On the second day of his visit to Ethiopia, President of the Republic Borut Pahor met with the President of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and addressed the Committee of Permanent Representatives to the African Union.
The President of the Republic and the President of the Commission of the African Union discussed the relations between the European Union and the African Union and exchanged views on the future of the two institutions. The President of the Commission, AU, presented the Slovenian President with the 2063 Agenda, which presents the African Union Action Plan for the African continent, and envisages greater integration of individual regions in Africa and the institutions of the African Union. The President of the Commission was interested in the view of the Slovenian President on the future of the European Union, which he said was an example of cooperation for the African Union. At the end of the conversation, President of the Republic Borut Pahor invited President of the Commission of the African Union Moussa Fakija Mahamat to Slovenia on the Day of Africa.
At today’s visit to the headquarters of the African Union, the President of the Republic also addressed the Permanent Representatives Committee of the African Union. In his speech, he described the path of Slovenia from its independence to full integration into the international community, especially the European Union, and its active role in shaping the EU’s common foreign and security policy. He called for closer co-operation between the EU and the AU, as they combine the aspirations for peace, security and prosperity. President Pahor paid special attention to strengthening multilateralism in an interdependent world.
Borut Pahor: Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for gathering here today at the impressive Headquarters of the African Union, allowing me to address you. My thanks go especially to Chairperson HE Mr Moussa Faki for inviting me here during my official visit to Ethiopia.
You may be asking yourself: what is the President of a small, 2-million Slovenia doing in Addis Ababa in a country of one hundred million plus, on a continent of a billion plus.
Let me start by saying that Slovenia has made quite a journey from its humble beginning at the time of independence back in 1991, not only internally by creating a state based on the rule of law and high respect for human rights, as well as building a successful economy. With the roots in our Democracy movement we always looked well beyond our borders, not only forging friendly relations with our neighbors but joining a host of international organizations, such as the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Alliance and the European Union.
Let me stress that we have not been sitting on the sidelines of the multilateral fora but tried to play an active, engaged and responsible role. Just to mention a couple of examples: only a few years after our joining the UN, Slovenia was elected to the Security Council and my country was the first of the new EU members that held its Presidency, already 10 years ago, and we are getting ready to do it again soon. Taking our responsibilities for peace and security very seriously, we have also deployed our troops to United Nations Security Council mandated UN, EU and NATO missions and operations.
On the first official visit to Africa of any Slovenian President, I would like to make a couple of things very clear. First, my country deeply believes in multilateralism. To us it is a system which ensures respect for human rights and international law and promotes social progress, development and better standards of life for everybody. We live in a world where new challenges are multiplying and old ones never seem to go away. At the same time the multilateral system – that took us over 70 years to build and which should prevent the humanity from ever again experience the horrors of war — is being challenged.
In today’s unpredictable world, we need to join our efforts towards strengthening multilateralism as the only way to secure peace and security for future generations. We all have the responsibility to find common solutions to common threats and challenges we face, while protecting the principles and values of the UN Charter. The spirit of cooperation and common responsibility must guide our work in the years to come. No state, no nation will gain if it only strives to assert its own interests.
The second thing I wanted to say is that Slovenia sees the African Union as its partner, both on its own as well as via the European Union. We cooperate closely in the fora where we share views about the environment and climate changes, human rights and a plethora of global governance themes. We are following closely the African Union reform processes. We are impressed by the major steps towards continental integration in the past few months that offer major opportunities for growth and jobs, as well as for investment.
I am joined in my visit by a few top-notch Slovenian companies, looking for new opportunities. Our political and economic outreach is part of a midterm strategy adopted last year to tackle constructively the continent of the 21st Century. While the first Slovenian explorer ventured into Sub-Saharan Africa already in 1737, Slovenian economy was involved in mutually beneficial relations especially during the last few decades of Slovenia’s tenure in the Yugoslav federation. Today, when tiny Slovenia exports over 30 billion of US dollars and imports also over 30 billion US dollars, albeit mostly in the vicinity of our country, it is high time to venture and invest more courageously into Africa.
The future relations of our two continents will depend very much on the Post-Cotonou agreement. We welcome the start of negotiations of the new Partnership agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states. Slovenia is in favor of an agreement suitable for today and tomorrow that would bridge the current divisions. As it will be a mixed agreement in the competence of member states of the EU, Slovenia is paying particular attention to this dossier. This agreement should take into account the specificities of all partners while at the same time representing the foundation of an equal partnership. I am aware the negotiations will be demanding, but this is the only approach to carry out globally the Agenda 2030.
Achievement of sustainable development, including environment protection, is a crucial precondition for peace. For both continents it is important that economic growth will not go at the expense of safe environment. The Agenda of the Union (Agenda 2063) aims for ”an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in international arena”, a vision that mutually supports the vision of the Agenda 2030.
All in all, we live in a different world today than at the beginning of the century, and the new reality demands new approaches. Our economies and our societies are however more and more interconnected and the need to address common challenges jointly becomes more and more apparent. New reality requires strong equal and inclusive partnership. In this regard resilience is a crucial element that will face new challenges.
Common challenges such as terrorism, failure to comply with UN resolutions, climate change, cyber and hybrid threats, migration etc. are connecting us in striving for common solutions to respond to these challenges. This could be best implemented through effective multilateralism in security challenges.
Let me say just a few things about peace and security. We are all aware that without peace and security there can be no development. In the eyes of many Europeans, Africa is the continent of wars and conflicts, as well as a source of unwanted migrations. I feel we should strive on both sides of the Mediterranean to break these stereotypes. We need more joint projects to better understand conflicts, their causes and consequences.
Slovenia is very much engaged in shaping EU policies. You are all well aware that EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy is adopted on the basis of the unanimity. This makes the 28 Member States both quite responsible as well as influential in the shaping and adoption of this policy. I am glad to see that EU’s Political Security Committee has developed a permanent dialogue with the AU Peace and Security Council. For Slovenia, the PSC to PSC exchange of views, is broadening our foreign policy horizons and deepening our mutual understanding.
I was impressed by the rapid and successful intervention during the crisis in the Gambia, demonstrating both effective reaction of the region as well as an all-Africa support. The Memorandum of Understanding between the EU and AU as well as trilateral cooperation EU-AU-UN are excellent examples of setting foundations for permanent cooperation between Europe and Africa.
Now, let me diverge a little bit and to point out one of our main challenges in the future: availability of natural resources, notably so water management. Access to safe drinking water is crucial for human food security as well as for sustained peace and conflict prevention. Post-conflict countries with high food insecurity are 40 per cent more likely to relapse into conflict within a 10-year timespan. On the other hand, during emergencies and in conflict situations, water and sanitation systems often collapse and are difficult to maintain.
Please allow me to highlight that Slovenia was the first EU country which enshrined the right to safe drinking water in its Constitution in 2016. Slovenia has important experience in water management and is ready to share its know-how. One of the important elements to face these challenges is regional and inter-continental cooperation. Regional cooperation was one of the basic elements in European integration, as regional economic organizations also play important role in African integration. “Water dialogues” are not only a contribution to regional integration – with important cases both in Europe and in Africa – but they also represent a model of social practice with the potential of building sustainable peace.
In view of this, allow me to highlight two crucial areas that can greatly contribute to reaching our common goal of enhanced peace and security. First: the participation of women in peace-building and their crucial role in the process. Second: the importance of quality education for children and youth as a building block of prosperous societies, and a means of preventing radicalization and violent extremism.
Women represent half of world’s population. Yet, their contribution to peace-building remains undervalued and under-resourced. International experience demonstrates that equal and meaningful participation of women in peace-building processes presents an advantage and added value to the efforts towards prevention and resolution of conflicts, in peace negotiations, peacekeeping, humanitarian responses and post-conflict reconstruction.
Our experience in Slovenia shows that in crisis management processes and peacekeeping missions, an increasing number of female members of Slovene Armed Forces ensure better quality of brokerage and mediation, particularly when in contact with socially underprivileged groups and local women in crisis areas. We must, therefore, endeavor to acknowledge women’s importance as well as to enhance their participation and influence in decision-making in all areas related to peace and security at local, regional and global levels.
Young people, especially those living in vulnerable context and from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly affected by the growing economic gap, which must be reduced. Quality education of children and youth, paired with prospects for productive employment and decent work later in their life, is an efficient and effective vehicle for their social, economic and political empowerment.
Young people, in particular those without tangible prospects for a decent and meaningful livelihood, and those who gave up on their future and personal aspirations, may be especially susceptible to radicalization. We therefore should join forces to provide quality education to all children and youth on an equal basis. This can foster long-lasting social cohesion, help build egalitarian societies and create conditions in which radicalization and extremism can be effectively countered, especially among the young.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,
Three weeks ago I took part in New York in the event marking the100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. One of the greatest sons of Africa devoted his life to fighting for truth, justice and equality for all peoples irrespective of race, religion or creed, notably through perseverance, patience and striving for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. You may think that Slovenians and Africans are very far apart. Perhaps geographically, yes. But we were very close to him in spirit during the difficult parts of our history, when we were struggling against subjugation and for freedom and independence, as well as national reconciliation.
Let me quote something that he said and, word by word, his thoughts were and are our thoughts, reminding us Slovenes of the words of France Prešeren, our greatest poet of almost 200 years ago: “We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign.”