Thank you for organizing this timely strategic debate on the Democratic Republic of Congo, and for inviting the European Union to brief the Council. I would also like to thank the Secretary General for his briefing.
The European Union’s engagement in the DRC is based on two axioms:
– The importance of local ownership;
– And the need to ensure a coordinated international effort, with the United Nations at its core.
Progress in the DRC can be achieved only if local political leadership is fully engaged. Since the conflicts in the 90’s, the Congolese authorities have shown their commitment to work with the international community, including the European Union, towards the stabilization of their country. I welcome the participation in today’s meeting of the Minister for Regional and International Cooperation, Mr. Raymond Tshibanda. In his presence, I wish to reiterate that the EU will continue its engagement in support of peace and stabilisation in the DRC.
Peace and stability in the DRC require full international involvement. The United Nations are at the core of this effort. The EU will continue to support UN activities, including the essential security role played by MONUSCO.
Allow me to outline three challenges which are at the heart of the strategic relationship that the EU is building with the DRC and with the region.
The first challenge regards the strengthening of an open, democratic political system in the DRC. Progress in this area was the centrepiece of the political transition in 2006. Both the Congolese and the international community have made great efforts to set up democratic institutions. These efforts need to be continued.
The 2011-2013 electoral cycle, starting with presidential and legislative elections on 28 November 2011, are of utmost importance – even though balloting alone is not sufficient for building a democratic society.
The EU – which was the main donor to the electoral process in 2006 – will remain engaged. Working together with the DRC authorities, the EU will pursue a three-thronged approach: a) a financial contribution of 47.5 million Euros; b) support of Congolese and international efforts to secure the elections, in particular though the purchase of communications equipment for the Kinshasa police; and c) a possible EU electoral observation mission. The EU will also make a special effort to support the dialogue between all Congolese stakeholders, including the civil society, before and during the elections process.
The second type of challenges lies within the crucial area of governance. The EU has prioritised security sector governance in its partnership with the DRC: Defence, Police, and Justice. Security Sector Reform must form the backbone of lasting peace and stability in the DRC.
Two EU missions, EUSEC and EUPOL, assist and advise the DRC government in the reform and reconstruction of its army and police. Both missions coordinate closely with the UN and other relevant international actors.
EUSEC comprises some 50 staff, mostly military. The mission provides advice and assistance to the Congolese authorities in the defence sector. It focuses, inter alia, on human resources, logistics management, as well as officers’ training.
EUPOL is a police mission headquartered in Kinshasa, with a field office in Goma. It is made up of some 50 civilian personnel with expertise in the fields of police, justice, human rights and gender equality (including specialists on combating impunity and sexual violence).
In the Justice sector, the European Commission is the main donor.
Strengthening Security Sector Reform in the DRC is more important than ever. Progress in the elaboration of appropriate legislation has been made. However further work is necessary.
A comprehensive approach, addressing the political and technical constraints which the DRC is facing is crucial and should continue also during the upcoming electoral period. As regards the justice sector, an ambitious reform plan was set up, but national resources allocated are too low.
The third challenge concerns the economy. We acknowledge recent positive developments in the macro-economic policies brought forward by the DRC. However, further efforts are necessary to ensure economic progress. This is a key element for sustainable stabilisation.
The EU is contributing approximately 634 million Euros to the DRC under the 10th European Development Fund, running 2008 through 2013. The objective is to support the reconstruction of the DRC, while pursuing stabilization efforts in some regions of the country. There is a focus on physical reconstruction in particular on transport infrastructure as well as on reconstruction of the State through the strengthening of good governance. In addition, the European Union supports public health and environmental protection activities.
Success in the DRC also depends on sustaining the improved regional context.
The European Union has deployed considerable political and diplomatic efforts in contributing to address the regional crises, and to promote greater cooperation between former belligerents. Today’s cooperation between DRC and its Eastern neighbours is reshaping the regional dynamics and creating renewed opportunities for peace and economic growth. It is also a prerequisite for addressing the remaining regional conflicts, in particular in the Kivu provinces, where non-Congolese armed rebel groups still pose an important threat.
With this in mind, the European Union is supporting the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries, a regional organisation comprising the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, which works as a permanent post-conflict forum for dialogue among the three countries, and which is bearing its first fruits in areas such as regional security and development of a regional economic infrastructure.
The DRC is a cornerstone of continental security. The EU is committed to remain engaged in the country, and in the Great Lakes stabilisation process.
Joint, coordinated efforts of the international community are necessary. We have recently shared our analysis with other partners in the International Contact group for the Great Lakes in a meeting in Brussels on 15 April.
Sustained efforts and substantial resources are required to ensure further progress. The EU will continue working with the DRC authorities, the UN, and other international partners.