my friend Jacques Chirac,
Ladies and gentlemen,
first I would like to express my sincere thanks to you, Mr President, dear Jacques, for inviting me to the Summit between Africa and France, both in my function as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany – in which I also thank you for the very good and amicable relations our two countries enjoy within the European Union – and as President of the Council of the European Union and of the G8.
I would particularly like to thank Jacques Chirac for personally demonstrating time and again to those of us who shoulder political responsibility in Europe that friendship and cooperation with Africa are not merely one political concern among many, but that they are very close to your heart, Jacques. This illustrates that our continent's humanity is also measured by the way in which we build relations with our neighbour, Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, excellencies, that is why I was very pleased to attend this meeting today, for I believe that the way in which Europe cooperates with Africa will indicate how the world is progressing in its struggle to establish peace and security and respect the dignity of all people. We are witnessing positive signs from Africa in connection with economic growth, for example. At more than 5%, this growth is stronger than it has been for the last 30 years. We can see that new structures have emerged in recent years, in the form of NePAD and the African Union. We know that our neighbour, the African continent, is a dynamic continent which is doing everything it can to enjoy its share of positive developments.
The European Union elaborated an Africa Strategy at the end of 2005. In the second half of this year, during the Portuguese EU Presidency, we as the European Union will, following an interval of several years, once again invite the African states to an EU-Africa Summit. The regular summits between France and the African states demonstrate also how crucial cooperation between the European Union and the African continent is.
We know that we have to assume responsibility, and we intend to, so that together we can overcome the major challenges that confront us. Global developments are showing us ever more clearly that it is not a case of "the African" and "the European" challenges. Rather, we can only solve the majority of problems by joining forces. One of these problems is the issue of climate protection and the prevention of global warming, which threatens to inflict great suffering on African countries especially if we do not join forces to take decisive action. Other problems include the consequences of climate change, civil war and migration. We are also called upon to summon up the determination necessary to combat terrible diseases such as AIDS as well as poverty and terrorism.
We are guided by the awareness that we all live on one common Earth and have a duty to ensure that future generations also have access to resources. I therefore believe it goes without saying that we must take responsibility in connection with development cooperation – the European Union earmarks 60% of its development cooperation resources for African countries – and that we must have a long-term strategy for our cooperation which we must keep developing.
Our partnership with the African countries is the starting point for our efforts in this regard. This partnership goes far beyond the scope of traditional development cooperation. Of course, it involves debt relief, the well-known concept of development assistance and the fight against poverty and disease. However, ladies and gentlemen, it now also involves a great deal more. I believe that our concept of cooperation in the 21st century goes far beyond the traditional view of development assistance. It begins with us joining forces to build up the necessary institutions and discuss viable forms of governance. It calls upon us to talk about human rights, to create transparent mechanisms and thus also establish the conditions under which development assistance can best reach the people in your countries.
The partnership-based approach means that we Europeans do not simply submit proposals to you, but that we engage in open dialogue with one another and learn to adapt our activity to what you believe is important and necessary, and what your people need and expect. This is a new approach – and we will have to practise getting used to it – but for me that is what partnership means, and it is essential if we are all to benefit from our cooperation and if our countries in both Africa and Europe are to move forward.
That of course calls upon us as Europeans to get involved. It calls upon us to take the Mil¬lennium Development Goals seriously and to keep the promises we have made in the area of development cooperation, also in connection with financial resources. I will say quite frankly, and this applies to the Federal Republic of Germany and to other European countries, that we will have to make a considerable effort to meet our ODA levels. Above all, we will also have to make a considerable effort to deploy the resources we make available in a way that allows us to establish really sensible and mutually beneficial projects.
We must also assume responsibility in other areas. The European Union provided military support to monitor the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year. I won't deny that this prompted fresh discussions in our Member States, and particularly in the Federal Republic of Germany, about where our responsibility lies. We made it quite clear that it was our joint responsibility to ensure that democratic elections could take place after the good start to the transformation process in the Congo. This engagement was therefore new, but it was important.
If we enjoy contact with one another, we must also be able to talk honestly about problems. We know that none of us can afford to turn a blind eye to the conflict in Sudan, particularly in the Darfur region. In this case, of course, the African Union has a responsibility to act. Yet speaking on behalf of the European Union, I also say that we will join forces with the African Union to do everything we can within the context of the United Nations to finally improve the fate of the people in Darfur.
We must work to drive forward the national reconciliation process in Somalia. At this point I must admit that we are following the situation in Zimbabwe with great concern. Intimidation of political opponents, harassment, threats against farmers and even destruction of districts where poor people live – none of this can be justified in any way. I therefore appeal also to Zimbabwe's neighbours to join us in doing as much as we possibly can to help the suffering people there.
We know that development of economic strength, improvement in the economic situation as well as the fight against poverty and disease can only succeed when people are able to live in peace and security. This is precisely the goal of the European Peace Facility for Africa. The support provided to build up and train the African Standby Force also serves this end. I would also like to mention that we, and that includes the Federal Republic of Germany, are sup¬porting the Kofi Annan Centre in Ghana.
Ladies and gentlemen, excellencies, it is absolutely clear to me that if our generation one day looks back and wonders how we shaped our world after the end of the Cold War – a world where there is more freedom and where, thanks to the development of the Internet, everyone has access to information from all corners of the globe, we must then be able to say that we were united in our desire not only for Europe to profit from the end of the Cold War, but for everyone to share in the benefits.
I grew up in the former East Germany. I am fortunate that the Wall was pulled down, that Berlin is now the capital city of a reunited Germany, that today the EU has 27 Member States, and that almost all of Europe – whether Eastern, Central, Southern or Western Europe – can work together within the European Union. Seventeen or eighteen years ago I didn't know that I would ever set foot on Western soil before I reached retirement. Something happened that nobody had expected. But it didn't happen because everyone sat back and did nothing and simply waited. It happened because there were many people in the world who believed in peace, freedom and democracy in the Eastern bloc.
I believe this experience compels us – and I include myself in this – not just to rest on our laurels and revel in the fact that this has been achieved in Europe, but also to have a vision that what succeeded for us Europeans can also take place on your continent. That requires you yourselves to make an effort. You have to want to see it happen. It requires the power to overcome what seems to be insurmountable. That, too, is the history of the European Union – warring against one another for centuries before finally finding the strength, in the wake of the devastating Second World War, to draw closer to one another and establish a common European Union. This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. We want to help and support you in making this kind of dream a reality for your continent, and we have an obligation to do so.
Thank you very much.