I wish to warmly welcome High Representative / Vice-President Borrell and the three accompanying EU Commissioners, Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen (International Partnerships); Commissioner Mairead McGuiness (Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union) and Commissioner Stella Kyriakides (Health and Food Safety) to South Africa for this 15th session of the South Africa-EU Ministerial Political Dialogue, held within the framework of our Strategic Partnership. The 14th Session of our Ministerial Political Dialogue was most ably hosted by the High Representative in July 2020 in a virtual format due to the pandemic.
Given your high-level delegation, which speaks to the EU’s commitment, and our most welcome in-person interaction, I invited my colleagues: Minister Enoch Godongwana (Finance); Minister Angela Tokozile Didiza (Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development); Minister Ebrahim Patel (Trade, Investment and Competition); Minister Blade Nzimande (Higher Education, Science and Innovation) as well as Deputy Minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo (Health) to join me for this 15th Session. I appreciate their important contribution. This format is becoming standard practice, I think, reflecting the wide-ranging scope of our partnership.
At the outset, I wish to reiterate the South African Government’s appreciation for the continued EU support to development cooperation aligned to the National Development Plan as well as the EU’s support during the pandemic and to Biovac and the mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa. This support and partnership enhances Africa’s own capacities.
I hope that during our engagement today we will be able to review all the opportunities for enhancing two-way trade and increasing investment under the existing bilateral and multilateral frameworks.
We also greatly appreciate the EU partnership at the regional level and continental level, which through our Strategic Partnership, can also be enhanced to be more effective.
I understand that the bilateral engagements and events that took place yesterday, 26 January 2022, were most productive and successful. I look forward to learning more during our discussions today. I thank the High Representative for the Bilateral Consultations and the meaningful exchanges we also had yesterday on a wide-ranging number of peace and security issues and developments, in our respective regions and globally. Our discussions will no doubt contribute to how we seek to address all these pressing challenges through our various levels of engagement including at the UN with our shared commitment to multilateralism, democratic principles and the Rule of Law. Strengthening the UN system is a priority.
For the first time, the various engagements under the Strategic Partnership are taking place as they were meant to be synchronised. In this regard, we will soon receive feedback on the South Africa-EU Joint Cooperation Council (JCC) which took place in South Africa on 7 December 2022. The JCC was well attended physically and virtually by our EU counterparts. A number of decisions were taken with regard to reducing and/or clustering some of the Structured Dialogues under the Strategic Partnership – to reflect current realities and priorities. A new Structured Dialogue is also being proposed – but more on this during the report-back session.
Our agenda will also allow us to discuss the preparations for the 8th South Africa – European Union Summit which South Africa will host in the first half of 2023. This was agreed upon in July last year during the EU Council President Michel’s visit to South Africa and his meeting with President Ramaphosa. It was then also agreed that the Ministerial Political Dialogue would need to precede the Summit so that a number of issues and challenges can be finalised or agreed to so that the Summit remains strictly at a very strategic level – hence our full agenda!
It can be recalled that the last Summit was held in 2018, which was quite some time ago. The pandemic is largely to blame for the time elapsed. However, the world has changed quite dramatically since that time and the upcoming Summit will allow us to place the Strategic Partnership much more on course.
Under the Agenda item “Strengthening the South Africa – European Union Strategic Partnership”, we will discuss: political and security cooperation; cooperation in international fora; trade and investment as well as financial flows. Regarding the latter issue, South Africa appreciates the technical assistance received from the EU related to the possible grey-listing of South Africa by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The President signed two Acts in December 2022 which it is hoped will assist the country make progress to avoid such a grey-listing which would have disastrous consequences.
Under the Agenda item partnering to address global and local challenges, we will focus on: the Just Energy Transition, Green Hydrogen/Raw materials value chains; Health, Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. All the agenda items are relevant to the Strategic Partnership including its newer areas of engagement. EU support in these areas can help move South Africa forward on a path of sustainable development.
I wish to now invite the High Representative to make his Opening Statement.