Brussels, 27 January 2023
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Minister [of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor], ministers, Commissioners, Excellencies,
It is a great pleasure and an honour for me to be here and co-chair this 15th Political Dialogue, which is taking place in the context of our strategic partnership.
I am glad to be accompanied by my fellow Commissioners for Health and Food Security [Stella Kyriakides], for International Partnerships [Jutta Urpilainen], for financial services, [financial] stability [and Capital Markets Union, Mairead McGuinness].
I am also pleased to meet the ministers representing South Africa here today. Thank you very much for hosting this Ministerial Dialogue and thank you for your hospitality.
Since our last Ministerial Dialogue in July 2020 – as you have said, Minister [Pandor], with your same words – the world has changed quite dramatically. We are facing an unprecedented level of global instability with old challenges yet to be sufficiently addressed and [with] the new challenges creating more global and increasingly dangerous tensions that affect all of us.
Our international system is being tested to the core and those of us that believe in the international rule of law and multilateralism must do much more to defend it. I am sure that, putting together our efforts, we will do it. None of us can, of course, do this alone.
It requires strong partnerships – like ours. Strong cooperation among like-minded countries, as we are. Strong dialogue among those who do not necessarily agree with each other from the start, certainly there are things which we do not see [in] the same way.
We see this in the context of the European Union, where the Russian war against Ukraine brought the European Union members tightly together in areas where the European Union, until recently, did not play a [particularly] strong role – in particular, in defence policy. More and more, these sad circumstances have become an awakening point for the European Union.
But we see this, perhaps, even more in our external relations where we understand the absolute necessity of forging new initiatives and new alliances.
I am pleased that, in this shaky geopolitical environment, the strategic partnership between South Africa and the European Union has been moving along through a positive trajectory despite some irritants.
Let me mention some facts. Our trade and economic relations have been growing steadily over the years notably thanks to the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). You are our main trading partner in Africa; the volume of your exports to the European Union has been increasing; and the European Union companies and firms continue to represent a large part of your overall foreign direct investment. We are the first trade partner and the first investor in South Africa.
We are working jointly towards the implementation of this Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). I repeated many times that energy transition will be just or will not happen.
You have presented your investment plan at the last COP and we are fully committed to supporting your vision for South Africa to shift to a greener and cleaner energy future without leaving anyone behind.
In the area of education, research and development – [which] are key [to] the future – we have substantive ties. South Africa is a very active and successful beneficiary of the Erasmus+ Programme, both in terms of individual mobility and of institutional cooperation. We have a good number of European students that come to study in South Africa, and South Africans that pursue studies in the European Union’s universities.
We are also working together to strengthen vaccine and pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in South Africa. And we are also supporting you in strengthening your anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism rules. That is why today here my fellow Commissioners will play such an important role in this meeting.
As strategic partners, there are areas where we work together and could do more together, where we could work in a more strategic way – at multilateral and continental levels. In some areas there is a clear interest to move forward. For example, the partnership on sustainable raw materials value chains and cooperation on renewable hydrogen, which this Ministerial should push forward.
This Ministerial Meeting today is taking place in preparation for the South Africa-European Union Summit, which should spell out our joint vision [for the] development of our relations over the years to come.
The Summit gives us an opportunity to agree at the highest level on the priorities for our joint work: on what we want to achieve together, on what our joint ambitions [are], where we want to be in our relations 5 years from now. Our ambitions, our purposes, our objectives.
Dear Minister [Pandor], dear ministers, dear Commissioners,
I trust that we will use our time today wisely with our eye on what brings us together; how we can do more together; on initiatives that can be taken forward [at] the Summit.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-236020
Source – EEAS
South Africa: Joint press conference by EU HRVP Borrell and Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor
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Thank you, Minister [of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi] Pandor. Thank you very much.
It has been a real pleasure and a great honour for me to travel to South Africa and to co-chair with you, Minister [Pandor], today’s South Africa-European Union Ministerial Dialogue, and to hold our bilateral consultations yesterday.
I am pleased to be here and of course I am accompanied by my colleagues, the European Commissioners that are here with me.
The European Union and South Africa came together to establish a strategic partnership 16 years ago, and South Africa is the only African country that has this qualification of a strategic partner. And the word means something. It is the only partnership on the African continent. This is a recognition of the importance that South Africa has for us – the European Union – but also internationally.
We agreed on something evident: that today the world is facing a high degree of global instability. We have challenges inherited from the past for which we have not been able to look for the right solution, and new ones that are arising, creating tensions and threats to all of us.
We are certainly living in testing times, but in spite of the times being testing, challenging and difficult, our partnership has been moving along – I think – with a positive trajectory. Certainly, there are things on which we do not agree, there are irritants, but I think that, overall, we continue being strategic partners.
We have discussed a certain number of issues. Allow me to highlight a few of them.
We focused on our political and security cooperation and on regional and continental crises, for instance in Mozambique, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As European Union, we are very much aware that we cannot impose solutions, but we know about the huge potential to partner with South Africa to contribute to build peace and security.
