The SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, has commended the European Union (EU) for the cooperation that continues to exist with SADC in a number of areas of collaboration, both at the national and regional levels. H. E. Dr Tax said this during her virtual meeting with Ms Rita Maria Figueiras Henriques Laranjinha, the new Africa Bureau Director of European External Action Service (EEAS) on 25th February 2021.
Dr Tax congratulated Mrs Laranjinha on her appointment as Managing Director for Africa at the EEAS. The Executive Secretary reiterated the good working relations that exist between the SADC Secretariat and the EU Delegation in Botswana and expressed her commitment to continue working with the EU in the advancement of the regional integration agenda.
On peace and security, Dr Tax highlighted that the SADC Region remains largely peaceful, notwithstanding security threats that have manifested in the Region. She said that terrorism is an emerging issue in the SADC Region and invited the EU to share experiences in dealing with threats of terrorism, with a view to facilitating lessons learnt. The Executive Secretary said despite the prevailing terrorism threats, the SADC Region is politically stable, as evidenced by the smooth transition of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the regime's commitment to implement reforms.
Regarding the SADC-EU Ministerial Political Dialogue, the two leaders agreed that the last Ministerial Political dialogue was held in March 2018 in the SADC Region (Pretoria, South Africa) and the next one had been planned for 2020 in Europe. However, given the uncertainty of convening a face-to face Ministerial Dialogue due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the two leaders agreed to convene a virtual Ministerial Dialogue in May 2021.
The Executive Secretary further conveyed condolences to the Government and people of Italy on the senseless and brutal killing of the Italian Ambassador to the DRC on 22nd February 2021 and categorically stated that such acts are not in line with the peace and security aspirations of the Region.
The two leaders noted that the 2021-2027 programming process is underway and a consultative dialogue session between the EU and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) was held on 25th February 2021 to share more information on the Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) and priority setting for the Sub-Saharan Africa Region.
Both parties agreed that the post 2020 programming process is complex. In this regard, the EU committed to provide more information on the programming process, particularly with regards to the institutional arrangement and role of RECs in regional cooperation.
Mrs Laranjinha expressed appreciation on the opportunity to engage and discuss issues of common interest between SADC and the EU. The Managing Director commended the positive working relationship that exist between the SADC Secretariat and the EU Delegation (Botswana) and emphasized that the existing SADC-EU partnership is very important to the EU.
Mrs Laranjinha acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has been very challenging and expressed delight on the ongoing vaccination campaign that is facilitated through the COVIX facility.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss development cooperation issues that are of mutual interest to both SADC and the EU, including issues of peace and security, political dialogue and post-2020 programming of regional cooperation.