Rome Treaties: Unity for prosperity

Whatever events may bring in the future, one thing is certain: the EU will continue to put the promotion of international peace and security, development cooperation, human rights and swift response to humanitarian crises

On 25th March the European Union marked 60 years since the signature of the Rome Treaties, the first step towards a united Europe. Since the birth of the European Communities in 1957, the citizens of our member states have enjoyed six decades of unprecedented peace, prosperity and security. The contrast to the first half of the 20th century could not be greater. Two catastrophic wars in Europe between 1914 and 1945 left millions dead, and a continent devastated, divided and prostrate. For countries that had long been at war, European integration has been the most successful peace project in our history. Unity was the prescription to prosperity. However, we are living in unpredictable times and the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties is the opportunity not only to reaffirm our commitment to the values and objectives on which the European project is founded but also to take pragmatic and ambitious steps forward.

The EU’s partnership with Nepal has deepened since the cooperation agreement was signed in 1994. The EU is Nepal’s biggest bilateral grant donor, covering a wide array of sectors: rural development, health, education, heritage, trade facilitation and reconstruction. We are committed to supporting sustainable and inclusive economic growth and social justice. But our support to Nepal is not limited to development cooperation. With 22% of the global GDP, the EU is a major trading block, one of the most open in the world. As is the case for all LLDCs, Nepal enjoys zero tariff access to the EU markets under the ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme. Capacity building for farmers and other producers has greatly improved Nepal’s competitiveness. And at the core lies the people-to-people relationship between the EU and Nepal.

Many Nepalis are making use of the opportunity to study in EU countries, while learning European languages and experiencing the culture. Vice versa, Europeans were among the first Alpinists and travelers to fall in love with Nepal’s cultural heritage and breath-taking nature and the number of European tourists in Nepal continues to rise. Educational and cultural exchange is fruitful to all of us and deepens the close ties and friendships between us.

Such close links and ties between countries are still of utmost importance, not least at a time when the world is going through a period of great uncertainty: the global balance of power is shifting and the foundations of a rules-based international order are too often being questioned.

The EU is the second global economy. We are the largest global market and the leading foreign investor in most parts of the globe. The EU has achieved a strong position by acting together with one voice on the global stage, by playing a key role in removing barriers to trade as a member of the World Trade Organization. as well as concluding bilateral trade deals with many important partners around the world. This allowed EU exporting firms to flourish and create over 30 million jobs.

We invest more in development cooperation and humanitarian aid than the rest of the world combined. The EU is increasingly active as a global security provider, and we will continue to be a strong, cooperative and reliable partner.

We stand for multilateralism, for human rights and for international cooperation. We stand for sustainable development, inclusive societies, the fight against all inequalities. For us, this is not charity: it is also a smart investment in our own security and prosperity.

The European Union is the world’s largest financial donor of development aid. We were instrumental in planning the UN Sustainable Development Goals and are 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. In the period 2014-2020, about 75% of EU support will go to countries which are often hard hit by natural disasters or conflict, something that makes their citizens particularly vulnerable.

We stand for better global rules, rules that protect people against abuse, rules that expand rights and raise standards. It is thanks to our engagement – the Union together with its member states –that the global community has set up innovative agreements like the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development.

The European Union stands ready to help those affected by natural and man-made disasters. Humanitarian crises continue to take a heavy toll internationally, and in 2016 the EU allocated relief assistance of over €1.5 billion for food, shelter, protection and healthcare to 120 million people in over 80 countries. The EU has been, since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to care for the millions of men, women and children displaced by the conflict.

Whatever events may bring in the future, one thing is certain: the EU will continue to put the promotion of international peace and security, development cooperation, human rights and swift response to humanitarian crises at the heart of its foreign and security policies. And the close partnership between Nepal and the EU will continue to develop and prosper in years to come.

Teerink is the EU Ambassador to Nepal