Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
Dear ladies and gentlemen ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, friends I'm very pleased to be your guest here today at a time that is very important for region that will not leave us alone and that is very important to us and that we should never forget. Its we are at the historical time and I don't think that I'm exaggerating when I said that it is truly historical it's historical time for Africa, the Great Lake Region and particularly also for Congo obviously. Common efforts for the first time - for a very long time will focus on the piece dividend the population is seeking for cooperation, mutual support a continuous search for consensus and compromise and the combination of each of this triumphs will replace suspicion and expressed opinions and hidden agendas which in the past I have impeded positive experiences. We see that there is a true driving force that our continent Europe has been able to overcome the most profound crisis in its existence. Ladies and gentlemen I'm optimistic. In Rwanda, the painful wound of the genocide is slowly healing. We see the early start of democracy where young people are getting a lot of hope and those young generations know that if they want to they will have a prosperous future full of solidarity and justice. More than 10 years after the tragedy we finally see that the people have start accepted what has happened. This people which was left on its own and abandoned by the international community which acted without unison and which may have employed various contradictory strategies. If you conjur up this image of the past then you see that the Rwandese people have a long way and there is also Burundi. More than one year ago all the people of Burundi achieved what we thought impossible which is to elect a democratic parliament. They have given their president a broad legitimate basis which is the precondition for a reunion. This president has formed the a government which consists of women for more than one third and he has setup a modern broad program. Nonetheless however, we noticed that the high expectation of the Burundi people exhausted by years of conflicts that this population runs the risk of being disappointed because there are no tangible results on the short run. The international community in this respect should be aware of the fact that it is not sufficient to simply create the conditions for peace but that the population should also be convinced of the advantages of the reconciliation. Finally - then the Democratic Republic of Congo where democratic and transparent elections have concluded the transition period that was going on. All the actors of this transition period and also the Congolese people should be lauded because they managed to create a successful end to this challenge. It's the first time in Congo's history that the country has had true democracy. The first true election process has taken place and since October we have a national parliament which was generally elected and then in December the President of the republic was installed and there was a credible and representative opposition which has accepted the electoral result acknowledges the competence of the government bodies and can stimulate a debate. The provincial parliaments which were also elected in the elections will elect governors and representatives and there will soon be also a provincial government. So we have reasons to be happy about this spectacular process of the last few years which is mainly due to the will of the Congolese people the fact that the leaders kept their promises and also the efforts of the international community more specifically Belgium and the European Union. The topic of the day is the involvement of the European Union in the Great Lake Region. There have been problems in this region but the pivotal rule of Europe has delivered a number of results. The European Union and its member states can be proud of its contribution to the Congolese Elections. We have come a long way a very long way. Let's forget it. Until a couple of months ago, nobody believed in a positive outcome and it's true that there are many challenges ahead but I have confidence in the people of Congo. During the four years of transition they have remained patient and the people showed that it had enough of war and political disputes. There was a massive turnout at every electoral moment showing that they wanted democracy and peace and as soon as they as they've voted they waited patiently to know the results of the election and social progress will be high on the political agenda. This is the basic principle of the democracy to anchor this democracy because only if the people benefits from democracy only if the people benefit from democracy will we see stability and progress. The European commission is doing its best to help the Congolese Government to consolidate the result of peace and progress and to bring this result to the people. I have proposed that the budget for Congo for 2008 and 2010 be raised to ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ 411 million which is almost double the current amount. And I'm calling on the member states to follow this example. As the situation appears to be stabilizing itself and appears to be normalizing itself both in Burundi, Congo and Rwanda, we need to look ahead, because we need to consolidate these result in a sustainable way and remove the underlying causes for the crisis in the Greater Lake Region as you all know this has been one of the most bloody conflicts since the Second World War. We have a unique chance to rebuild this region and this chance will never present itself again. It is important for the International Community to accompany and support this reconstruction. The reconstruction of the economy must be a priority throughout the region. I am therefore convinced that it is only if we give an alternative to people and alternative to war that the primary causes of the war can be eliminated. The European Commission and the member states have invested heavily in the peace process in the region. We have contributed financially through many