Toespraak minister Halbe Zijlstra tijdens ontmoeting met Afrikaanse ambassadeurs

Toespraak van minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Halbe Zijlstra tijdens een ontmoeting met Afrikaanse ambassadeurs (Den Haag, 17 november 2017).

Deze toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Your Excellencies, chers ambassadeurs, prezados embaixadores,

It is an honour to meet you. You represent more than forty countries in Africa, Europe’s southern neighbour. I’d especially like to welcome those of you who made a special trip from Brussels for this meeting. Africa is important to me. I have seen enough of your continent to realize how enormous and diverse it is. Africa has so many different faces, each of them unique.

And the Netherlands’ relations with Africa are equally diverse. With many of your countries we have close trading ties, with others there are historical and cultural links. But whatever the nature of these relations: the time that they were unequal relations is past. We are equal partners.

The importance of Africa for Europe, and particularly for the Netherlands, is hard to overstate. To begin with, we have common economic interests. By increasing our trade and working even more closely together, we can boost the prosperity of both our continents.

Africa and Europe also need each other for security. Fighting terrorism and building stability in the Sahel, for instance, is a common interest. Because if there’s lightning in Africa, there’s thunder in Europe.
One effect of migration is that a great deal of labour and expertise is leaving your countries. We can only control migration by cooperating closely. The same applies if we are to get a grip on illegal migration, and on trafficking in persons, arms and drugs. 

So even closer collaboration between our countries is crucial. That’s why I’m looking forward eagerly to my first major trip as minister outside Europe: to the joint summit of the African Union and European Union in Côte d’Ivoire.
The summit in Abidjan will focus on the future of Africa’s young people. But I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it also largely concerns the future of Europe. We understand how deeply our destinies are intertwined. So the new Dutch government is determined to step up our investment in diplomacy, in Africa and in international cooperation.

As I said before: we are partners. Partners can talk about difficult issues. So the Dutch government will be raising with you the issue of returning irregular migrants to their countries of origin, and the issue of the reception of refugees in the region. Of course, we’re well aware that countries like the DRC, Chad, Uganda and Kenya have already taken in enormous numbers of refugees. We have to be able, as partners, to discuss these things frankly. And the same applies to subjects like democracy and human rights.

Africa and the European Union have to join forces to tackle the major challenges we face. In doing so, I think a key point is hope for the future. People have to believe they have a future, with safety, a job, legal certainty. In short: a livelihood.  
It’s up to us to offer that hope. We have to provide clarity about what people can expect, what’s possible and what’s impossible. I think meetings like this, and the upcoming AU-EU summit in Abidjan, are excellent opportunities to work on this.

To conclude: during our campaign for a seat on the Security Council, the Netherlands said that we would pay extra attention to Africa. We will keep our word. We will prove that your vote for the Netherlands was also a vote for Africa.

Thank you.