Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
6 - 12 April 2000
Issue No. 476
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'A strategic partnership'

Mubarak
Address by President Hosni Mubarak
to the inaugural Session of the Africa-Europe Summit

His Excellency Brother Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika, president of the Democratic People's Republic of Algeria, current chairman of the Organisation of African Unity, His Excellency Mr Antonio Manual de Oliviera Guterres, prime minister of Portugal, current president of the European Union, Your Majesties and Excellencies Kings and Heads of State, Your Excellencies Heads of Government, His Excellency Mr Salim Ahmad Salim, secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity, His Excellency Mr Romani Prodi, head of the European Commission, His Excellency Mr Ibrahima Fal, assistant secretary-general of the UN Organisation,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure at the outset to welcome you all as esteemed guests of African Egypt -- the cradle of human civilisation and heavenly messages, an ever-flowing fountain of knowledge and arts, a crossroads of cultures and sciences, a bridge linking peoples and a point of convergence between both ancient and modern world continents.

The hosting by Egypt of this unique event today, and the intensified contacts conducted by Egypt to make possible this historical meeting between Africa and Europe, embody Egypt's complete conviction of the importance of establishing strategic partnership, that reflects both parties' political will and joint determination to make use of the relations of the past, promote bonds of the present and realise ambitions of the future with the purpose of enhancing friendship and cooperation between both sides and realising their common interests in bringing about a better life for both the African and the European nations alike.

In this context, I would like to pay tribute to the Portuguese-European initiative that adopted the idea of this summit. I would like as well to commend the constructive response on the part of the African countries and the Organisation of African Unity to put this initiative into effect in a world that is witnessing the increasing role of large groupings, as well as growing and multiplying forums of cooperation and dialogue, thus opening new prospects for enhancing economic interaction and integration as well as international peace and security.

At present, we look forward to a new form of close partnership among our countries, based on common interests and mutual benefits in order to attain the sublime goal of realising prosperity and welfare for the nations of both continents.

Hence, it is worth mentioning that African countries have made significant strides over the past decade to create a favourable atmosphere to pave the way for their continent to overcome the problems it has suffered from for long years, and to enable the continent to integrate and interact with the global economy, relying on a stable base, with a view to achieving the aspired economic and social development.

During the past decade, the African countries have adopted broad programmes for economic restructuring reform and infrastructure upgrading. In the meantime, sub-regional economic blocs continue to forge their way towards their goals and to establish the main pillars for building the African Economic Community. To this end, these blocs have accomplished several constructive achievements.

In addition to the awareness of the necessity of accelerating African regional integration to cope with the recent changes in the international arena, such successes have stimulated the decision by African leaders to expedite the establishment of the African Unity institutions and the Pan-African Parliament. Furthermore, the year 2000 was declared the year of peace in Africa and a ministerial conference on security, stability, development and cooperation in the continent is to be held.

During the last decade, Africa has witnessed prompt efforts to establish pillars of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights and the rule of law. These efforts aim at enhancing popular participation in all walks of life, maximising contribution of the civil society in capacity building, ensuring the rights of the African citizen, as well as improving the level of his performance and awareness. It augurs well that this month marks the first anniversary of the Grand Bay Declaration and plan of action of the First African Ministerial Conference on Human Rights that embodied Africa's faith in such sublime principles.

Within the framework of these efforts and in recognition of the organic correlation between development, democracy and stability, African countries have spared no effort to curb conflicts which are still the main source of suffering and waste of resources and energies in many African regions.

In 1995, the Organisation of African Unity's Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution was established in Cairo. On more than one occasion, this mechanism has proved the ability of the continent's peoples to handle their own affairs, perform their vanguard role in preventing aggravation of conflicts and finding urgent solutions for them without neglecting the basic responsibility entrusted to the Security Council for maintaining international peace and security according to the United Nations Charter.

In the same vein, Africa has monitored with interest the UN secretary-general's report on "the reasons of conflicts and means to reach permanent peace and sustainable development in Africa" which had a favourable effect on attracting world attention over the past period to the adverse impact of these conflicts on its economies and development potential.

