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Statement by the Irish Minister for Trade and Development at the 25th session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, 18 June 2013

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Statement by the Irish Minister for Trade and Development, Mr Joe Costello

as representative of the President of the EU Council

to the Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly – 25th  session


Honourable Co-Presidents, Distinguished members of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen, 
It is a  great honour and, indeed, a pleasure to participate  in the 25th session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly on behalf of the Council of the European Union today. By gathering members of the European Parliament and of the National Parliaments of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States, it represents the spirit of the partnership established by the Cotonou Agreement particularly well.
Allow me to start by highlighting the importance the Council of the European Union attaches to this Assembly. At a time when accountability and visibility of decisions are crucial to their acceptance, the Assembly contributes to the legitimacy of the positions and actions taken in our relations with ACP . 
The last ACP-EU Council of Ministers that I had the honour to co-chair has prepared and adopted a report to the Joint Parliamentary Assembly on the implementation of our Partnership Agreement. This is worth mentioning because it represents a step forward in the complementarity between these two important institutions created by the Cotonou Agreement.
The Council of the European Union listens to the voice coming from this Assembly and took good note of the resolutions adopted during your last session. Since the meeting in Surinam in December, our partnership continues to make tangible progress. Let me mention a few examples:
In Mali, the situation today is quite different than at the height of the crisis. The international military operation launched in January 2013 in response to the terrorist offensive against the centre and the south of Mali helped create an environment conducive to the full return to constitutional normalcy, stability and lasting peace. The adoption of a Transition Road Map has enabled the gradual resumption of EU development aid on 31 January followed by the resumption of the political dialogue between Mali and the EU under article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement. The EU Training Mission in Mali has started military training on 2 April. 
The EU contributed significantly to the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali through logistical and financial support. A High Level Donor's Conference on Development in Mali was organised in Brussels on 15 May 2013 and brought together key countries to contribute to the country's development. The total amount pledged (EUR 3,25 Billion) exceeded all expectations. A first round of elections is now scheduled for 28 July and we are glad to say that the EU's on-going financial electoral assistance (EUR 2 M for electoral sensitization and EUR 15 M for general support) will be complemented by an electoral observation mission. I would particularly like to thank your co-president for his close personel involvement by participating in the fact-finding mission to Mali.
In Somalia, the end of the transition marked by the adoption of a provisional Constitution, the selection of a Federal Parliament and the election of a new President constitutes a historic opportunity to leave behind two decades of conflict. As a sign of support to the new government's vision and and the coutnry's ongoing transformation, the ACP-EU Council of Ministers has agreed to the accession of the Federal Republic of Somalia to the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement. This historic decision opens a new chapter in relations between the European Union and Somalia allowing the country to regain its status as a full-fledged member of the international community. 
The Great Lakes region and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have entered a decisive phase following the signature of a Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (for the DRC and the region) in February 2013. The adoption of a UNSC resolution extending and strengthening MONUSCO's mandate was also crucial. In this regard, I welcome the recent appointment by the UN Secretary-General of Mary Robinson as his Special Envoy to oversee the implementation of the Framework Agreement. The EU looks forward to working with the Special Envoy as part of a renewed international effort to break the cycle of violence in eastern DRC.  
The draft strategic framework for the Great Lakes Region, proposed by the High Representative and the European Commission to forge a coordinated approach to the multi-faceted security and development challenges facing the eastern DRC, will soon be submitted to EU Foreign affairs ministers.
While these recent developments are signs of progress, other sources of concern remain in Africa. For instance the recent events in the Central African Republic or the problems related with the forthcoming elections in Guinea Conakry. I know that, on both topics, this Assembly will adopt resolutions during this session. I am sure these resolutions will constitute an important contribution to the shaping of future policies of the EU and the ACP governments.
In the Caribbean region, the implementation of the joint Caribbean-EU Partnership strategy has started and there is steady progress on implementing the CARIFORUM-EU EPA. 
In the Pacific, the EU will continue to pay special attention to regionally integrating the Pacific OCTs,; this includes addressing shared climate change challenges. Looking ahead, substantial cooperation on the regional level should continue to assist the region in meeting challenges such as building resilience to Climate Change, improving its record on gender equality, and integrating into the world economy. 
Some issues you debated during your sessions such as Food and nutrition security, agricultural policies, violence against women, children and vulnerable groups or the threat posed again by military coups on democracy and the role of the international community represent very good examples on which the EU and the ACP countries could strengthen their future cooperation.
Our partnership needs to be turned towards the future. We need to forge stronger alliances on new challenges: further strengthening regional integration, eradicating poverty where it is most needed, and better integrating ACP countries in the world economy. In Vanuatu last year, the ACP-EU Council of Ministers adopted a joint Declaration ahead of the Rio+20 Conference. The EU found this approach extremely productive and helpful. We would therefore like to repeat this experience in the run-up to the Special Event on the MDGs in September during the 68th UNGA.
Preparing a common approach towards the post-2015 agenda is crucial: if we manage to forge an alliance on this issue in the coming year, we may have a decisive impact on the global negotiations ahead of us. The post-2015 process should reinforce our commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development and set out a single comprehensive and coherent framework for effective delivery and results at all levels. 
I would like to highlight the momentous event that has taken place less than 2 weeks ago at the last ACP-EU Council of Ministers: the adoption of the financial protocol after the European Council had decided to establish an 11th EDF on 8 February this year. The European Union has made available over 31,5 billion Euro for ACP States. By doing this, Member States have committed themselves to continue their financial support to ACP countries for the next seven years, despite the difficult financial and economic situation. The European Union will make available more than 4.5 billion EURO per year to the ACP-EU cooperation during the next 7 years,  in order to ensure the same level of quality and effectiveness of ACP-EU cooperation as in the past.
The Programming exercise for the 11th EDF has already started. The coming months will be spent determining the first range of indicative allocations per country and drafting the National Indicative Programmes according to the guidelines set in the Agenda for Change. I know how important this is for the ACP countries and that some of you  are concerned about following a differentiated approach. But these changes to allocating assisstance are crucial to ensure maximum impact and value for money with EU aid. Giving the European Parliament democratic scrutiny of the EDF on a voluntary basis is a major step towards increasing the role of this democratically elected institution.
Honourable Members, over the past years we have made important progress on a number of issues I mentioned, but there is much more we can do together. I look forward to a genuinely rich and interesting exchange of views  today on how we can further reinforce our partnership.

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