This gathering of Europe and Africa takes place at a time when we are all looking to consolidate the unity of our respective regions, and also collaborate more effectively, as work continues toward a post-Cotonou agreement.
The institutional reform of the African Union, currently underway, aims to make our organisation more focused, effective, and financially sustainable.
As such, the reform decision expresses the collective determination of African leaders to accelerate progress toward the African Union’s founding ambitions.
I would like to emphasise two points as we begin our summit.
First, these reforms are both necessary and urgent.
The forces reshaping the global economic and security environment mean that Africa’s future increasingly depends on the quality of cooperation within our own continent, first and foremost.
This includes, critically, our responsibility to mobilise the resources to pay for important programmes that benefit our people, while alleviating the burden on our partners.
As a result, this time around, a robust implementation mechanism has been put in place, at both political and technical levels, to maintain momentum.
The process is characterised by flexibility in accommodating the specific needs of member states, while maintaining fidelity to the core principles and outcomes, and more fundamentally, ownership of the organisation’s activities.
The critical role already played by the Regional Economic Communities will also be enhanced by a clear division of labour, and improved coordination with the African Union Commission.
In short, the institutional reform is undoubtedly moving forward, and it is going to make a positive difference.
The second point, is that the reform represents a landmark opening to strengthen the partnership between Europe and Africa.
Europe and Africa are permanent neighbours, and we have a shared understanding of numerous key interests, notably in terms of security, migration, environment, trade and investment.
In this regard, a test of our collaboration and our humanity lies clearly before us, with the unfolding tragedy of African migrants in Libya, and in similar situations elsewhere. We must act together.
A more decisive and self-sufficient African Union will mean more favourable and reliable external partnerships for everyone involved. After all, why would anyone want to work with a not so organised or inefficient partner?
Continued cooperation and understanding from the European Union is an important factor in the success of this effort.
It is no accident that the institutional reform puts youth engagement and participation at the centre.
Guaranteeing opportunity, safety, and voice to the young people of both Europe and Africa, is the best defence of our shared values, and our common future.
I thank you for your kind attention.