In this context, I would like specifically to pinpoint two outstanding achievements already made, thanks to the wisdom and insight of the African leaders, with the purpose of enhancing the concept of security and stability in the African continent. The first was the signing in 1996 of the African Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone Treaty in Cairo (the Treaty of Pelindaba) which, we hope, will be supplemented with a tantamount achievement by the establishment of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East, particularly in view of the close association not only between the security of both regions but also between the security of the Middle East and European security.

The second achievement is the adoption by the Algiers Summit of the African Agreement on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism. We look to the international community to support this achievement by convening an international conference under the umbrella of the United Nations so as to draw up an overall strategy to wipe out the terrorism that jeopardises the security of our societies worldwide.

Supplementing these achievements are a number of additional recent accomplishments, including the settlement of several African issues that had long afflicted the leaders of the continent. Of these, I specifically mention the situations in Sierra Leone, Central Africa, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia. Concomitantly, efforts by the leaders of the continent, in coordination with the United Nations, have culminated in an agreement, that will hopefully ensure the settlement of the Democratic Congo crisis.

At present, further efforts are being exerted to settle problems in Somalia and Angola, and alleviate tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia as well as other areas of tension, thus allowing peace to prevail in the African continent and allowing Africans to dedicate their efforts to building and developing their societies.

Your Majesties and Excellencies Kings and Heads of State and Government, Esteemed Guests,

The development of the African continent is, in the first place, the responsibility of its own peoples and governments. This is a concept that was emphasised in the Cairo plan of action issued by the 1995 African Summit. The plan also underscored that democracy, good governance, peace, security, stability and justice are essential factors for African socio-economic development.

Although structural reform programmes in most countries of the continent have already contributed to rationalising and maximising benefits from available resources, and although these programmes were accompanied by serious efforts to build democratic institutions, it is still imperative to work together to boost this improvement in the political and economic climate through a steady increase in the flow of investment resources -- something which has not yet materialised properly in many African regions. Indeed, governmental and private financial flows into the continent over the past two decades have shown a tangible falling-off, while world prices of raw materials are going down and the continent's share of world trade is shrinking.

Under these unfavourable external conditions, the African debt crisis has been aggravated to unprecedented dimensions, while existing mechanisms have proven either extremely slack or fallen far short of easing its burdens.

The flow of initiatives recently launched to deal with this problem may reflect awareness by the international community of its magnitude and the need to invent unconventional solutions in order to overcome it.

Here, we should like to emphasise our conviction of the need to find a radical solution to this problem so as to enable the African continent to utilise these resources in enhancing development efforts and modernising its infrastructure. On the same subject, we would like to commend the efforts of HE Mr Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika, president of Algeria, and HE Mr Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, in carrying out the mandate entrusted to them by the recent OAU Summit in Sert to negotiate with the lending countries to ease debt burdens and service cost. We hope that our conference will give a strong impetus to these efforts towards achieving our common objectives.

Your Majesties and Excellencies Kings and Heads of State and Government, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Through this historic event that Cairo hosts today, we look not to secure more aid, but rather to develop our mutual partnership and cooperation programmes. We further seek to support the sustained efforts exerted by the African peoples on all levels to achieve a comprehensive revival for the continent, in a way that allows Africa to occupy the position it deserves and thus ultimately realise the joint interests of both parties.

There is no doubt that achieving an appropriate level of sustainable development, in the broad sense of the word, by boosting Africa's capabilities to produce, consume and create new investment and trade opportunities, will also generate positive returns to the rest of the world in general, and to Europe in particular.

Actually, there already exist several cooperation programmes and joint agreements between Africa and Europe on both bilateral and sub-regional levels. However, this historic summit should contribute to establishing an overall and effective concept for a strategic partnership between both parties, which can achieve a qualitative leap in the volume and depth of cooperation, supported by a common political will to further and maximise it with time.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my confidence that our open-minded and open-hearted discussions and deliberations will contribute to setting solid bases for a sustainable and evolving strategic partnership within the framework of a well-defined working programme. With clear-cut components and objectives, this programme can provide an effective and constructive means to follow up issues to be agreed upon, as well as a firm base for future fruitful relations that would realise the common interests of our peoples and contribute to establishing an international community where security, justice, peace and welfare prevail.

My best wishes to you all for a pleasant stay in Egypt, as well as for our historic conference to succeed in achieving our common goals.

Thank you

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