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EU a proud partner for Uganda’s progress

By Amb. Roberto Ridolfi

Reform is a moral imperative as well as a political and economic necessity

For the newcomers to Europe Day, it is the anniversary of the 1950 Minister Schuman Declaration – the founding vision and inspiration of the European Union – when we celebrate Europe, its achievements, and our partnerships. A recent achievement is the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, an honour of which we are rightly very proud.

Mr. President, policy documents are two a penny in the world of international affairs. However, the EU’s own policy document, The Agenda for Change, is a good one and we build EU-Uganda cooperation around it.

Dear friends, I do not want to list the various projects we run in Uganda. The European Union is proud to have contributed to the improvements in Uganda towards the achievement of the MDGs through our various programmes of around 100 million Euros per year (average).

I also want to highlight the excellent coordination and division of labour between the EU as such and its members in the different sectors of energy, transport infrastructure, Agriculture, the social sectors. And all of us, as you know, follow and support closely sound public financial management, accountability, and democratic governance.

From all our experience, it is evident that the objectives of development, democracy, human rights, good governance and security are interlinked; it is critical for societies to offer a future which young people can believe in and work for.

People-led movements in North Africa and the Middle East give an indication that people demand more – more equity, more freedom, and more opportunity. Countries that deny or are not able to provide these things to their citizens, increasingly become difficult to manage and ultimately [become] unstable. In the EU [region], we currently have a big youth unemployment problem.

The political partnership between the EU and Uganda is very strong. During my time here, I have tried – hope successfully – to deepen this partnership through many interesting exchanges on issues of mutual interest with the Ugandan government and its society at large. Your Excellecny, I have personally learned a lot from them, even more so from you directly but I am sure that Ugandans and perhaps you have learned something from the EU too.

During the last few months in Uganda, as an example of this learning together, our joint efforts have planted the seeds for an even closer partnership – built around some battles in the war against corruption.

This is supporting African solutions to African problems, and that is how we will continue.  The political values of the EU are implemented through our political dialogue and our development cooperation whose future will be [anchored] on:

Infrastructure development: transport sector and energy. The development of Trans-African Networks is vital for Uganda, the EAC and for Africa. The EU will use grants to attract, leverage and multiply investment, blending with loans from public and private investors.

You know well that even at zero interest, loans must be paid back by future generations – entirely legitimate as long as value for money is achieved. Transparent, open and fair procurement procedures are the only way to ensure not just value for money, but legitimacy in the eyes of investors and partners – new and old. I have a personal powerful experience in the former communist countries in Europe.

I am therefore glad that you will host the conference planned by the East African Community, and aided by the EU Delegation, on infrastructure financing scheduled for the July 4-5th, 2013. It will be a great opportunity for Uganda and the EAC to increase access to international financial markets and as you said if it works you will be a “free man.” I hope to join you in that freedom.

Agriculture and agribusiness. There is no sector that is more important to Uganda’s economic development. It’s ‘green gold’ – an eternal and sustainable resource when linked to a network of related industries. The EU wants to pilot with Uganda an Agriculture and Agribusiness Equity Fund, using public sector funds to leverage private sector investment.

Through the above sectors, the EU can be Uganda’s eminent partner in private sector development, supporting our position as by far Uganda’s biggest trading partner. For this, we intend to create a Uganda – EU Chamber of Commerce – a joint venture of mutual interest.

Last but not least – Good Governance. Governance is not only a critical sector in its own right; it is also the ‘keyhole’ sector through which other advances are made possible.  I personally appreciate [the President’s] clear words of commitment on good governance. Strong action is needed. The poor are the principal victims of these inefficient, unjust or corrupt practices. Reform is thus a moral imperative, as well as a political and economic necessity.

We welcome the move to electoral reforms, the [forthcoming] accession to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the imminent appointment of a second Deputy Inspector General of Government. All our guests here will certainly congratulate [your Excellence] upon the commendable work your government has started doing against corruption, the strengthened oversight role of Ugandan institutions in recent months, namely the Office of the Auditor General and Parliament. The opening [up] to cooperate with civil society to uncover corruption is also an asset to the State.

We have managed to build for ourselves – out of unpromising post-war foundations – a union where democracy, human rights and prosperity are almost taken for granted.  We know what effort it takes to attain these treasures, and even more, what is needed to maintain them. The current economic crisis is a clear mark of this. However, we are convinced that through our joint efforts, as united people of Europe, we succeed. One day the same will be said of East Africa and Africa.  That day will not be long in coming. I know you share this conviction, so let us celebrate it together.

This is a slightly abridged version of the EU Head of Delegation Amb. Roberto Ridolfi’s speech on the May 8 Europe Day in Kampala, which President Yoweri Museveni also attended.

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