Address by Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, at the African Union-European Union Summit

(check against delivery)

I would like to begin by thanking President Ouattara for hosting this African Union‑European Union Summit here in Côte d’Ivoire.

This meeting has come at a very important juncture.

It rounds off a year of events focusing on Africa which began with the France–Africa Summit in Bamako. This was followed by the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, the European Development Days in Brussels and the G20 African Partnership Conference in Berlin.

And now here we are in Abidjan.

The very fact that we are meeting shows that at long last we have collectively grasped the importance of our partnership.

The time has come to translate words into actions, and this summit needs to be the guarantor of that.  

This is what our citizens are asking us, both in Europe and in Africa.

Last week, the European Parliament held an ‘Africa week’ of parliamentary activities, including a high-level conference on the need to reinvigorate our partnership.

As I often say, we need to look at Africa through African eyes, and not European ones.

That is why we invited many delegations from African countries to that event, starting with the Central African Republic – I thank President Touadéra once again for attending.

There were also delegations from Mali – thank you, President Keita, for sending two of your government ministers – Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco and a number of other countries.

The official bodies of the African Union also sent senior representatives, starting with my counterpart, the President of the Pan-African Parliament.

The European Parliament, as a directly elected institution, naturally attaches great importance to good relations between our two continents.

I would go still further and say that it regards such good relations as an absolute necessity.

We are tied by a common history, by our geography, by shared values and languages.

We have to nurture this comparative advantage on a daily basis not to let it slip away.

We do not only have common bonds, but also, and above all, common challenges and interests.

Let us not forget that together we represent more than one third of the countries in the world.

Together we can adopt common positions and achieve common goals in multilateral fora, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation, as we did during the negotiations on the Paris climate agreement.

This is our strength and that is the strategic interest which should bring us together and give us unity of purpose.

As I said, we have common challenges and interests. I will name just four: migration flows; the fight against terrorism; addressing climate change; economic growth and employment.

We must take action now in these four areas or it may be too late.

This time we are faced with an emergency in the form of Africa’s population explosion: 1 billion people today, 2.5 billion by 2050 and 4.4 billion by 2100.

Hence the theme of this Summit: youth.

Because of this population explosion, in the very near future Africa will have to create several million jobs to cater for the new arrivals on the job market.

It is those young people that we must offer a tangible response in the form of job opportunities and decent living conditions. In short, we must offer hope.

But first we need a new approach, one that is no longer be based solely on development assistance, but rather on a partnership of equals and on large-scale investment with the aim of developing the continent – with the focus on people, on the real economy, on SMEs and on entrepreneurs.

We have a duty to be ambitious.

That is why I keep saying that we need a genuine Marshall Plan for Africa with a budget of EUR 40 billion.

There is untapped potential in Africa. Genuine opportunities exist in a range of sectors – think of digitalisation, agriculture and rural development. But this also calls for high‑quality training and education –  not least for future leaders and managers.

University exchanges, legal migration and mobility must be used to drive development.

We must facilitate university exchanges, support the financing of exchanges through Erasmus+ and expand young entrepreneur exchange programmes.

This requires a joint effort from us, the European and African institutions, but also from the member countries – which means you.

I welcome on this score the initiatives taken by Chancellor Merkel and the German G20 Presidency, by Paolo Gentiloni and the Italian G7 Presidency and by President Macron, in particular as regards the Sahel.

This is a key region, and we must do everything we can to prevent it from collapsing and destabilising Africa as a whole, since this would create enormous risks for both our continents.

The Sahel is a perfect example of why a holistic approach is needed, because business, trade and investment can only flourish and generate jobs and sustainable, inclusive growth in a climate of peace, security, stability, respect for human rights and good governance.

The task ahead of us is a huge one.

Let me end, therefore, with an appeal.

Our summits take place every three years. That is barely enough to nurture a privileged relationship. We must meet more often. I therefore propose to meet every two years.

More than that, we must meet in between our summits for follow-up meetings for implementation at several levels including also the participation of civil society, the younger generations and the economic actors who will indeed materialise and push forward our ambitions. 

That was the thrust of the declaration which was adopted at yesterday’s Parliamentary Summit and which my counterpart from the Pan-African Parliament and I are submitting to you today.

Thank you.