processes of reconciliation for development aid since 2002. The European Union has given more than ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬1 billion to this region where we have tried to mobilize the governments in terms of governance and the electoral process. And Congo is the first country that has benefited from the support they have been given the bulk to go towards the electoral support. They also set up basic infrastructure, also security to prevent conflict and also the integration of the former combatants and also the set up of the police. The emergency support measures, also the demobilization of the military and of the Burundi's army are all - are all included in this process. If we had not invested all this money, then we think that today we would not have had so much reason for hope. However, these means were not sufficient. There was one element that was crucial and that was the unity. Unity of action, union of force and also the compromise, the engagement of all the actors involved. The International community has of course an additional strength and the European Union, actually the Commission was the political leader and all the other actors follow the political leaders and that is what has made such a big difference. This is an important observation. We see that Europe is supported by the member states and if and when Europe is supported by the member state then it has the capacity to become a major political actor. If Europe can speak with single voice and if it works to the benefits of the other countries - the other countries in the world and we need to stimulate this cooperation because the promise of peace in Central Africa also aim towards the future well, of course this future can be destroyed by awkward behavior, for example, also divergence between the member states, unexpected actions or hidden agendas or different intentions. And of course, we need to back the same horses - our African colleagues, because otherwise things will go wrong. And the European Commission for development, we need to take into account the strategic objectives set up for Africa and this will move away from interventions regarding politics and security and we will move towards development more of a structural development. And this of course is also related to the political and economic integration. Now our support should not be limited to material support. We should also set up a political and a political action to continue our efforts in the region and we should also activate this partnership. And of course, we do not want to moralize or to take the moral high ground or to meddle in these affairs, because that is not possible now. These authorities have been duly elected by the people and they are in charge of their own faith. Now, I think that the international community should change its attitude towards these African countries that have undergone democratic elections. We cannot treat Congo like we did in the past. If we - that people are thinking of formalizing the follow-up committees which are still very paternalistic in attitude, and also very interventionist and we need to be careful, because if we are not careful, we would undermine the legitimacy granted to the government, granted by the election and then we will say that elections were not democratic. So we have to be really, really careful. I think that the Democratic Republic of Congo today is a democracy, it's a formal democracy whether we accept it or not. And of course different people will say that we need more than just democracy. But - or more than just elections rather. But that is a starting point, because as long as there was no government, no elected parliament parliaments, no president, no constitution there was no democracy. So today the country is a democracy and we should treat it as such. This active partnership should help our partners to rebuild states. And I am talking about protecting the states. They should also become referee states. They should be able to carry out all the major functions offering citizens equal rights, access to culture, legal system, education to allow - also economic development. In our policy apart from emergency relief aid, we have always been convinced that poverty can only be eradicated if the public institutions are able to work in an impartial manner. Civil society should be able to safeguard its own future. Everybody knows that I have a liberal and I am convinced that there are advantages to the market economy. I am and you all know that I am a convinced liberal. And I am - but I am not just a liberal. I have no problem to admit that the liberal school of thought, if that is not combine to a certain strength of the state, certain degree of equity, then this will not lead to anything, particularly in these fragile countries - these volatile countries. And I see that in developing regions, what is lacking is states - developed states that can, for example, tax their citizens, taking into account the economic means and that they can organize services equal to all citizens that is what is lacking in Africa. So the consolidation of these states should be stimulated and within the framework of 10th European development fund, we have earmarked ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬3 billion to this effect and this will add - be added to the first envelope that was provided to the countries as drawing rights and this will allow the countries to meet their ambitions. For example, the first envelope of Congo that was ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬411 million but this could be increased by more than ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬100 million if they set up a credible program regarding the consolidation of the state. Okay, you can say these are secondary conditions and I am not really a champion of conditions, but there are no negative sanctions provided, because there was who do not carry out this consolidation, do not give - are not given any additional funds but its not a punishment. We don't take money away, it's not like we make lists of good and bad countries. No, we are just giving an incentive. This is a I think that's