/ 16 September 2011

EU-SA trade talks shows all is well between parties

The European Union-South Africa summit that took place on Thursday in the Kruger National Park was a testimony of the excellent relations the parties share.

“We have been able to tackle issues of common interest in a spirit of friendship and mutual understanding, while continuing to deepen and broaden our cooperation as well,” José Manuel Durão Barroso, president of the European Commission said following the summit’s conclusion.

The summit had taken place at a “crucial juncture” and the world was facing very important challenges especially from an economic point of view.

“As you know South Africa is a key partner for the European Union [EU]. The establishment of a strategic partnership four years ago was a significant milestone in our relations. We want to further deepen our engagement.

“And when we say ‘strategic partner’ it means that apart from our bilateral relationship, that has been deepening in many areas, we also try to discuss and cooperate in matters of global importance,” Barroso said.

During the summit, attended by President Jacob Zuma, several matters were discussed such as the G20, climate change, “and other matters of greatest global relevance”.

Doing its duty
Barroso said the G20 — of which South Africa is a key member — remained an important instrument to achieve strong, balanced and sustainable growth.

“The EU is determined to do its part and stabilise the situation in the euro area. As the president of the European Council said, important steps were already taken and will lead to further integration based on solidarity and responsibility.”

The G20 will meet later this year in Cannes.

Barroso said time was also devoted to the preparation of the Durban Climate Conference.

“The EU is committed to achieving a positive outcome for the world including, naturally, Europe and Africa.

“We emphasised the need to reach a balanced set of decisions to make operational the outcome of the Cancún conference but also to go beyond that and address those issues that are still unresolved. We need collective action by all major emitters reflecting the common responsibility we all have in the fight against climate change.”

Long-term commitments
Regarding the EU’s bilateral relationship with South Africa, he added that the two entities now cooperated on an impressive range of political matters, but also on issues that lay at the heart of economic recovery.

“We have long-term commitments, South Africa and the European Union, on areas as diverse as development aid, education and health, environment, innovation and scientific research, or energy.

“We spent substantive part of our meeting discussing in concrete terms what we can do, for instance, to foster cooperation in science and in research. The communiqué we just approved reflects the intensity and the wide scope of our joint commitment.”

Barroso said that the EU continued to be South Africa’s most important trade and investment partner, accounting for around one third of all imports and exports.

“I am very pleased that there is a renewed momentum of engagement to conclude the economic partnership agreement between the European Union and SADC. The economic partnership agreement will help to clearly underpin and deepen our trade and economic ties to benefit citizens in all SADC countries as well as the European Union as a whole.”

Development partnering
South Africa had a leading role in the region and Barroso added that the EU looked forward to working together to bring this important discussion to a conclusion as a matter of priority.

As a development partner, the EU continued to support South Africa’s national priorities, with contributions to development programmes expected to reach more than €260-million (R2.6-billion) in 2011.

“The commissioner for development of the European Union has launched a primary health programme worth €126-million.

“I will visit a primary school in Soweto which is being financed under our primary education support programme amounting to €122-million.

“These are just two very concrete examples of our renewed commitment with South Africa.” — I-Net Bridge