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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Opening Speech of the 30th Session of the EU-ACP Council of Ministers

Date of Speech : 24-06-2005

Place : Luxembourg

Speaker : Jean-Louis Schiltz, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : 30th session of the EU-ACP Council of Ministers


Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great joy and pride that the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg welcomes all the participants to the 30th session of the ACP-EC Council of Ministers. It is with even greater pleasure that we do so in our role as Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

I would like to take advantage of the occasion to wish you a very warm welcome to this meeting, which, for a number of reasons, is being held at a special moment in time.

We are indeed celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Group of ACP States. This Group represents a shining example of the determination of the States of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific to assert their shared identity and to strengthen their links of solidarity in order to face the challenges of development. It is also 30 years since the foundations for a solidarity pact for development between the group of ACP States, the European Community and its Member States were laid down with the signing of the first Lome Convention.

But the moment is also a special one because we, who represent over half the Member States of the family of the United Nations, are just three months away from the United Nations Summit, to be held in September next, and which will be asked not only to provide a response to security challenges, but also, and above all, to evaluate the progress made in development since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2000.

The United Nations Summit must provide an opportunity for reaffirming our support for the UN and for the promotion of international relations based on the rule of law. This will also give us an opportunity to confirm our strong support for effective multilateralism and for the process of United Nations reform.

In this context, I would like to remind you of the report that the Secretary General submitted on 21 March 2005. This balanced instrument forms an excellent basis for work, in conjunction with the contribution of the President of the General Assembly, in view of the declaration to be adopted next September in New York.

As Kofi Annan said, development, security and human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforce each other. It is clear in this context that the eradication of poverty also entails a pledge for international security. Having said this, development is also an end in itself and not simply a means of ensuring security.

As for the Millennium Development Goals laid down five years ago, we are far from achieving them. This is particularly true in the case of Africa. The first of the eight Millennium Development Goals stipulates the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger by half by 2015. Now, in sub-Saharan Africa, there is an endemic lack of food in a number of countries; 46% of the population is still surviving on less than a dollar a day and infant and maternal mortality rates are still very high, with HIV/AIDS killing several thousand people a day.

The other figures, for education, gender equality and sustainable development are scarcely more encouraging and they are not the only examples. 

Having said this, 2005 – as we have emphasised many times – must be the Year, with a capital Y, for development. We are in the process of achieving this ambitious wager and all our achievements this year have pointed in the right direction. Let me give as an example the commitments to the amount and the quality of the aid given, without forgetting to mention the review of the Cotonou Agreement. I will return to these points later.

Before doing so, at this point I would like to remind you that the developing countries are basically responsible for their own development - even though a well-informed public such as you scarcely needs to be told this. They need to take the matter in hand by introducing coherent global national strategies to reduce poverty. We are seeing progress in this area – and though sometimes uneven - it is nevertheless constant.

Of course, this does not mean that the rest of the world can just sit back and watch. On the contrary - a huge collective effort is urgently needed to increase public development aid to a substantial extent if we wish to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

As the main donor at global level and a major commercial partner, the European Union is investing significantly in achieving these objectives.

I am, therefore, happy to present the new collective commitments of the European Union, following the agreement concluded under the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council, which brought together the 25 Development Ministers in Brussels on 24 May last and which was confirmed at the European Council last week.

By 2010, the European Union and its Member States will collectively increase their Official Development Aid level (ODA) up to 0.56% of their Gross National Income (GNI), which means an additional annual sum of 20 billion euro devoted to development. The European Union and its Member States have also committed themselves to achieving a ODA of 0.7% of their Gross National Income by 2015, the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The agreement reached on these commitments is a major contribution to achieving the MDGs. I believe that it represents a vital breakthrough and extremely significant progress in terms of international solidarity - and we are proving that international solidarity is not an empty word.

Some have described this agreement as spectacular, and indeed historic. Having been one of its main negotiators, jointly with Commissioner Michel, you will understand that I cannot fail to agree with these conclusions.

In concrete terms, in the coming years we need to act in a more effective way in the areas where needs are the most pressing and blatant. Although we are not forgetting the Caribbean and the Pacific in this respect, the European Union has decided to increase financial aid to sub-Saharan Africa by collectively allocating this continent an increase of at least 50% of the resources agreed for Official Development Aid, respecting the priorities of the different Member States. It should be noted that aid to countries emerging from conflict and to vulnerable States will also be increased.

The recent history of the European Union also shows that Europe does not merely make promises, but that when it makes them it keeps them. Remember that, in 2002, at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, the EU undertook to devote 0.39% of its GNI to Official Aid for Development. The reports established prove that we are in the process of achieving this objective.

Together with the international financial institutions, the EU has also committed itself to finding solutions to the problem of the unsustainable weight of multilateral debt in the poorest countries. So we can only welcome the agreement reached between the G-8 Finance Ministers in mid-June to grant 100% multilateral debt relief to highly indebted poor countries to the amount of 40 billion dollars.

