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South Africa and the EU are better together

13 May 2020

This year Dr Riina Kionka, Ambassador of the European Union celebrated the 70th anniversary of the European Union under South African lockdown rules. The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to many activities around the world and many entities have taken to the digital space to interact.

Photo: Dr Riina Kionka, Ambassador of the European Union in South Africa

To celebrate this milestone MiCasa, a popular, loved, award-winning South African band remotely entertained audiences with their groovy, soulful music.

The European Union delegation in South Africa headed by Dr Kionka was instrumental in repatriating thousands of European citizens who found themselves stranded in South Africa after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a total lockdown from 27 March 2020. This was an enormous logistical task with airlines grounded, airspaces restricted and movement of people not allowed.  But the European ambassadors in South Africa rallied together and successfully facilitated the safe return of their citizens.

Dr Kionka’s remarks on Europe Day 2020

Every year, on the 9th of May, we mark Europe Day.

Not only is the day about celebrating peace and unity in Europe, but it also commemorates the day in 1950 when then-French foreign minister Robert Schuman shared his vision of a new Europe which would make war between the European countries unthinkable. His proposal - the so-called Schuman Declaration - gave birth to what we know today as the European Union.

So, in fact, today - Europe Day - is the European Union's 70th birthday!

During the last 70 years, we've seen good times and we've seen bad. But even in the midst of a crisis, or ESPECIALLY in the midst of crisis, Europe's Member States remain convinced that we are better together.

That's how we see our ties with South Africa as well.

Now, if you follow the local media, you might be forgiven for gaining the impression that China, Russia, or the United States are the number one partner for South Africa. Not so! In fact, the European Union is South Africa's number one partner in trade, investment and cooperation.

In addition, South Africa is one of the EU's 10 Strategic Partner countries in the world, and the only one on the African continent.

But our partnership is not limited to a bilateral relationship. We are partners on the global stage as well, especially this year, as South Africa chairs the African Union and sits on the United Nations' Security Council.

Right now, most of us are thinking of little else but how to manage this Covid-19 pandemic.

But even that, we are doing together. Whether by

  • channelling funds to focus on the pandemic;
  • or by working together to promote unhindered trade of health related items;
  • or in the Global Response to finding a vaccine, producing it and deploying it around the world. Last Monday, President Ramaphosa took part in an EU-led global fundraiser in which he pledged AU as well as South African support to this effort.  

So whether we work together

  • on a just transition to a green economy,
  • on harnessing the power of digital technologies to improve the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people,
  • on upholding the rules based international order,
  • on promoting and protecting human rights,
  • on rallying free and fair trade,

… South Africa and the EU are better together.

Happy Europe Day!




February/March 2020








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