THE European Union (EU) has renewed its commitment to developing existing partnerships with countries such as Lesotho as the bloc celebrates the 60th anniversary of the agreement that gave birth to the 27-member union.
Dubbed the Treaty of Rome, the agreement brought about the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC), the best-known of the European Communities (EC) on 25 March 1957.
It was signed by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany and came into force on 1 January 1958. The treaty remains one of the two most important treaties in the modern-day EU.
In a statement issued by EU Delegation to Lesotho Press and Information Officer Liatile Putsoa, the bloc committed to promoting stability and prosperity in its partner countries.
Lesotho is a member of the SADC-EU EPA, a bilateral trade and development agreement which also includes Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland with the EU. The trade negotiations were concluded on 15 July 2014 culminating in a long-term agreement for duty and quota-free access to the EU market for SADC-EU EPA members.
The EU had also been providing budgetary support to the Lesotho government until March last year when the bloc opted against disbursing €26.85 million (about M460.65 million) due to insufficient progress in the implementation of agreed policy reforms.
The financing entailed general and targeted sectoral budgetary support.
However, the decision to stop providing it was taken after an assessment of Lesotho’s lack of reforms especially in Public Financial Management.
Ms Putsoa said the EU had partnered Lesotho for 41 years. She said
the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome was an opportunity to not only reaffirm the bloc’s commitment to the values and objectives on which the European project was founded but also to take pragmatic and ambitious steps forward.
“We stand for multilateralism, for human rights, for international cooperation. We stand for sustainable development, inclusive societies, the fight against all inequalities – in education, in democracy and human rights.
“For us, this is not charity: it is also a smart investment in our own security and prosperity,” she said.
Ms Putsoa also revealed that the union was the world’s largest financial donor of development aid, instrumental in planning the UN Sustainable Development Goals and were already implementing them as well as working to update the European Consensus on Development Policy.
EU development aid goes to around 150 countries in the world and increasingly focuses on the poorest places in the world, she said.
“Between 2014 and 2020, about 75 percent of EU support will go to countries which are often hard hit by natural disasters or conflict; something that makes citizens particularly vulnerable.”
The EU, Ms Putsoa, was also a strong and active partner of continental and regional organisations such as the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“The European Union also stands ready to help those affected by natural and man-made disasters, as was the case recently in Lesotho when the EU allocated an amount of €5.5 million (around M75 million) for drought relief, while individual EU member states made further significant bilateral contributions.”