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EU commemorates EU Day  

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On the 9th of May 2024, the European Union celebrated Europe Day. It is a day to honour our unity, diversity and achievements. With the elections of the European Parliament coming up one month from now, it is important to remember where we come from.

74 years ago, in 1950, the historic ‘Schuman Declaration‘ steered Europe towards a path of peace, prosperity and political cooperation in a continent then ravaged by the aftermath of the Second World War.

The Declaration set out an idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

74 years later, 27 countries form the European Union. Exactly twenty years ago, our European family grew bigger with ten countries joining at once: Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia’s accession a few years later has made our Union even stronger, a greater political, economic and cultural entity.

More countries aspire to join the EU – nine are current candidates – among them, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – and one, Kosovo, is a potential candidate.

The pace of change across the European Union over the past two decades has been remarkable. European integration brought us political, economic and social advancements. War ravaging Ukraine, the Middle East, and beyond show how peace and security can be fragile, and how much we shall invest to preserve and promote it. 

In Europe, we enjoy the freedom to live, study or work anywhere in the EU. 450 million Europeans enjoy freedom of movement across the Union. Citizens have now stronger rights and freedoms. Democracy and the rule of law have been reinforced, despite being tested at times. Opportunities for both people and business have grown.

The EU is the largest trade bloc in the world. It is the world’s biggest exporter of manufactured goods and services, and the biggest import market for over 100 countries. Free trade among its members was one of the EU’s founding principles and one that inspires EU action at global level.  

Because EU countries cooperate so closely, our food and our environment, meet some of the world’s highest standards. EU policies seeks to minimise risks to the climate, health and biodiversity and are inspired by the ‘One Health’ approach balancing the health of all living beings and the environment

Taken together, the EU and its Member States are the world’s leading provider of development assistance – helping millions of people worldwide and working collectively to promote good governance, fight hunger and preserve natural resources with governments in 150 partner countries, as well as with international organisations and civil society across the world.

In this context, the EU has launched the Global Gateway strategy to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world.

This has the ambition to tackle the most pressing global challenges, from climate change and protecting the environment, to improving health security and boosting competitiveness and global supply chains. This investment package is particularly important for Africa, as it aims to mobilise up to €150 billion in investments between 2021 and 2027 for the African continent alone.

Collectively, the EU and its constituent countries are the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Every year, the EU provides food, shelter, protection, healthcare and clean water to over 120 million victims of natural disasters and conflict in over 80 countries through humanitarian aid.

In the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region, the EU provides humanitarian assistance – to victims of natural disasters as well as armed conflict and violence. EU humanitarian aid in Lesotho comes in the form of food assistance, education in emergencies, disaster preparedness and during the pandemic, distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and cash for food for vulnerable households.

An enduring partnership

A few months ago, in November 2023, the European Union and its Member States signed in Samoa a new Partnership Agreement with Member States of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

In the words of the EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell “The Samoa agreement brings together more than half of the UN members, from four continents, around shared priorities and interests. We are definitely moving away from the old paradigms and instruments that linked the EU to most of those countries into win-win partnerships that are fit for the current world. At a moment in time where multilateralism is in danger, the fact so many countries can come together and agree on joining forces to face global challenges opens a door for optimism”.

27 EU Member States, 79 partner nations across three continents and around 2 billion people are covered by the Samoa agreement. It is based on six key priorities:

i) Human rights, democracy and governance; ii) Peace and security; iii) Human and social development; iv) Inclusive, sustainable economic growth and development; v) Environmental sustainability and climate change; and vi) Migration and mobility.

EU relations with the Kingdom of Lesotho are now underpinned by the Samoa agreement.  However, our mutual relations date back to the 1976’s Lomé Convention, the year when the EU Delegation in Maseru also opened its doors in the Mountain Kingdom. The European Union has been a strategic partner of Lesotho, supporting diverse programmes and initiatives covering areas such as water and sanitation, renewable energy, infrastructure, social protection, and governance.

This relationship has gradually expanded from development cooperation and humanitarian assistance to a multi-faceted partnership encompassing political dialogues, trade and investment, socio-economic cooperation, support to national reforms and governance, academic and cultural exchanges, notably via the Erasmus+ programme.

The EU Delegation is the sole representation of the Union based in Lesotho, but the programmes it implements are made possible thanks to the contributions of its Member States.

Each one of the 27 Member States contributes to the budget of the EU and is a reliable and committed partner of Lesotho.

The EU Delegation has continuous exchanges with democratic institutions in the country, as well as other key interlocutors at national and local level, including civil society and the private sector.

Our door is always open to listen and to dialogue.

This year is a very special year for Lesotho. The EU has joined the commemoration of the 200th anniversary since King Moshoeshoe I founded the Basotho nation in 1824 and honour the legacy of peace and unity inspired by the first monarch. The same principles are at the core of the European Union. “United in diversity” is the European Union’s motto. People in the European Union may have different cultures or languages but they stand by each other and work together in peace.

Today, we mark Europe Day within the broader Europe Month celebrations in Lesotho. Many initiatives will take place in this period.

Europe Month kick-started this week on the occasion of the celebration of the successful vaccination campaign against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) carried out by the Ministry of Health with the support of GAVI – the global alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation – whose largest donor are the EU and its Member States.

Later in the month, we will have the honour to accompany His Majesty King Letsie III in a new event of the water and soil protection Government programme ReNOKA, cofounded by the EU and the German Government.

The traditional Lesotho-EU Partnership Dialogue will attract to Maseru Ambassadors and diplomats from EU member States representations based in South Africa to review the overall mutual relations. Europe Month will culminate early in June, with the Youth Dialogue and launch of the Youth Power Hub, a platform co-funded by the EU and developed by UNICEF and IOM to empower grassroots youth civil society groups’ participation in decision making.

Happy Europe Day to you all.

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