While committing ourselves to the quantitative aspect of financing for development, I also insist on the need to improve the quality and effectiveness of ODA, based on complementarity at country level and on strategies for reducing poverty in partner countries. In this context, the European Union is committed to implementing the recommendations contained in the Paris Declaration on the effectiveness of aid, as well as the specific commitments announced on that occasion.

Other factors that are directly linked to development may have a leverage effect in the fight against poverty, as a result of concerted action and strong commitments. I am fully confident that the informal debate that we will have at tomorrow’s session on this issue will provide us with a number of important elements to enable us to move towards the principal goal of our partnership, that is poverty reduction and, in the long term, its eradication.

The European Union will, furthermore, continue to take into consideration the objectives of development cooperation in all the policies that it implements and that are liable to affect developing countries. The EU will make a special effort to promote and strengthen the coherence of policies in favour of development within the framework of the global partnership for development offered by Millennium Goal No. 8.

Trade is one of the policies in which we have to take account of the “development�? aspect. Trade also forms an integral part of the Cotonou Agreement, in that it provides for the drawing up of new trade agreements by 2007. I can tell you that the EU is firmly resolved to ensure that these agreements are ambitious and encourage sustainable development. We must ensure that development acquis attain as high a level as possible so that they can contribute to the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals.

Ministers raised the issue at the Council in May: it was agreed that the European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the 25 Member States, would submit a progress report in the autumn, which will highlight both development and trade in EPA negotiations.

It is in this spirit that the EU will attend the 6th Conference of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong in December 2005. Here, too, the EU is determined to ensure that the Doha Development Programme is achieved by making development one of its main components, so that the agreements to be concluded also become development agreements. The particular needs of weak and vulnerable developing countries will also have to be taken into consideration within the framework of these negotiations. The European Union will continue to support developing countries so that they can take advantage of the opportunities offered by trade, especially by helping them to integrate trade into their national development strategies and to achieve the internal reforms needed.

Allow me also to raise the issue of combating HIV/AIDS, which is right at the top of the EU agenda and one of the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency. This fight is now more than ever crucial in combating poverty. The AIDS epidemic has spread to such an extent that it is now a global crisis of exceptional proportions requiring an exceptional response. For this purpose, we need to develop an integrated approach incorporating prevention, treatment, medical care, research and development of capacities.

The European Union will continue its efforts in this direction. It will also ensure a foreseeable and regular increase in the resources for combating not only HIV/AIDS, but also malaria and tuberculosis, especially with respect to the Global Fund for combating these three major diseases. I assure you that last week the European Council emphasised the importance of a substantial European contribution to the re-funding of the Global Fund for 2006 and 2007, on the occasion of the conference to be held in September. I also truly hope that the decision draft – that you will be discussing on the issue of the conditional billion, and in which it is planned, among other proposals, to contribute an additional package of EUR 62 million to the Global Fund - will be adopted

In the same context, the EU will also support the full implementation of the Cairo/ICDP + 10 action plan by ensuring that health and reproductive and gender rights constitute a vital element in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. This issue will be on the agenda of our discussions and I am already very pleased with the important joint declaration that will be discussed and, I hope, adopted tomorrow. We, who represent the majority of the Member States of the family of the United Nations, will thus be giving a significant political signal in the fight against this scourge, and this just a few weeks away from the New York summit.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is also a very special and important time for another reason: tomorrow, after our work, we are going to sign the revised Cotonou Agreement. While this revised Agreement keeps the achievements of the Cotonou Acquis, all its components represent an improvement in the partnership between the ACP States and its Member States. We are particularly pleased that this Agreement has been achieved under the Luxembourg Presidency, after a number of months of negotiations. Those negotiations have certainly not always been easy, but at the end of February we reached an agreement at the ministerial session.

I think I can say that this truly reflects the commitment of the European Union to the ACP States, but also, in particular, that of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Six of the 10 privileged partner countries of the Luxembourg Development Cooperation are indeed ACP States.

To conclude, I would like to say something about the situation within the European Union.  Despite the efforts of the Luxembourg Presidency, the European Council has unfortunately failed to reach an overall agreement on the Financial Perspectives 2007-2013. I regret this sincerely and profoundly. This, however, is neither the time nor the place to go into the reasons behind the failure. It will now be the duty of future Presidencies to take up the torch again on this issue.

As for the Cotonou Agreement, I can say clearly that we will adhere to our commitments, that is in the new period the Union will maintain its aid effort to the ACP countries at the same level as the 9th EDF, outstanding amounts aside, to which should be added the effects of inflation, growth within the Union and the enlargement to 10 new Member States, on the basis of Community estimates.

From a practical point of view, I think that, in the absence of other developments, it will now be of interest – and I am saying this in a personal capacity on behalf of the outgoing Presidency – to propose a 10th EDF. In any case, be assured that the Luxembourg Presidency has worked intensively and neutrally on both of the options – the budgetisation and the 10th EDF - throughout the duration of the negotiations on the Financial Perspectives. This means that we should be able to make rapid progress both on the amount and on the distribution factors between the different Member States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope that our discussions will be animated and fruitful throughout these two days. I wish you a pleasant stay and would like to express the hope that you will have a little time to discover our country – I assure you this is the best time of year to visit it.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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