very important to underline this this difference. At the same time it's important that in the short runs through program or projects in the social field regarding the basic infrastructure, these setup of a social network that is the important issue in the short run to distribute the social dividend across the population, because everything is interrelated and that is why we start talking with the Congolese authorities as early as in 2007, and I sat together with the Congolese authorities last week. Regarding the project of competent governments, for which we also included the World Bank and for the first time, since a very long time with also 10 European countries who did not only carry out an analysis together with us but who also tried to make sure that for the first time in the history of the Commission, a joint program is set up. With a distribution of tasks, tasks between the donors and this issue of provision will be coherent and this will make it possible to be very efficient in terms of means because all duplicated efforts will then be eliminated and so that's very important. We'll look on we will look on justice, police, reforming the public institutions, management of natural resources that is of course very important in Congo, also transparency on all levels. And, we are very proactive in this because we contacted the Congolese Government in this respect. We've been working together with the World Bank for months and also with other donors who jointed our ranks later on and we've been working on this for a long time. I also referred to a document with the President of Burundi because the Burundese Government can also the Burundi Government can also benefit from this aid and we it should not limit itself to a bilateral level because we also need to work on the regional dynamic and I think that this is a truly pivotal dimension. If all these procedures are carried through fully, it can be important not just for the region itself but also for all of Africa. Last week I was in Nairobi where I was present at the Second Summit of the Great Lake Countries and one of the most crucial elements there, was the signing of a pact for safety, stability and development and the importance of this pact, the symbolic value must not, I repeat, must not be underestimated. I am talking about for example, the non-attacking clause. And respecting the territory sovereignty, the signing of the pack by the Heads of State and Government, that is an important signal towards the inhabitants of the region. And I think that all suspicions and hidden agendas can now be replaced by in atmosphere of confidence and cooperation. And we know that there are still a lot of difficult decisions ahead for the Great Lakes Region and that we need to develop a number of regions such as demobilizing the FNL in Burundi, and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. These are essential elements for the construction of peace peace in this region. Also the repatriation of LDR in Rwanda still needs to be organized Somalia, I have only just returned from there, because I was in a rush to get back to your conference. We need to input all the - all possible political motives to avoid the conflict there. And if Europe uses one single voice, if the international community speaks also with one single voice, this will reinforce the European values and the European political culture and this culture these values will then be able to make a true difference and this is something that I look at every day. And I am fairly saddened by what is going on because Europe is missing a lot of opportunities. Not enough was on on the foreign policy. We were very happy with what Solana did. However, as I am continuously traveling through all of these areas of conflict, it is sad to see, what Europe could contribute to peace and harmony in the world and what solutions Europe could provide if there simply were more integration there. And then the summit in Nairobi, to to to turn back to this and the pact well, some political objectives were set up at the highest level and I think, there is a very good opportunity that people will succeed in what they I wanted to do. But we need to do more than just create the basic conditions of safety and peace. Creating peace is of course very important. But there should be a mutual re-enforcement based on partnership, common objective to be able to maintain this peace. And the key to success of regional integration, that is mutual conference, values that are shared. In addition, our partners from Africa are also more and more referring to our example. For example, reconstruction of the European model between brackets. On the 15th and 16th of November, I had I heard that a Desmond Tutu to deliver very arousing speech. He drew a parallel and said that Europe is a reason for Africans to be optimistic. And this concept is ideal. This fact that Europe, that that Africans rather are advancing more and more and are also looking at the success of Europe - the construction of Europe to draw political strengths from this process, that is very important. I think that there are also a lot of Belgium people in the room and I know that they know what I am talking about. And within the same reasoning it's true that getting the economy of the Great Lakes started up again. Because then, we can start creating links between countries that have gone to trouble times. But that at the same time now have potential for economic development economic progress and the population is also expecting that progress. And lots of initiatives are taken in the region particularly in the Eastern African Communities and also in Central Africa. And I think that the CPGL could re-force all of this by striking bridges to avoid gaps between Eastern and Western Africa, because these gaps are are very negative. A few years ago, there was an initiative reuniting the Ministers of Rwanda, Burundi and other countries and I asked the Commission to to facilitate this to support this and the current Minister for Foreign Affairs for development have supported this project and the European Commission has also earmarked ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ 