Brussels, 28 November 2022
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Today, I am going to chair the Foreign Affairs Ministers Council in the formation of Ministers of Development to work on our European Union-Africa relations.
Yes, the geopolitical situation of the world is quite different from one year ago but in spite of the war in Ukraine, we have to continue engaging with Africa.
Africa is our partner of choice. It is high on our agenda especially in this case when food crisis and energy crisis are hitting severely the continent.
We have to invest quicker, more and smarter in Africa. It is not just a battle of narratives. It is a battle of offers, of concrete approaches. That is why Team Europe – putting together all the capacities of Member States, EU institutions and financial institutions – is the way of pushing for the issues in which we want to engage with Africa all together.
Firstly, certainly – as I said – to invest more, to invest quicker, to invest smarter.
Secondly, to work together in the multilateral fora.
Thirdly, to work for peace and security in the inter-African conflicts, and in the conflicts around the world.
And finally, human mobility and migration.
The last time that we discussed about Africa was several days or weeks before the Russian attack against Ukraine.
This afternoon, we are going to have also the Commission-to-Commission meeting with the African Union’s Commissioners. And it makes full sense for me, as High Representative, to be chairing today the Foreign Affairs Council meeting for Development and participating as Vice-President of the Commission in the Commission-to-Commission meeting.
This kind of meetings are the building blocks of our relations. It is the way where the [European] Commission’s competences in many policies, which are no longer in the hands of the Member States, but in the community’s institutions, can be developed in coordination with the foreign policy of the Member States.
This Commission-to-Commission meeting will be the way of looking at our plans on cooperation, energy, food, investment, on the way we try to open our markets, look for regular ways to manage migration and fight against smuggling of human beings.
So, today is a big day in our relationship with Africa, both from the intergovernmental approach – Ministers [for Foreign Affairs of the EU] – and from the Commission approach – Commission-to-Commission [meeting].
But we have two big crises in the world today: Afghanistan and Ukraine.
In Ukraine, we have to increase our support. Putin continues bombing Ukraine. Putin continues trying to make Ukraine a black hole – no light, no electricity, no heating, to put Ukrainians into the darkness and the cold.
So, we have to continue our support, providing more material for the Ukrainians to face the winter without electricity. It means a lot of things: from electricity appliances, to everything that is needed to pass the winter without electricity. It is difficult to imagine, but it is what is going to happen.
So, today also, we will look at the Ukrainian war from the point of view of the humanitarian crisis.
Second, Afghanistan, where things are not going well, they are becoming worse – especially for women and girls. One year later, the situation in Afghanistan is becoming dire, more dire.
So, these two humanitarian crises will be also on our agenda, but the main issue will be our relationship with Africa.
Q. I understand that there is potentially a lack of a quorum today because not enough Development Ministers have come.
How do you know that? You know more than me.
Q. I know it is an issue that I know you are sensitive to after the last meeting [of the Foreign Affairs Council (Development)]. In Brussels, we talk a lot about Team Europe, but every time the Ministers are invited to talk about these important issues, there is sometimes an attendance issue. What is your message to capitals?
I am sure we will have a quorum, do not worry.
Q. I read a report from the Africa-Europe foundation that said that given the war in Ukraine and the tensions that have emerged over the food crisis and things like that, even though February was the moment to re-launch EU-Africa relations, here we are, six months later and things are not looking so good. What is your assessment?
Our relations are not getting worse. The problem is that, since last year, new challenges have appeared. Nobody was thinking last year about a food crisis or an energy crisis in Africa. It is not a matter of our relationship with Africa, but the fact that the war in Ukraine has created new problems, acute problems. And this requires a strong engagement from our side.
Q. Both Commissioner [for International Partnership, Jutta] Urpilainen and [for Crisis Management, Janez] Lenarčič have said that they are going to do everything they can to maintain funds for African partners even in light of the needs of Ukraine. Do you think that is still realistic based on the budgetary constraints that exist in Brussels and the huge needs coming from Ukraine, often from the same budget?
The European Union’s budget is the European Union’s budget. We cannot run into deficit, so we have the same amount of resources. And everything is being done in order to avoid that Africa suffers [from] the consequences of the war in Ukraine war from the point of view of our resources.
Q. But does not that mean topping up those resources from Member States?
It means that not a single euro allocated to Africa will go to Ukraine.
Link to the video: Council of EU – Newsroom Videos (europa.eu)
Source – EEAS