Remarks by Deputy Minister van der Merwe at the Reception celebrating Sweden assuming the EU Presidency, Wednesday 1 June 2009

Ambassador Peter Tejler
Your Excellencies, Representatives of the EU Member States
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that I address you this evening on the occasion of Sweden’s assumption of the Presidency of the European Union. As Sweden steps up to head the EU for the next six months, it is opportune to reflect on our SA-EU bilateral relations, not only looking back from where we come from, but also looking forward into the future.

Today is all about change and continuity.  As one EU member state steps down - the Czech Republic - Sweden, takes its place at the helm of a very unique organisation.  And in this regard, let me express our appreciation and congratulations to the previous Czech Presidency of the EU for completing a very successful term.  During the past six months of the Czech Presidency, SA-EU relations have become even more substantive.  We have had the pleasure of hosting the 8th SA-EU Ministerial Troika meeting near Kleinmond in the Western Cape, followed by the first meeting of the SA-EU Peace and Security dialogue forum on 10 June 2009 in Brussels. We see these and other developments as giving concrete expression to a strategic partnership that is based on mutual benefit and respect.  In all this, the role of the Czech Presidency is greatly valued. 

It is generally been an exciting time for South Africa-EU relations and, as Sweden assumes its leadership role in the EU, we look forward to further building and deepening our partnership.   

The landscape of our relationship is almost unrecognisable today as compared with 15 years ago.   The Cornerstone of our relationship is of course our framework agreement under the SA-EU Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA). This year, as you are all aware is the tenth anniversary since the TDCA came into effect. We look forward to signing the Amending Agreement during the upcoming 2nd SA-EU Summit on 11 September 2009.    

It is the Summit, Ambassador, which symbolises the most profound change in landscape between South Africa and the EU.  Through  the establishment of the SA-EU Strategic  Partnership in 2007, we have elevated the relationship to a partnership which recognises the many common regional and global challenges we both face, and requires us to work together to address them. 

Both the EU and South Africa have unique roles to play within their respective regions and the broader global stage.  In this global village all our destinies are intertwined, and a reading of the Swedish priorities for the EU Presidency bears this out.  Three of the key Swedish priorities for the next six months are on:

  • the economy and employment (i.e. making the EU emerge stronger from the current global economic crisis);
  • the issue of climate change; as well as the issue of
  • justice and home affairs with its related challenges of migration and integration.

If we overlay these priorities on our Government’s key priority areas of:

  • education and decent jobs  
  • health,
  • combating crime  and
  • rural development,

In addition to our own department’s priorities which include Regional Integration issues, the overlap in interests becomes apparent. 

As the new name of our department suggests, we plan to emphasise International Cooperation that yields concrete results in terms of social upliftment, more job opportunities, and a greater measure of human security for our people.  In achieving this, we regard Sweden as a very important bilateral partner, and we look forward to working even more closely with you.

One such area is the development of the South African Development Partnership Agency.  As I mentioned in my recent reply in Parliament to the budget vote, the Agency should be responsible for the implementation of South Africa’s international development cooperation and partnership policy.  It will involve cooperation with developed and developing countries and will focus, although not exclusively, on our work in Africa.  It will articulate South Africa’s objectives in joint programmes with countries of the South, and will seek to strengthen our relationship with Northern partners through, amongst others, tri-lateral cooperation.  During the course of this year, the work in developing the Agency will be taken forward by our department as lead department, working together with our sister departments and the details of its functions and modus operandi will be articulated more fully by the end of the financial year. 

As part of this process, we recognise that we can learn a lot from Sweden whose development assistance as a proportion of gross national income is the highest in the world.  We look forward to working with the Swedish International Development Agency as well as the Commission and all other Member States in this regard. We are delighted that the Commission has already expressed interest in the Agency and hope tot engage in more details on this collaboration in the coming months. 

Looking at the upcoming SA-EU Summit and the preceding meeting of the SA-EU Joint Cooperation Council on 23 July 2009 in Brussels, it is clear that our agendas reflect common issues.  By addressing these issues, we do not merely mean to talk about them, but where possible and in line with the Strategic Partnership’s Joint Action Plan, to also formulate joint positions and engage in joint actions and policy coordination.

We are therefore convinced that the forthcoming JCC as well as the Ministerial Troika meeting and the 2nd SA-EU Summit on 11 September 2009, will, under the joint guidance of South Africa and the Swedish Presidency, further build on the successes achieved by the previous SA Government and EU Presidencies. 

Ambassador, I would once again like to congratulate Sweden on behalf of the government of South Africa on assuming the EU Presidency.  The Swedish Presidency will have all our support to ensure that your tenure is a great success.  We greatly look forward to the next six months.

Thank You

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