Media remarks by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the bilateral consultations with the Belgian deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs, Mr Didier Reynders: 4 July

Members of the media

Ladies and gentlemen

Good afternoon and welcome.

We have just had a productive bilateral meeting with my counterpart, His Excellency Mr Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Belgium.

Together, we had extensive discussions on a number of issues concerning our bilateral relations. We both agreed that relations between our countries are strong and dynamic, and cover a number of areas that are important to our national development objectives.

I have conveyed our appreciation to the Deputy Prime Minister, for Belgium’s continued support for our national priorities. Since 1994, Belgium has allocated substantial resources to South Africa in the form of Official Development Assistance. This support has covered such areas as health, ports management and logistics, education, rural development and further education and training. Despite the ongoing economic challenges confronting Europe, Belgium has remained steadfast in its support for our development efforts.

Deputy Prime Minister Reynders and I also exchanged views on the current political and economic developments in Europe. I indicated to the Deputy Prime Minister that South Africa is closely following these developments, given the interdependence of our economies. Europe remains our largest trading bloc, and the leading source of tourism. I assured the Deputy Prime Minister that as a member of the G20, we pledge to work with our partners to do everything in our power and means to contribute towards the solution. This crisis is not Europe’s problem alone, it is a global crisis.

We have also had extensive discussions on developments in the African continent in general and the Great Lakes Region in particular. We both shared our concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the eastern part of the DRC. We have agreed to enhance our cooperation and re-double our efforts to assist our sisters and brothers to restore normalcy.

We also shared with the Deputy Prime Minister our ambitious plans for the development of the infrastructure of our country and that of our continent. We are convinced that the key to economic development of the continent lies in creating the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the free movement of goods and services. We remain committed to integrating the continent in order to create a bigger market. In this regard, I briefed my colleague about ongoing efforts to establish the Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA) involving the Common Market of East and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). I indicated to the Minister that the Tripartite- Free Trade Area will encompass 26 countries with a combined population of 600 million people and a GDP of approximately US$ 1 trillion.

In addition, we exchanged views on a number of issues of mutual concern in the multilateral arena. We have both expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Syria and call upon all parties, both government and the opposition to work together to find a peaceful and negotiated settlement. We condemn all forms of violence from whichever quarter it comes. We urged the parties in Syria to immediately implement the Kofi Annan Plan.

During his visit to South Africa, the Deputy Prime Minister will also meet with the Ministers of Trade and Industry and Mineral Resources respectively, in order to elaborate further on the deepening of trade and economic cooperation between our two countries, focusing more on infrastructure development and mineral beneficiation.

Mr Deputy Prime Minister, may I invite you to also address the media.

 I Thank You.

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