19 July 2013
The 6th South Africa-European Union Summit ended in Pretoria on Thursday with the leaders of the two sides in agreement that joint programmes in education and training were needed to address the common challenge of job creation.
In a joint communique issued after the summit, South African President Jacob Zuma, EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy said education and training were the key factors contributing to job creation and economic growth.
The two sides vowed to take their education and training cooperation to the next level under the Youth Employment Accord and promote technical support and exchange programmes for youth development.
“We will continue high level discussions on addressing the shared challenges of youth employment, as well as the way which skills and training can contribute to South Africa’s infrastructure expansion,” the communique reads.
“Under the EU financed development programme, approximately R650-million – €50-million – remains available to support job creation initiatives.”
‘Job creation through investment’
With the summit’s central theme being “Job Creation through Inward Investment”, Zuma said South Africa still faced the inherited challenges of unequal wealth and resource distribution, inequality, unemployment and deeply entrenched poverty.
“We are of the firm view that given these realities, the EU should continue its development programmes in South Africa, complementing as they do the work of government within a developmental framework,” Zuma said.
Barroso said Europe was also still working on addressing the scourge of youth unemployment.
Given that South Africa was also working to promote growth and jobs to diversify its economy to ensure that its development is inclusive, the two sides could both benefit from working more together to face these challenges, Barroso said.
“I would even say that Europe is South Africa’s natural partner to do it. South Africa is now an emerging economy with different types of needs, so we must adapt our cooperation accordingly,” he said.
“But certainly, we want to keep development cooperation with South Africa. This is why I have proposed to focus our future cooperation on job creation, education, skills and innovation and capacity development.”
Energy pact signed
The summit also saw South Africa and the European Atomic Energy Community sign an agreement of cooperation on the use of nuclear energy.
The deal, which was signed by new Minister of Energy Ben Martins, will see an intensified roll out of rural electrification, with an initial target of 300 000 households in the remote areas of South Africa.
Parties to the deal also agreed on a new R1.3-billion support programme to blend grants with loans from the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the European Development Finance Institutions to support South Africa’s infrastructure programmes.
Narrowing the trade deficit
Leaders at the summit also looked at the trade deficit, which is in favour of the EU and agreed to cement growth by remaining committed to “open and transparent trade” rules by working on policies that promote bilateral trade and investment that is mutually beneficial.
Total trade with EU countries last year was R383-billion, compared to R419-billion in 2008. In 2008, SA exported R186-billion worth of goods, which fell to R122-billion in 2009.
Imports from the EU have recovered to more than the levels that they reached in 2009. Imports were R233-billion in 2008, while they were R239-billion last year.
At least 2 000 EU companies have invested over R60-billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) and have created 350 000 direct jobs in South Africa.
Barroso said negotiations were ongoing on citrus black spot in the export of South African produce to Europe and he was confident that a mutually beneficial agreement would soon be reached.
SA had cautioned that the “upgraded surveillance” would greatly affect the South African citrus industry, which exports around 100-million cartons to 45 countries, generating R6-billion in foreign exchange.
This would also lead to job losses as the industry employed 40 000 permanent workers and 40 000 seasonal workers.
‘Gaining market access’
The leaders also discussed the October 2014 deadline imposed by the EU for the conclusion of the economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. The EPA gives the SADC countries preferential market access for their agricultural and agro-processed products.
South Africa had warned that the threat of withdrawing preferential market access for products from South Africa and neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland would have devastating socio-economic consequences as it would lead to significant job losses.
“We agreed that the negotiations should conclude shortly. We reaffirmed the importance of reaching an agreement that is mutually beneficial, enhances growth and generates jobs, and supports development and integration in Southern Africa,” the communique reads.
Supporting peace efforts
The summit also touched on global issues such as climate change, human rights and the troubled areas including Syria, Madagascar, Egypt, the Great Lakes region and Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections.
Van Rompuy said the EU supported the mediatory efforts by President Zuma and SADC to forge an agreement between the squabbling political parties.
The EU will respond to the outcome of the elections on evidence of peaceful and transparent elections with results that are accepted by all, according to Van Rompuy.
“We look forward to normalisation of relations and deepening out partnerships with Zimbabwe,” he said.
Over all, the leaders said that relations between the South Africa and the European Union were “at a mature stage”, with the two sides as powerful engines to boost and benefit both economies.
“Our strategic partnership with South Africa is also an integral part of our special relationship with the African continent,” Borroso said.
The 7th SA-EU summit will be hosted by the EU in 2014.