The European Business Council for Africa

Today in Cairo, on the occasion of the visit of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her meeting with Egyptian President El Sisi, the EU and Egypt issued a joint statement on climate, energy and the green transition.

President von der Leyen said: “We are starting to tap into the full potential of EU-Egypt relations, by putting the clean energy transition and the fight against climate change at the heart of our partnership. I look forward to working with Egypt as COP27 Presidency to build on the good momentum from last year in Glasgow. Egypt is also a crucial partner in our efforts to move away from Russian fossil fuels and towards more reliable suppliers.”

Russia’s war against Ukraine threatens to create a global wave of hunger. We must urgently enable Ukraine to export its grains through the Black Sea. We also see a “battle of narratives” around Russian grains and fertilizer exports. While our sanctions do not target these exports, we are ready to work with the UN and our partners to prevent any unwanted impact on global food security.

For several decades, hunger was declining and the international community committed to end it globally by 2030 with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted in 2015. However, since then, the number of undernourished people had stopped decreasing and the COVID-19 pandemic had already made things much worse. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that this number has risen from 132 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic to 276 million in early 2022 and 323 million today.

Even before Putin's war against Ukraine, we were losing ground in the global fight against hunger. Now, this unjustified and unprovoked war puts the world in danger of a famine affecting hundreds of millions of people. According to the UN Global Crisis Response Group, 1.2 billion people - one in six of the world’s population - are living in ‘perfect-storm’ countries that are severely exposed to the combination of rising food prices, rising energy prices and tightening financial conditions.

At the Fifth Global Conference on Child Labour in Durban (South Africa) in May 2022, the EU joined other key international partners in a call to action to end child labour. The outcome was a list of 49 concrete actions with specific targets, including legislation and decent work throughout globalized value chains. But the over-arching aim is to tackle child labour at its roots, through social protection for even the poorest – the theme for this year’s World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June, which marks the end of a Week of Action.

Significant progress was being made to end child labour until 2016, but according to the latest estimates, various challenges have reversed the downward trend: 160 million children are currently victims of child labour, half of them in the worst forms.

This trend is alarming, given that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 targets an end to child labour in all its forms by 2025, just three years away.

Today, the European Commission announced the first 118 regions and local authorities that will participate in the EU Mission for Adaptation to Climate Change, the so-called Mission Adaptation, which will support the European Green Deal and the EU Climate Adaptation Strategy.

These regions and local authorities will sign the Mission Charter today at the Committee of the Regions' first Forum of the EU Mission Adaptation to Climate Change. A further 17 private companies, service centres, research networks and local action groups active in improving climate resilience will endorse the Charter and become friends of the Mission. The 118 signatories come from 18 Member States, with 6 more parties coming from countries associated or potentially associated with Horizon Europe, the EU's research and innovation programme.

The Commission has today proposed an annual EU budget of €185.6 billion for 2023, to be complemented by an estimated €113.9 billion in grants under NextGenerationEU. The EU budget will continue to mobilise significant investments to boost Europe's strategic autonomy, the ongoing economic recovery, safeguard sustainability and create jobs. The Commission will continue to prioritise green and digital investments while addressing pressing needs arising from recent and current crises.

Commissioner Johannes Hahn, responsible for the EU Budget, said: “We are continuing to put forward extraordinary amounts of funding to support Europe's recovery and to tackle current and future challenges. The budget remains an important tool the Union has at its disposal to provide clear added value to people's lives. It helps Europe shape a changing world, in which we are working together for peace, prosperity and our European values”.

The draft budget 2023, boosted by NextGenerationEU, is designed to respond to the most crucial recovery needs of EU Member States and our partners around the world. These financial means will continue to rebuild and modernise the European Union and strengthen Europe's status as a strong global actor and reliable partner.

Dear Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the chance to address you today at this Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit. I regret that I cannot be with you in person in Malabo.

Since I welcomed the leaders of the African Union three months ago in Brussels, the unthinkable has happened. Russia launched a war of conquest against Ukraine. It is flattening Ukrainian cities. Destroying farmland and crops. And killing thousands of civilians. Russia is bombing warehouses filled with wheat for export. It is blocking the sea routes for grain export. The consequences of Russian aggression span well beyond Europe, as you know.

The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has today disbursed €300 million in Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) to Tunisia. This is the second and last disbursement under the COVID-19 MFA programme to Tunisia, approved to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and enhance macroeconomic stability. The first instalment of €300 million was disbursed in June 2021 after ratification by the Tunisian Parliament of the agreement on Macro-Financial Assistance.

Tunisia is the ninth country for which the COVID-19 MFAs are completed, out of the ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners supported by the €3 billion emergency MFA package in the context of the pandemic. This assistance will allow Tunisia to allocate resources towards mitigating the negative socio-economic consequences of the pandemic on its population, now aggravated by the negative impact that Russia's aggression against Ukraine is having on food and energy security. In total, €600 million in loans have been disbursed under this emergency support programme over the past year, a tangible demonstration of EU solidarity with the Tunisian people at a time of unprecedented crisis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indeed, following your introduction, dear Klaus, it is difficult to believe that in Davos today we are talking about war. Because the Davos spirit is the antithesis of war. It is about forging ties and together finding solutions for the big challenges of the world. You might remember, and you worked on it together with us, that in recent years, we have looked for smart and sustainable ways to fight climate change; and how to shape globalisation so that all can benefit; how to make digitalisation a force for good, and mitigate its risks for democracies. So Davos is all about crafting a better future together. That is what we should be talking about here today. But instead, we must address the costs and consequences of Putin's war of choice. The playbook of Russia's aggression against Ukraine comes straight out of another century. Treating millions of people not as human beings but as faceless populations to be moved or controlled, or set as a buffer between military forces. Trying to trample the aspiration of an entire nation with tanks. This is not just a matter of Ukraine's survival. This is not just an issue of European security. This is putting our whole international order into question. And that is why countering Russia's aggression is a task for the entire global community.

Today, the Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a single window for customs which sets the appropriate conditions for digital collaboration between customs and partner competent authorities. The aim is to make international trade easier, shorten customs clearance times and reduce the risk of fraud. It will also help reduce the administrative burden for traders.

Efficient customs clearance and controls are essential to allow trade to flow smoothly while also protecting EU citizens, businesses and the environment. Once fully implemented, businesses will no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals. The single window environment will allow customs and other authorities to automatically verify that the goods in question comply with EU requirements and that the necessary formalities have been completed.

HR/VP Blog - We face a major geopolitical crisis with the war against Ukraine and at the same time a major ecological and security threat with climate change. REPowerEU is the integrated response to this double challenge. The Commission and I tabled this week specific concrete proposals in many domains including a more ambitious and targeted EU energy diplomacy.

Energy policy has always been a geopolitical issue and this has become even clearer now with the war on Ukraine. For years we have debated the need to reduce our dependence on energy imports from Russia, a country that uses energy as a political weapon. Now we know we can no longer afford to put this off: we are funding the Kremlin’s ability to wage war against Ukraine. Doing this will not be an easy task and will require internal actions on numerous fronts detailed in the REPowerEU plan.

“We have to ensure that our short-term goal - depriving Putin of the resources and levers that fossil fuels give him - is coherent with our medium-term objectives of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.”