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President Ramaphosa woos the EU


President Cyril Ramaphosa with the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.

During a three-nation visit to Europe, President Cyril Ramaphosa sought to strengthen political, economic and multilateral relations with the European Union (EU), which is South Africa’s single largest trade partner.

The visit kicked off in France, where President Ramaphosa addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, before leading the South African delegation to the 7th South Africa–European Union Summit.

“Our visit has been very successful; we were warmly received and our interactions were very positive. South Africa is the only African country, and one of 10 countries globally, that has a strategic partnership with the EU.

“Our coming here has renewed our bonds and relationships with the one bloc of countries that invests the most in our economy,” said the President on his visit.

Celebrating visionary leadership

The President said he was especially honoured by the invitation of the European Parliament for him to address members in the year of the centenary of former President Nelson Mandela.

President Ramaphosa addressed the European Parliament under the theme “A Partnership of Equals Based on Shared Values”.

In his address, President Ramaphosa said President Nelson Mandela remained a universal hero whose visionary leadership is revered across the world.

He also acknowledged tributes received during this special year from leaders and people across Europe and the world who condemned the injustices of apartheid and saluted the activism of struggle heroines and heroes who fought to build a democratic South Africa.

President Ramaphosa called for continued solidarity and collaboration in the fight against poverty, inequality and narrow nationalism and urged the strengthening of multilateralism to promote peace and security, human rights, democracy, the rule of law, free and fair trade, sustainable development and inclusive growth.

7th South Africa-European Union Summit

In Belgium, President Ramaphosa participated in the 7th South Africa-European Union Summit in Brussels in the Kingdom of Belgium.

Through the summit, South Africa and the EU renewed solidarity and agreed to strengthen relations underpinned by increased trade and investment.

The EU is South Africa’s largest trading partner with the value of trade increasing nearly fourfold from R150 billion in 2000 to R599.86 billion in 2017.

More than 2 000 EU companies operate in South Africa, creating more than 500 000 direct and indirect jobs.

According to President Ramaphosa, the summit served as fertile ground to accelerate investment and strengthen bilateral relations.

“The outcomes of this summit support and reinforce the initiatives we have launched in South Africa to accelerate investment, create jobs and promote growth in our economy,” he added.

President Ramaphosa said the summit was used to reinforce ties with Europe and to obtain the EU’s support for South Africa’s economic and development agenda.

“Together with the EU, we have committed ourselves to exploring opportunities for investment, technical assistance, and the improvement of business and investment climates to promote sustainable development.”

During the summit, South Africa and the EU agreed to strengthen cooperation on investment in support of economic development, infrastructure, industrialisation, skills development, small business development and entrepreneurship.

Zimbabwe sanctions

During discussions on peace and security in the respective regions, the summit discussed Zimbabwe.

South Africa called on the EU to review its position on Zimbabwe and move towards lifting sanctions.

South Africa made the case that Zimbabwe is on a path of great reform and needs to be supported.

Peace and security

In 2019, South Africa will take up its non-permanent member seat at the UN Security Council for the period 2019–2020.

The summit agreed that this presents an opportunity to enhance cooperation on peace, security, conflict prevention and other global issues.

“We will identify opportunities for concrete operational cooperation, dedicating special attention to advancing the global women, peace and security agenda, especially in promoting meaningful participation of women in peace processes,” said President Ramaphosa.

The President concluded his working visit to Europe in Geneva, Switzerland, where he co-chaired the fourth meeting of the Global Commission on the Future of Work at the headquarters of the International Labour Organisation.

The commission is expected to release a highly anticipated report on the future of work in January 2019.

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