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Europe Day: Sama-sama together!

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2021 - 12:00am

For any EU ambassador around the world, the month of May is, by tradition, a time to organize celebrations and festivities. Sadly, COVID-19 oblige, most of our interactions these days are virtual. What follows are the words I would have liked to share in-person with Filipino colleagues, partners and friends for this Europe Day 2021:

The 9th of May is a special day for Europeans as we commemorate the birth of Europe as a political entity. Precisely 71 years ago, six years after the end of World War II, six European nations decided to pool together their coal and steel resources with a simple idea: to make war amongst themselves impossible.

The European Union was born out of the European Coal and Steel Community and today binds together 27 European nations.

We are proud that our Union has flourished and has become a model of freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights – even if we continue to build, refine and secure this model.

We are also honored by our long-standing history with the Philippines.

We trust that by developing closer bilateral relations, together we will strengthen multilateralism and adhere to our shared commitment to a rules-based international order.

The EU has always been a close partner of the Philippines since the presentation of credentials of Philippine Ambassador Vicente Singian to the European Community in May 1964. Our bilateral relationship has continued to grow in strength and was highlighted with the entry into force of the bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in 2018.

The friendship and partnership between the EU and the Philippines has since fostered. True to the spirit of Robert Schuman, one of our founding fathers, we remain in solidarity with the Filipino people, especially in these trying times.

Since the EU was built with peacebuilding as its DNA, the EU provided 85 million euros in grants last year to the Philippines, to support the Mindanao Peace and Development Program-RISE Mindanao, the support to Bangsamoro transition and other ongoing peacebuilding initiatives in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and including in Marawi City.

Our development cooperation assistance currently focuses on governance and justice sector reform, job creation, renewable energy and assistance to vulnerable populations, specifically in Mindanao.

For more than a year, the Philippines, like the rest of the world, has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the EU provided approximately 6 million euros to support the health response to the pandemic. Team Europe is also the largest contributor to COVAX, providing a total of 2.5 billion euros to the COVAX Facility to help secure 1.3 billion doses for 92 low- and lower middle-income countries, including the Philippines, by the end of the year.

Forward-looking, the EU is engaged in a dialogue with the government as well as other stakeholders, the private sector and civil society on the promotion of a green and inclusive recovery from the crisis. This will include cooperation on climate action and the implementation of the Philippines’ National Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. It will also focus on the move towards a more circular economy by reducing the damaging environmental footprint of plastics in the Philippines.

The EU will remain a reliable partner when addressing the Philippines’ extreme vulnerability to natural disasters. In 2020, the EU and its Member-States have committed and delivered more than 6.456 million euros worth of humanitarian assistance to the Philippines. This is on top of important contributions of the EU and its Member-States made for those affected by Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.

In the area of trade, the EU and the Philippines have developed a healthy economic and trade relationship with a balanced trade flow. In 2020, a year heavily disrupted by the pandemic, EU/Phl total trade still exceeded P700 billion worth of trade in goods. For seven years now, the EU has provided the Philippines with unilateral preferential trade access to the EU market through the GSP+ scheme, which is based on sustainable development principles, good governance and human rights.

The EU has also a strategic interest in a stable, prosperous and secure Philippines by furthering trade and investment – the EU remains one of the most important providers of foreign direct investment to the Philippines – promoting maritime security and maintaining open and safe shipping routes.

What is particularly significant is that this year alone, despite the ongoing pandemic, we have just concluded three bilateral sub-committee meetings on trade; good governance, rule of law, human rights; and development cooperation. We continue to gain common grounds and have agreed on a way forward.

The partnership and friendship that we Europeans have with Filipinos will continue to sustain us. That is why we need to bond together despite our differences so that together we can achieve our aims. Sama-sama together!

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Ambassador Luc Veron is Head of Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines.

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