“I have chosen Africa for my very first visit outside of Europe. I hope my presence at the African Union can send a strong political message, because the African continent and the African Union matter to the European Union”, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said after meeting Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
The African Union (AU) is the EU's main political and institutional partner at Pan-African level. The AU and its Commission play an essential role in building peace and security across the continent, driving the continental integration progress and being a key partner on global issues.
Von der Leyen stressed the African Union was a partner she counted on and looked forward working with in the spirit of ‘true partnership of equals'. She drew parallels between the three major priorities for the European Union and the Europe and Africa cooperation - i.e. addressing climate change, promoting digital economy, and working together for peace and security.
As closest neighbours, Europe and Africa are already prime trade, investment and development partners. While outlining an intensive year of cooperation ahead, which should culminate in the EU-AU Summit, von der Leyen stressed that together we could find and build solutions that work for Africa and Europe alike.
At their last Summit in Abidjan in 2017, EU and African leaders defined four strategic areas of EU-Africa partnership: economic opportunities for youth; peace and security; mobility and migration; and cooperation on governance.
In the meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, von der Leyen congratulated him, and the Ethiopian people, on winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize. “You've shown to the continent and to the world that any conflict can be brought to an end. Peace with Eritrea has been a game-changer for the entire Horn and for Africa”, she said in her tweet.
Together with the European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, von der Leyen announced a new package of EU's support to Ethiopia. With €170 million, the European Union plans to help country's political transition and economic reforms. Ethiopia has a leading role in promoting economic integration, peace and stability in East Africa, and is implementing an ambitious national reform agenda.
In Addis Ababa, von der Leyen also met with President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde, the only female Head of State in Africa. They spoke about experiences in empowering women and girls, relevant government and EU programmes and ways forward.