5 million to carry out the logistical aspect and to reinforce the CPGL secretarial because there must be an engine - a motor driving this group. And European Commission has also decided to earmark ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬45 million for the startup and financing of the project on the items that need to be determined on the fore-hand and the first initiative on research, energy, management or financial resources and training has already been completed. These items will be discussed and will also be put into practice very quickly. And I think that this offers a a common perspective first of all economically for the three countries. And that will trade links because they have a common project to work on. And I think that this is also a way for building a political link to arrive at a high quality dialogue and this will all become clear in the future programs together with their partner programs. So the countries of the Great Lake Region will get ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬800 million between 2008-2013, not taking into account this possible addition or injection of fund because this ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬800 million can still be increased by 30 percent, so that's more than ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬1 billion which is an important sum. We also have fiduciary funds to finance infrastructure in Africa increasing the intervention capacity. We have also set up a strategy for infrastructure in Africa. In April of last year, we explained the missing links in the African network based on data from NAPAT. So, I think that we have the necessary instruments. We have the necessary framework to quickly make a difference in Africa. So, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, I truly believe that the relationship between us and Africa today is different and must be different. The involvement of European in Central Africa can only be furtive if it is based on mutual respect. And if I say it is then, I also take into account that some people sometimes think that this is just me being polite. But that is not true. Because the entire commission's policy shows that this is just - not this - that this is not just a measure of politeness. Partner should have the same obligations, same rights and they should also engage in dialogues, and our partners have the right to say what is going wrong and what is missing. But we also have the right to remind them of their engagement and our expectations, concepts of justice and democracy and sometimes I am truly surprised. Because a number of people who know Africa sometimes wonder, are we not wrong? If we try to impose a model on them because they have a different culture, should we not think of a different type of democracy? Well, I think if you use such an approach you need to be very careful. It is true that the democratic modalities, the form of the democratic principle that could change or that could take different form. But I just want to say that democracy is exercised in different ways all across Europe. Because the French system is different from the Belgian system and the Belgian system is different from the U.K. system and the German system is something different all together. But that is not important. As soon as the democratic objectives are reached, you can talk about how they are reached. But we must be careful also in this respect, because ethical concepts such as legal state, human rights, the principle of innocence, freedom of the press, these must not be different from one country to the other. We could say, okay, these are developing countries we must not be too strict. But I disagree very, very strongly. I think we should do everything possible to make sure that these legal concepts and the framework of a social organization of a civil society. But I don't know what to use I take terms, so I don't want to talk about a moral frame of reference, even though that is what I am trying to say. But we need to try to get that type of unison, the uniformity in the points of view. We need to talk about these concepts with our partners. We have to admit obviously that culture history can lead to certain modality, certain expressions of democracy that are that maybe different, I agree. But I am not willing to compromise on generally accepted concepts such as democracy. Human rights, for example, they need to be respected. Also the distribution of powers must also be respected. It should be a true legal state. These are principles that we must adhere to. The European Union cannot impose this frame of reference. It's a bilateral process. We also need to be inspired by their culture, their experiences, because it's also enriching for us to learn from our partners. But I think that we should also try to come to a common understanding regarding these concepts which form the basis of the duties and rights in any society. I think that is this is self evident. We must never forget what the possibilities the doubts were of our partners and the major challenges still ahead. But I must acknowledge that it is the first time that they see a light - a light that could guide Africa away from the fatal path leading to despair. Africa is a wonderful continent with a fabulous history. It has many triumphs, the Great Lake Region could, for example, try to reach a common point of view. All the conditions are represented for the region to become a pivotal region in - on its way to peace and prosperity. And Europe believes in this region and we hope that they will succeed and that this why Europe must remain involved in the Great Lake Region. However the efforts must be continued. Even though some people say that I am the only person believing. We need to - we need to continue the efforts and we must take a humanitarian - a humanist approach, and that is the way to move ahead and this is my absolute conviction for the future of the Great Lakes. And what happened recently in this region has taken away all the pessimist predictions. They have been toppled those predictions. So, sometimes history proves that men and women of goodwill are right. Thank you.