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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article21 June 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Opening speech by President von der Leyen at the European Development Days

President von der Leyen

"Check against delivery"


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the 15th edition of the European Development Days. This is the place where Europe meets the global development community and partners from all corners of the world.

This year, we gather in a delicate moment. The world has been shocked and shaken by Russia's aggression on Ukraine. But while the global media's attention was focusing mostly on the war, something else happened below the radar. On the fourth day of Russia's aggression, the leading authority on climate change, the IPCC, issued a stark warning to the global community. They demonstrated that our climate is changing faster than our capacity to adapt to it. We must speed up the investment to cut emissions, or face dramatic consequences. The window of opportunity for action is still open. But the global investment gap is still not closing. Global infrastructure investment collapsed in 2020 because of the pandemic. It took almost two years before it went back to pre-pandemic levels.

But then, Russia attacked Ukraine, rocking the global economy once again. Energy prices have skyrocketed. Vulnerable countries across the globe are on the brink of a massive food crisis. At a time when the global economy is longing for stability, to recover and transform, investors are faced with growing uncertainty. The world needs a positive investment impulse, and it needs it now.

We are talking about investment in clean energy, in roads and bridges that are flood-proof, or buildings that can withstand extreme heatwaves. But also investment to prepare health systems for the pandemics of the future, and to adapt farming to drier conditions. Investment to equip our workers with skills that match the jobs of tomorrow. Or investment in digital infrastructure, because the fuel of the new economy is data. The fate of future generations depends more than ever before on the quality and quantity of our infrastructure investment today.

This is where our European strategy, Global Gateway, comes into play. Global Gateway is Europe's offer to a world that needs massive investment. It aims at mobilising EUR 300 billion by 2027. EUR 150 billion of them in Africa. So it has the size to make a difference and, just as importantly, it lays out a new approach to big infrastructure projects. For many countries around the world, investment options are not only limited, but they all come with a lot of small print, and a very high price. Sometimes it is the environment that pays the price. Sometimes it is workers, who are stripped of their rights. And sometimes it is national sovereignty that is compromised. No country should be faced with a situation in which the only option to finance its essential infrastructure is to sell out its future. Global Gateway is about giving countries a choice, and a better choice.

Global Gateway's investments will be sustainable both for the environment and for our partners' finances. Our investments will always put people first. And for this, we will always co-design projects with our partners, to make sure to deliver lasting benefits for local communities. Europe has a clear strategic interest in this. We have an interest in working together for our common planet. We have an interest in making our neighbours and partners more resilient to all sorts of shocks. We have an interest in replacing unsustainable dependencies with more balanced inter-dependencies. And since we launched Global Gateway, just over six months ago, the demand for a transparent and value-based investment programme has only grown stronger.

These European Development Days will showcase the road we have travelled so far. But today, I would like to focus first and foremost on the direction of our travel. Three goals that we can achieve together thanks to Global Gateway and that are key to sustainable development. The first one is resilience. The second is sustainability. The third is cooperation with neighbours and with like-minded partners. Let me start with resilience. The last few months have shed light on some of the great imbalances of the global economy.

Take vaccines. In pandemic times, Europe has been the pharmacy of the world. For every dose of vaccine distributed inside Europe, one dose was shipped abroad. We are by far the world's largest exporter of vaccines. We stayed open, when others decided to keep their production for themselves. Yet this situation is not sustainable. A continent like Africa imports 99% of the vaccines it needs. We agree with the African Union that this must change. And Global Gateway is striving to address that. In the coming months, we are building together with our African partners two factories in Rwanda and Senegal to manufacture mRNA vaccines. Starting next year, these vaccines will be sold at not-for-profit prices to African countries. They will be made in Africa, for Africa, with world-class technology. Similar work is also ongoing with Ghana and South Africa.

The model we have developed with our partners is incredibly promising – not only for Africa. So right here, at the European Development Days, we will launch a similar initiative with Latin America and the Caribbean. This continent has an immense potential, with highly skilled researchers and a growing manufacturing capacity. Yet it still imports ten times more pharmaceutical products than it exports.  With Global Gateway, we can make our partners stronger and more resilient, because your strength is our strength, too.

Another good example is food security. Only 50 years ago, Africa produced all the food it needed. Then conflict and climate change have made the continent heavily dependent on food imports. And today, a food crisis looms, triggered by Russia's deliberate attack on Ukraine's food exports. Russian troops are blockading ships full of wheat, crops and cooking oil in Ukrainian ports. They are deliberately bombarding grain warehouses, and, in some cases, they are even stealing Ukrainian wheat. This is the reason for the current food crisis. To put the record straight, our sanctions do not touch basic food commodities and fertilisers. And they are carefully designed not to affect food trade between Russia and third countries. Right now, we are working hard to get more grain to global markets and to help the most vulnerable countries face the emergency. But we must also step up every continent's own production capacity and resilience. This was at the heart of my visit to Egypt just a few days ago. We know how to do it.

The Great Green Wall has already retaken millions of hectares of land from the desert, boosting food production from Senegal and Niger to Ethiopia. Roughly 15% of the project has been completed. Global Gateway will put another brick in the green wall, as a bulwark against food insecurity and climate change. Just like we are doing in Zambia to strengthen its agricultural sector. Beyond this, we have just proposed to mobilise an additional EUR 600 million to strengthen local production in vulnerable countries, on top of the existing package of EUR 3 billion for global food security. As with vaccines, the mid and long term solution is local production and local resilience.

This leads me to the second goal of Global Gateway, that is sustainability. In a world where resources are limited and climate action urgent, all infrastructure investment must be future-proof. 600 million Africans currently do not have access to electricity and clean energy. That is more than the EU's entire population. Clean energy from renewables is the only option that can both turn the lights on and preserve Africa's unique nature. And Africa has an abundance of wind and sun. With Global Gateway, we aim to provide access to electricity from renewable sources to 100 million people by 2030. And with clean hydrogen, Africa can both power its rising industry and sell clean energy to other continents. We already working intensively with Namibia on this. This is the true win-win solution. It is good for all our economies and for our planet, too.

And finally, Global Gateway is about cooperation with neighbours and like-minded partners. We, Europeans, have learnt that economic integration is the best antidote against war. But in many parts of the world, it is easier to trade with far-away economic giants than with the country next door. Global Gateway will invest in strategic transport corridors, with a focus on clean modes of transport, for instance to link landlocked areas with sea ports. We are already at work with our partners to identify and develop these corridors, for instance in the Western Balkans, in Africa and in Central Asia. This will create new trade opportunities, but also better neighbourly relations. Likewise, Global Gateway is open for cooperation with any country that shares our goals – like our friends in the US, Japan and India. With Global Gateway, we are showing the power of a value-driven investment agenda. Democracies are putting citizens, local communities and the future of our planet at the core of our action. During the pandemic we have seen that others promised a lot, but in the end it were the democracies, who delivered.

Let us work for sustainable mutual benefit. This is the philosophy of Global Gateway. It can help to bridge across the world's investment gap. But it is much more. It is an opportunity to end unhealthy dependencies and invest in partnerships of equals instead. Global Gateway is the future of our development cooperation, and I am grateful to all of you who have joined us today to shape this future together. I will be keen to learn about the progress of concrete projects.

Thank you, and welcome to the European Development Days.