18 April 2013
Good morning ladies and gentleman,
It is a great pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn on his first official visit to Europe.
I also know this is the first official visit that he pays outside of Africa after his election, and I thank you for that. I think this is a signal of the commitment of Ethiopia to the good relationship with the European Union.
Let me also stress on behalf of the European Union our interest to further deepen our political and economic relations, and to tackle wider regional security challenges.
Today we had a very open and friendly discussion on a number of issues related to our bilateral relations.
I have congratulated Ethiopia on its continued significant and broad based economic performance as well on its impressive progress in poverty reduction and Millenium Development Goals' achievements.
But Ethiopia still has potential do more and better. I have heard the Prime-Minister's plans for the next stages of development of the country. I had the opportunity to recall that this ambitious agenda also requires the widest possible participation and support throughout society.
Ultimately economic growth can only be sustained if it is achieved in an open society respectful of fundamental rights and also freedom, from freedom of expression to freedom of the press.
We want to be a partner of Ethiopia in this process. And if I may quote the Prime Minister, indeed we are a partner and we are proud of our contribution to Ethiopia's growth and development. We have been a very active partner in terms of cooperation, development and investment, with our companies there, and we want to remain a very important partner, in the interest of Ethiopia, in the interest of the region, in the interest of our overall relations with Africa and also in the interest of the European Union. Our relationship with Ethiopia is today a more mature relationship, it's not just of course development assistance, it's much more than that. It's also political cooperation, it's also what we can do together to tackle some common challenges.
We have already substantial and diversified economic and trade relations. The European Union is the most important trade partner for Ethiopia, with over 40% of Ethiopia's exports coming to Europe. This reflects our broader openness and commercial commitment to Ethiopia and our African friends.
And we stand ready to support the Government in its long-term vision leading to growth and increased investment and, at this respect, we fully support Ethiopia's efforts to join the World Trade Organisation.
Our development cooperation is also part of our commitment to Ethiopia's prosperity. Good results have been achieved in our cooperation on food security and on basic service delivery throughout the country. We look forward to continuing this good cooperation throughout the next European Development Fund, the 11th European Development Fund, which will apply as of next year, with an even stronger focus on health issues. It is my pleasure to announce today that the European Union has already now agreed to an additional allocation of € 30 million for maternal health. The Prime Minister has explained to me how Ethiopia intends to reach on time all the Millenium Development Goals and this is our additional contribution for that purpose. Once again I'm congratulating Ethiopia for the achievements so far.
Finally, I also commended Prime Minister Dessalegn for Ethiopia's important and positive role on a number of regional issues and crisis situations in the Horn of Africa and beyond. I am referring specifically to Ethiopia's political and security efforts in Sudan, its engagement in Somalia and within regional organisations. As chair of the African Union, Ethiopia will represent Africa at the G20 summit and during the climate negotiations, key issues for the European Union where we share a strong agenda with our African partners.
So we also discussed some regional issues, and the broader priority of the African Union-European Union relationship. Next week I will be in Addis Ababa, precisely chairing, on the European side, the meeting between the African Union Commission and the European Commission. We are precisely now preparing what it can be a very successful Summit, the 2014 European Union-African Union Summit. And I'm sure that Ethiopia, under the leadership of Prime Minister Dessalegn, will give a very important contribution for that success.
You can be assured that the European Union will continue to support Ethiopia on its path towards further economic and social development, in our mutual interest.
And once again thank you for your visit to Brussels.