April 4, 2014

Statement by H.E. Mr. Osman Saleh Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea at the 4th EU-Africa Summit, 2-3 April 2014, Brussels

Statement by H.E. Mr. Osman Saleh Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea at the 4th EU-Africa Summit, 2-3 April 2014, Brussels

Eritrea_4th Africa-EU SummitThank you Mr. Chairman,

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I bring greetings from your brother H.E. Mr. Isaias Afwerki, the President of the State of Eritrea who is not able to attend this important meeting because of other engagement.

Excellencies,

I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the people and Government of the Kingdom of Belgium for their warm hospitality they have accorded to me and my delegation.

Excellencies,

Peace, Prosperity & and investing on people are interconnected subjects that must be dealt and approached comprehensively.

Let me emphasize at the outset, before I delve into my brief remarks, that Eritrea views Africa-EU partnership as strategic pillar within the overall framework of the multi-faceted web of Africa’s international ties.  Still, this must not be taken as inevitable or for granted without appreciating the need for a sober appraisal of past unbalanced and asymmetric ties. The strategic relationship should indeed be predicated on a stark recognition by both parties of the imperative of formulating a robust road map for their solid and sustainable partnership for the period ahead.

That Africa remains a marginalized continent, in all respects and by all yardsticks, is an unfathomable reality that can neither be glossed over nor embellished.  In this context, Africa cannot, also, be regarded as a monolithic bloc if it is to assume its rightful place in the international arena and act as a significant partner in Peace and Security, economic growth, investment and trade ties.  Such an approach would be impractical under the prevailing realities. As we all agree, the appropriate organizational configuration is the modular approach whereby Africa continues to consolidate the sub-regional associations and formulate realistic and integrated strategies and priorities of development and partnership through these vehicles.

Naturally, each country within the RECs can implement its part from the integrated sub-regional strategies and priorities in accordance with its peculiar realities.  This process can gradually and incrementally lead to greater blocs that coalesce when necessary, and, to ultimately bring about a coherent and unitary continental economic bloc. Other alternatives to this organizational architecture can of course be contemplated and thoroughly discussed.  In any case, it is patently clear that Africa cannot and should not emulate the EU organisational model as is or in its entirety.

Much has been said about appropriate EU-African Joint strategies and priorities. In the area of economic development and securing peace.  Allow me to underline the following points only for purposes of emphasis & clarity.

•    Unless and until African countries and the RECs extricate themselves from the export of raw materials and unprocessed goods and venture into effective and sustainable manufacturing and industrialization, Africa’s economic, investment, trade ties and  partnership be it with  EU or any other continent will remain nominal and asymmetric. Peace and security cannot be maintained, prosperity cannot be achieved and the people will be suffering from poverty.

•    Parallel with the drive towards manufacturing and industrialization, African countries and the RECs must go beyond food security projects. It is important and essential for Africa to pursue the export of processed agricultural products. This will enable the African countries to create employment in particular youth employment.

•    Infrastructural programmes of energy, roads, transportation, communications, and water must be put in place as a pre-requisite for the drive towards manufacturing and industrialization. These cannot be realized without professional and adequate human capital.  As such, it is imperative to establish and expand the requisite institutions and infrastructures of education, health and research;

•    The services industry, important as it is, can develop in tandem as it may otherwise entail deleterious consequences if it is pursued separately;
•    Last but not least, security remains a vital pre-requisite for Africa’s development.  External interventions and complications, which continue to entail destruction and impede economic progress in Africa, must therefore come to an end.  Each sub-regional organization can and must indeed build its own security architecture without external tutelage and interference.

In this context the issues that come to mind are two-fold:

1.    Is the EU ready to enter into genuine dialogue and partnership with Africa?
2.    Does it have the resources to make effective contribution in these areas?

These questions can only be answered by holding frank discussions and dialogue.

•    In the past, the prevalent demeanour in Europe – although generalization would neither be fair nor accurate – can be characterized as a continuation of the colonial mindset and culture.  This revolves around exploitation of Africa’s resources and wanton interferences in its affairs.  This is the sad reality in spite of outward appearances.  The negative impact of this defunct approach in Africa cannot be underrated.
•    Most of the European countries, (except few others), are today beset by profound economic crises.  The contributions that they can make to genuine and sustainable economic growth of Africa are thus becoming increasingly limited.  This would imply prudent choice of priorities to ensure optimal output from limited resources.
•    These constrains cannot and should not, however, inhibit earnest cooperation to lay the foundations and congenial environment for a meaningful partnership in the future.

Excellencies,

Eritrea’s perspectives on partnership are rooted on the premises outlined above. And while re-affirming the readiness and commitment of the Government of Eritrea to actively engage, as ever, in developing robust Africa-EU partnership, I kindly ask this august assembly and others that may follow in its sequel, to address these important issues in a comprehensive and candid manner outside the trappings of protocol and diplomatic niceties.

I thank you

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