As to our trade and economic relations, these have been growing steadily over the years. In 2021, our [bilateral] trade reached a record level of €44 billion. South Africa is our main trading partner in Africa. European firms continue to represent a large part of South Africa’s overall foreign direct investment and certainly help to create jobs in a wide range of sectors.
We are supporting South Africa in implementing the South African vision to shift to a greener and cleaner energy. We are working together towards the implementation of the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), and my colleagues Commissioners have put the accent on the fact that the energy transition will be just, or it will not happen. We are mobilising €35 million of grants and €1 billion of concessional loans through the European Investment Bank for it.
We have been covering so many issues. Allow me to stress the importance the area of health.
We are working to strengthen the vaccine and pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity on the continent – including the expansion of Aspen’s vaccine production capacity, the establishment of the first mRNA technology transfer hub in Cape Town, and the support of BIOVAC’s vaccine manufacturing capacity.
I think that what this meeting has shown today is that we can do even more together at the multilateral level and to defend and reinvigorate the multilateral system.
And here I have to mention the illegal aggression by Russia against Ukraine. Because it is the most important event that affects peace and stability in the world. What Russia calls a “special military operation” is nothing less than a full-scale invasion of a sovereign country, and an attempt to destroy it, killing Ukrainian civilians, destroying civilian homes, hospitals, power plants – all kinds of civilian infrastructure.
Facts are facts: what is happening in Ukraine is nothing less than a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter and the international rules-based world order.
This blatant action, disregard of international law and principles of sovereignty is as much a threat for Europe as it is for the whole world, including Africa. This is not only a European war. It is happening on European soil, but it affects the whole world. The consequences are felt around the globe, and the energy and food crises are the most evident and direct result.
We have always respected South Africa’s traditional non-alignment stance in foreign policy.
The European Union does not ask [South] Africa to choose sides. We are just asking all countries in the world to stand on the side of the United Nations charter. Nothing more, but nothing less. Because what is at stake is the survival of multilateralism. And the European Union regards South Africa as an important partner to uphold and reinvigorate a rules-based international order.
This is why I very much hope that South Africa, our strategic partner, will use its good relations with Russia and the role it plays in the BRICS group [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] to convince Russia to stop this senseless war.
And you are right, Minister [of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor], the question of peace in Ukraine is the most important one: we must seek a political solution to the conflict. Because every conflict has an end and, in principle, the end of a conflict leads to peace. Therefore, I think that you could
do [make] an important contribution to this process.
Thank you again Minister [of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor], for hosting me and my fellow Commissioners in this beautiful country, our strategic partner in Africa.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-236439
Q. We recently had a visit from the Russian Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and South Africa will be hosting military exercises with Russia and China later on in February. I just wanted to know, what is the European Union’s view on that – do you think that South Africa is taking sides too much with Russia?
You know, first thing I have to do when I talk about the position of third countries on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is that we respect the right of every state to conduct its foreign policy according to its own interests. Certainly. And we have never tried to say to anyone the way they have to behave.
Every country has the right to have their own foreign policy according to its own interests. By the way, this is also true for Ukraine. It is true for South Africa, it is true for all independent countries in the world.
Since the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, we have been expressing our view and developing our commitment and engagement on supporting Ukraine. And try to explain to the rest of the world why we do that. Facts are facts. 140 states – which is a considerable number – have condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. And I know that South Africa respects the Charter of the United Nations and territorial integrity of states.
Allow me to stress that, from a legal point of view, there is no doubt that the Russian aggression is illegal and illegitimate under international law – to which South Africa and the European Union are very much attached.
Recently, some Member States have decided to increase their military support to Ukraine. It is the news of the day – or of the past week. Germany and others have decided to increase and to upgrade the military support to Ukraine. This is done in view of the permanent bombing of the civilian infrastructure, of the killing of civilians, and the destruction war that Russia is carrying out against Ukraine.
And I think this is the right thing to do. I encourage all the Member States of the European Union to participate in this effort.
About navy drills between the South African Navy, the Russian Navy and the Chinese Navy, this is part of my first statement: every country has the right to develop its foreign policy according to its own interests. In other moments of the time, there were drills with other fleets and I understand the desire of certain countries – including South Africa – to spare Russia, for one reason or another.
I cannot be against any activity, but I have to say that this coincidence between the [anniversary of the] starting of the war and these military drills, for us is something that is not the best thing that we would have preferred. But our preferences do not mark the foreign decisions of our partners.
Q. I would like to know if the Dialogue discussed at all the false codling moths regulations that have been deemed discriminatory and unfair restrictions on South Africa when it comes to its citrus imports to the European Union.
On the citrus issue – which is a less dramatic one, but I understand the importance because it affects jobs and the agricultural activity in a country that needs to create jobs. Unhappily, we haven’t reached an agreement today.
We just expressed our will to continue discussing about it at the highest political level. We understand the urgency, we understand the importance but, today, it was not possible to reach an agreement. We decided to continue working in order to have a solution to these differences in view of the next Summit.
Source – EEAS