Jutta Urpilainen (SDP), the European-commissioner for international partnerships, spoke in the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday, 30 September 2019. (Kenzo Tribouillard – AFP/Lehtikuva)


THE EUROPEAN UNION must re-consider its perception of Africa, says Jutta Urpilainen (SDP), the European commissioner-designate for international partnerships.

“We have to abandon the narrative of Africa as a continent of poverty and instability. We have to welcome Africa as a young continent of hope and prosperity,” she declared in the European Parliament on Monday.

The European commissioner for international partnerships will be responsible for, among other things, defining the strategy of the soon-to-be 27-country bloc on Africa.

Urpilainen was asked a variety of questions related issues such as immigration and development co-operation as she was vetted by the European Parliament on Monday. She drew attention to the importance of education, equality, the need to develop a more comprehensive understanding of development co-operation and the sustainable development goals of the UN.

“My goal is to eradicate poverty by means of development assistance,” she said.

The UN’s sustainable development goals, she viewed, are relevant not only for the duties of the commissioner for international partnerships, but also for those of other members of the European Commission. She called attention to gender equality in the same context, estimating that sustainable development cannot be achieved without efforts to educate and empower women.

Urpilainen added that in terms of immigration her focus is on its root causes.

“To me it’s about root causes. When I travelled to Africa, it was heartbreaking to meet young people who had lost their faith in the future. If they have no access to education or work, it’s difficult for them to have faith in the future,” she said, concluding that addressing such causes is the only means to promote sustainable immigration.

“I don’t think setting conditions would put an end to immigration,” she answered to a question about making development assistance conditional on certain criteria.

Urpilainen was also asked why member states have not increased their development assistance appropriations, despite the fact that only few of them have reached the recommendation of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product set by the UN.

“I think it’s about political will – and not only in the EU, but also in the member states. I believe we should bring the finance ministers and leaders of EU countries into the discussion. It’s not enough if it’s a discussion only for development ministers,” she stated.

The European Parliament has already rejected two commissioner candidates on grounds of alleged political conflicts of interest.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi