Address by the Hon Mr Andries Nel, MP,
Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (responsible for Provincial and Local Government)
at the celebration of Europe Day at the Embassy of the European Union
in Tshwane on
9 May 2018
Your Excellency, Ambassador Marcus Cornaro, Ambassador of the European Union to South Africa,
The Dean and the Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Mr Tom Andersen, Head of the European Investment Bank in South Africa,
Members of the Euro Chamber of Commerce,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of South Africa, I wish to express our heartfelt congratulations to the European Union as it celebrates the 68th Anniversary of Europe Day.
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen
South Africa remains strongly committed to its Strategic Partnership with the European Union, which has created a platform for engagement at various levels – not only on bilateral matters, but also on matters pertaining to regional, continental and global challenges.
During his address to the nation on Freedom Day, 27 April 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa said:
“We have done much to reduce poverty through social grants, access to health care and the provision of houses to the poor.
However, if we are to end poverty, then we need to create much broader economic opportunities.
We need to grow our economy and create decent work.
We need to attract investment on a much greater scale and we need to improve the education and skills of our people.
At the same time, we need to transform the ownership, control and management of the economy so that black South Africans and women are fully represented and equally benefit.
In short, we need to intensify radical economic transformation.
It is for these reasons that, as we celebrate Freedom Month, we are embarking on an ambitious new investment drive that aims to draw local and international investors into those parts of the economy that have the greatest potential for job creation.”
The European Union, as a bloc, is South Africa’s largest trading partner.
Total trade has increased from R150 billion in 2000 to almost R600 billion in 2017, an increase of almost 300 percent.
South African exports to the EU increased from R64 billion in 2000 to R262 billion in 2017, an increase of 409%.
European investors represent 77% of total foreign direct investment in the country. This makes a significant contribution towards job creation and industrialisation in South Africa.
Development cooperation with the European Union is an important pillar of the Strategic Partnership. It contributes substantially to South Africa’s national priorities as outlined in our National Development Plan.
Total assistance provided from 1994 to 2017 amounts to more than 3 billion Euros.
I would like to highlight the cooperation that we enjoy with the EU and its member nations in the very important areas of strengthening local government through the Back to Basics programme and managing urbanisation and reversing apartheid spatial patterns through our Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).
Ladies and Gentlemen
New opportunities, which will lead to deeper regional integration, will be made possible through the development-oriented SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.
The Agreement offers opportunities for South African and European exporters and importers in numerous areas, while affording policymakers the opportunity to advance industrial development.
It is envisaged that the benefits of increased trade will assist in addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality, and unemployment as envisioned in South Africa’s National Development Plan.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Europe has come a long way since 9 May 1950 when Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister, delivered the so-called ‘Schuman declaration’ in which he spelled out the vision for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable. This day is celebrated annually as Europe Day.
As we look forward towards the future of the relationship between South Africa and the European Union, the continuation of the excellent relations remains of great importance.
We, therefore, expect the Strategic Partnership to deepen relationships at all levels – to the benefit our citizens, as well as the development and stability of our regions as responsible global citizens.
The theme for Europe Day this year is: “European Year for Cultural Heritage.”
Therefore, we join you in saying, in the words of the unofficial lyrics of the European Anthem that were proposed in 2005:
“Europe is united now
United it may remain
Our unity in diversity
May contribute to world peace.”
Ladies and Gentlemen
Please join me in raising your glasses in congratulating the European Union on this special occasion.
I thank you.