Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media.
Visit to Europe
We are scheduled to meet Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is also the Vice-President of the European Commission, for the 12th SA-EU Ministerial Political Dialogue (MPD) on Monday, 10 June 2013.
The Ministerial Political Dialogue is a structured engagement that takes place annually as part of the SA-EU Strategic Relationship. It also serves as a preparatory meeting for the annual SA-EU Summit, which this year will take place in South Africa on 18 July 2013.
South Africa and the EU’s common interests and shared values provide a natural foundation for the strategic partnership, underpinned by the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA), which was signed in 1999. The TDCA provided the legal basis for close relations on trade, development, economic cooperation and political dialogue and was an important stepping stone for the eventual establishment of the SA-EU Strategic Partnership and the adoption of its Joint Action Plan in May 2007.
In 2013, the engagements between South Africa and the EU will be focussed around a central theme namely “Job Creation Through Inward Investment” in response to the diverse demands of the National Development Plan. South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) sets out ambitious goals for poverty reduction, economic growth, economic transformation and job creation.
It is hoped that European investment in South Africa will continue to play a vital role in bringing the vision and proposals contained in the NDP to life. Investment, in this regard, should be seen as broad and multi-facetted to encompass all the aspects of South Africa’s relationship with Europe.
From a trade perspective, the EU has maintained its lead as South Africa’s most important regional trading partner between 2000 and 2011. Since the entry into force of the TDCA, there has been a 128% increase in total trade between South Africa and the EU.
The EU in addition remains South Africa’s main partner in terms of development assistance. Currently the EU has set aside €980 million (close to R10 billion for South Africa) for the period 2007-2013 or about €140 million a year. To date, the total envelope has been committed largely towards areas of employment creation, water services, health and education through the use of South African systems. However, South Africa’s classification as high middle-income state signifies a possible decrease in development assistance from the EU.
The SA-EU Ministerial Political Dialogue on 10 June 2013 will provide for a high-level discussion on issues pertaining to the SA-EU Strategic Partnership, areas of common interest in Africa, specifically in terms of peace and security; and SA-EU international cooperation. Major issues to be discussed include ongoing negotiations regarding the Economic Partnership Agreements; domestic developments in both South Africa and Europe, considering the 2014 General Elections in South Africa and the ongoing financial crisis in Europe; and developments regarding SA-EU development cooperation.
We will also hold bilateral discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Mr Didier Reynders. In July last year, we hosted Minister Reynders during his visit to South Africa. During that meeting, we extensively discussed the state of bilateral relations between South Africa and Belgium and exchanged views on developments on the continent, including the situation in the Great Lakes Region.
Belgium is one of South Africa’s development partners. Cooperation between the two countries covers a broad range of areas, development cooperation, transport and logistics. In particular, cooperation between the Ports of Durban and Antwerp is longstanding and highly valued.
Belgium remains a valued economic partner of South Africa and trade and tourism between the two countries are growing. Belgium is South Africa’s 12th largest export destination globally and the 4th in Europe.
Belgium ranks 6th in the world in terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in South Africa, focusing on the following sectors: mining, green energy, ports, logistics and agriculture. Belgium is also one of the leading sources of inbound tourism. In 2012, more than 44 000 Belgian tourists visited South Africa.
Currently Belgium has allocated an amount of €25 million (R327,3 million) as Official Development Cooperation in South Africa over five years, up to 2016. In addition, the Region of Flanders also has a programme valued at €25 million, over the same time period.
From Beigium, we will proceed to Turkey for an Official Visit to on 13 June 2013 at the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Minister Dr. Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Our visit to Europe will conclude in Finland, where we will participate in the 13th African and Nordic Foreign Ministers Meeting, scheduled for 15-16 June 2013.
The meeting is expected to address three issues, namely: (1) How do macro-economic challenges affect the Nordic Welfare model? (2) Africa on the rise – how to make economic growth inclusive? and (3) Seeking solutions to African conflicts – the role of regional and global actors.
South Africa attaches great importance to its Nordic partners and believes that this engagement will serve as a platform to further consolidate and strengthen the already cordial relations with the Nordics.