Opening Speech by H.E. Dr. Michael Spindelegger at the Africa-EU Energy Partnership in Vienna
C H E C K A G A I N S T D E L I V E R Y
Distinguished Co-Chair of Mauritius, Your Excellency Mr Virahsawmy, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of the Republic of Mauritius,
Honourable Commissioner of the African Union Dr. Ibrahim,
Dear Commissioner of the European Union Mr. Öttinger
Dear State Secretary Dr. Kopp of Germany,
I have the honour to welcome you here in Vienna at the First High Level Meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership. It is my great pleasure to address you here today in light of the importance of strong and renewed political, social and economic ties between our two continents. Universal energy access is a precondition for economic development and social progress. It is also a key factor in addressing a number of interrelated issues including global security, climate change, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. On the eve of the High Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals next week in New York, it is indeed very timely to come together. And indeed, it is very timely to send a clear message of energy cooperation in view of the upcoming Africa-EU Summit which will take place end of November in Lybia.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The EU-Africa summit, held in December 2007 in Lisbon, forged a new Africa-EU strategic partnership marking a qualitative leap in relations between the two continents. All African and European Heads of State and Governments agreed to launch the Africa-EU Energy Partnership as one of the eight strategic partnerships comprising the Africa-EU Joint Strategy.
Austria and the co-chairs of this energy partnership, Mauritius and Germany, together with member states, the African Union and the European Commission, are developing this partnership of equals in order to achieve significant results for our joint commitments. This includes the Millennium Development Goals; investments, growth and prosperity through regional integration and closer economic ties; as well as creating new opportunities by shaping global governance in an open and multilateral framework.
This First High Level Meeting of African and European Ministers is clearly a highlight of our partnership. This Meeting will bring together policy makers from the African and the European Union Commissions, national ministers responsible for energy and Africa-EU relations; representatives of the Regional Economic Communities and Power Pools as well as delegates of important specialised institutions and international organisations. In addition, representatives from the business and research as well as from the civil society sector participate in order to promote and enhance the Africa-EU Energy Partnership.
It is thus for us a great privilege to be the host of the First High Level Meeting of the Africa-EU Partnership. I am therefore very thankful to my co-chair His Excellency Mr. VIRAHSAWMY of Mauritius, to Commissioner Dr. IBRAHIM from the African Union and Commissioner for Development PIEBALGS and Commissioner for Energy ÖTTINGER, as well as Parliamentary State Secretary Gudrun KOPP from Germany. And a big thank you to your excellent teams who did all the work behind the scenes.
As a host, I am deeply grateful for all partners for the excellent cooperation that has made this important meeting happen in Vienna. Vienna prides itself to be an international energy hub due to 8 international organisations with energy mandates. In April this year, I proudly presented for the first time in Europe, together with Kandeh Yumkella, head of UN Energy and UNIDO, the report by the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change “Towards a Sustainable Global Energy Future”. Kandeh Yumkella works tirelessly for promoting universal access to energy until 2030, a topic which fits well in our debate on how to provide reliable and affordable energy services to an additional 100 million Africans. This report has one big and important message: the time has come to bring about a transition of the global energy system to greater sustainability.
Energy is at the heart of sustainable development – a development that recognizes that the resources of our earth are limited; a development that does justice to the aspirations of developing nations for growth and prosperity; and finally a development that can support a global population of 9 billion in 2050. Sustainable Energy is also at the heart of what we call a “green economy”, an economy which is ecologically sustainable and socially just. Austrian firms are leaders in many “green economy technologies”. Perhaps your stay in Austria also enables you to initiate useful contacts with the private sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Austria has been pushing for a greater recognition of energy in the context of development cooperation for a long time. Therefore energy is one of the focus areas of the Austrian development cooperation. This is why we are co-chairing the Africa-EU Energy Partnership. This is why we intensify our work with the Regional Economic Communities of Africa such as ECOWAS, SADC, and the East African Community, whose representatives I also like to welcome here today!
Austria supports the Global Energy Assessment to address the challenges of providing energy services for sustainable development. Furthermore, the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy which we launched in 1999 is recognized as a multi-stake-holder platform conducive to realistic dialogues on energy for sustainable development. The Global Forum was our contribution in June 2009 to the Vienna Energy Conference which already proposed energy access and energy efficiency objectives. With all these initiatives we hope to further promote a shared global understanding of “Energy for Sustainable Development”.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Only about 40 percent of the one Billion people living in Africa have access to reliable energy services, even less in rural areas. Energy is at the heart of development of Africa. We, both in Europe and in Africa cannot stand idle. Clearly, meeting our energy needs is a shared challenge. In Europe, we are already facing the consequences of climate change, increasing import dependence and higher energy prices. Consequently, Europe puts a high premium on sustainable energy supply for its energy future. Cooperation with Africa, in particular on renewable energy, is, therefore, also a question of addressing energy security in Europe.
We have gathered here today to send three important messages. Firstly, we will endorse concrete political targets for 2020 on energy access, energy security and renewable energy that will be crucial for our future energy cooperation. Secondly, we will witness the launch of the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme later today. This Cooperation programme will open new linkages in the energy economic sector for industrial trade and business cooperation between Africa and Europe. And thirdly, we will endorse the Africa-European Energy Partnership Road Map, which as a living document will guide our cooperation in the longer term. These will be important messages that light the way for a sustainable future.
With those introductory thoughts, on behalf of my co-chairs from Mauritius, Germany and the African Union Commission, I now declare this conference open and I wish you a successful stay here in Vienna.