“World peace cannotbe safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.” This is the first sentence of the Declaration of 9 May 1950 presented by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann. We celebrate the Schumann Declaration every year on 9 May and this year there is a special reason for celebrating as 50 years have passed since the signature of the Treaties of Rome – the agreement which founded the European Union.
50 years ago few could foresee the success the EU has brought. Its members, now bringing together 27 European countries and over 490 million people, have enjoyed unprecedented levels of peace, prosperity and stability.
The historical background is painful to say the least – a Europe devastated by wars, genocide and violations of the most fundamental human rights and democratic principles. All the more important is that today we can proudly say that the foundation of Europe rests steadily on democratic principles, respect for human rights and non-discrimination. The full respect of these values is a requirement for allowing new countries as members.
The enlarged EU of today is a political, economic and social project in a world of globalisation.
Over the years the EU has developed a strong external dimension. Its role, its support and its commitment is sought after by partners all over the world. And we respond.
As an example, the EU provides around 60 % of the world’s official development assistance, with an important focus on Africa. The Africa strategy is a strong call for achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The EU has undertaken important commitments and a timetable to reach the UN target of 0.7 % of GDP to development assistance. The Cotonou Agreement provides a stable and predictable framework for the co-operation with Africa and is based on the same democratic principles as the EU itself.
The EU is strongly present in Sierra Leone, through Embassies of Member States, the Delegation of the European Commission, development agencies and many European citizens active in various organisations dedicating their works and lives in the fight against poverty in Sierra Leone.
Assistance to Sierra Leone was given throughout the war, mainly in the form of humanitarian assistance, and nowadays in the form of regular development assistance – a support which is steadily increasing. It is clear that Africa and Sierra Leone matters for us Europeans.
But the main work to give the people of Sierra Leone a better future has to be carried by the Sierra Leoneans themselves. Sierra Leone has made impressive progress towards consolidated peace and democracy.
I, as Head of Delegation of the European Commission here, express my most deeply felt hope that the elections in Sierra Leone this year will be free, transparent and correct with mutual respect between the parties and a full and peaceful acceptance of the final result.
Only a democratic society will in the long perspective bring peace, security and human dignity to the wonderful people of Sierra Leone who have suffered too long from conflict and poverty.