolution of international disputes within the framework of multilateral institutions and processes.

The decision of this BNC for us to increase our co-operation in the field of conflict prevention and management is an indication of our common position on the need to restore peace and stability. The South Africa-Swedish working group that will be established in order to exchange experiences and views on conflict resolution will be of great assistance in the achievement of our objectives.

We will be able to exchange experiences and views regarding training, capacity building, early warning, the role of civil society in conflict prevention and peaces processes as well as security sector reform.

Only a few days ago, our belief that peace is an achievable goal in Africa was given a boost when the Transitional Government of Burundi and the CNDD-FDD movement signed the Pretoria Protocol on Political, Defence and Security Power Sharing in Burundi agreement on the 8th of October.

After three sleepless nights of hard negotiations, we were indeed delighted to emerge with the agreement, which will now take the implementation of the Burundi peace process forward. We urge your active support during the implementation period, as we believe that the Burundian commitment to achieving peace and stability should be met with enthusiastic support from all the peace loving nations of the world.

We must also applaud Swedish support of the resolution of the Liberian conflict. The efforts of Sweden and the EU through State Secretary Dahlgren in his capacity as Special Representative of the Presidency to the Mano River Union Countries and Co-Chair of the International Contact Group on Liberia are all steps in the right direction in addressing the mammoth task of finding peace in that troubled land.

Deputy Prime Minister, the economic links between South Africa and Sweden have been underlined and I am sure that these deliberations will result in closer ties between our two countries. We have noted that the Swedish country strategy on co-operation with South Africa from 2004-2008, which provides for strengthened and new partnerships in trade and economic co-operation between the two countries.

Already a number of interactions are being planned for example the seminar on the South African ICT industry scheduled to be held in Stockholm by the Swedish Trade Council early in 2004. We need to further look at areas of co-operation particularly in information technology training.

We also look forward to receiving Swedish business delegations in the health care and off-shore areas respectively in early 2004, to explore trade and investment opportunities in South Africa. You will also later this month be receiving a business delegation from the Automotive Sector in South Africa, who would be coming to discuss business possibilities.

Deputy Prime Minister, people to people linkages is also extremely important as it allows a better understanding of one another.

Allow me to therefore applaud the increase in tourism between South Africa and Sweden, for example the charter traffic between Copenhagen and Port Elizabeth, which opened in October 2002.

Regarding further new areas of co-operation, we look forward to the coming to fruition of the proposed plan for twinning co-operation between the Limpopo Province in South Africa and Varmland in Sweden. This will assist Limpopo in the areas of youth development and entrepreneurship.

We have noted Deputy Prime Minister the inconclusive manner in which the trade talks at Cancun ended. Our agreement to cooperate to bring the World Trade Organisation negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda on track as soon as possible is a step in the right direction.

We also welcome your intentions to formally assist developing countries to understand the Swedish-EU trade framework and work for the simplification of trade regulations. We want to use this opportunity to minimise difficulties for South African exporters, who have to cope with costs for certification and delays in approvals amongst other things.

Our joint emphasis on combating HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and other communi!cable diseases is extremely important. These diseases remain one of our biggest challenges in the continent, and we welcome support in this regard.

The Health Forum is working well, and we are not surprised that the BNC suggested that this mechanism be repeated in the form of a Labour Market Forum.

As we close this BNC, Deputy Prime Minister, I am reassured that development cooperation ties remain dynamic and continue to evolve to meet the changing circumstances in South Africa.

It is very clear Deputy Prime Minister that this has been a very busy BNC. A lot of work has been done and the implementation must be as speedy as the discussions were. When we next meet we should be able to see measurable progress.

I am most excited about our relations and the productive plans that come about based on the work of the BNC. I look forward to many more years of fruitful cooperation and continuation of our partnership.

Madame Deputy Prime Minister, dear Swedish friends thank you once again for receiving us in your country.

I thank you.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa