Borrell visit to SA: “testing times”

Brussels 27.01.2023 “…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” the European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while addressing press in Pretoria, South Africa, in a joint event with Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor. Borrell It has travelled to South Africa to co-chair with Minister Pandor the South Africa-European Union Ministerial Dialogue, and to hold our bilateral consultations.

“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 make an important contribution to this process”.

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