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Speech by President Antonio Tajani at the closing ceremony of the Parliamentary Summit

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

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I would like to begin by thanking the Ivoirian authorities for their welcome and for making it possible for us to meet here.

I would also like to thank you, colleagues from the African and European Parliaments, for your participation and your contributions to African Week and the high-level conference organised last week in the European Parliament.

It was important for an event of this kind to take place before the summit so that we could discuss in greater depth the issues facing us and the joint messages to be passed on.

I hope we will be able to repeat this in the future.

You have greatly contributed to the success of these meetings and we have all put pressure on the other institutions and on the Member States to ensure that tomorrow’s summit will give fresh impetus to our relations.

As democratically-elected representatives of the peoples of our two continents, we must have a more prominent role.

Good governance is only possible on the basis of democracy, and this is embodied by our Parliaments.

This is the first message that President Nkodo Dang and myself will pass on at tomorrow’s summit.

We all agree on the need to put our relations on a more dynamic footing,

as our two continents are more interdependent than ever.

We are facing many challenges which threaten our common objective of prosperity and stability.

In addition there is a matter of great urgency: the population explosion in Africa.

It is for this reason that everything we do must focus on young people.

But first we need a paradigm shift.

We need an approach centred on the individual and on human development.

Our first aim must be to create jobs in an effort to tackle the population question.

This will require huge investment delivered by means of innovative financial instruments which will have a direct impact on ordinary people.

This is of fundamental importance, as there is a danger of our relationship being shunted into the background by other players such as China and Turkey.

This is why I talk about a Marshall Plan for Africa, as we are facing an enormous task and have, moreover, little time to act.

We must increase the amount available in the Sustainable Development Fund from the current EUR 4 billion to 40 billion, which will generate a leverage effect of nearly EUR 500 billion.

Africa’s population is today close to one billion, but in 2050 – less than 35 years from now – that figure will be 2.5 billion.

Africa will have to create millions of jobs to accommodate the new arrivals in the job market.

If this does not happen, our young people will lose hope.

We will then be facing problems of radicalisation, especially in unstable regions such as the Sahel, but also much more widespread migration.

If we are to succeed, we must involve civil society and economic actors, as they are the ones who will, in the end, create jobs.

Similarly, we cannot talk about young people without giving them a bigger role in decision-making.

This is why, at last week’s high-level conference, every round-table discussion featured representatives of young people, of civil society, of the diaspora and of the private sector.

We must also focus on local entrepreneurs and SMEs and place the role of women, who are the cornerstone of the informal economy in Africa, at the centre of everything we do.

Development is not possible without acknowledging the work done by women and including them in decision-making and, by extension, in politics.

I welcome the presence of significant numbers of women in the parliaments of our two continents.

There are, however, some structural weaknesses which need to be resolved.

Africa lacks infrastructure: roads and railways, but also hospitals and schools.

Electrification must be a priority, together with promotion of the internet.

And this is where Europe has a part to play.

Businesses must be encouraged to invest in Africa by means of European economic diplomacy which brings with it know-how and technology transfer, thereby boosting the private sector, SMEs and entrepreneurship.

The aim is to foster the integration of individual regions and thus pave the way, one day, for the integration of the entire continent.

As the example of Europe shows, integration brings stability, growth and development through, in particular, the mobility of people, goods and services.

As you will have realised, I am thinking of an ‘African Schengen’.

This would require the role of institutions to be strengthened.

And here I would applaud the determination to do just that shown by the creation of a new institutional framework for this summit: African Union – European Union. (In contrast with the previous four summits: Africa – European Union).

I also think that these summits should be held more often – every two years if possible – and above all that there should be follow-up meetings at various levels so that we can ensure that the decisions taken are being acted upon.

Mobility, as I said, is important and goes hand in hand with education.

We must therefore encourage university exchanges both within Africa and between Europe and Africa and expand our Erasmus+ and Erasmus programmes for young entrepreneurs, with the aim of developing a future African leadership class.

The African continent provides a great number of economic opportunities in various sectors, such as agriculture, tourism, the digital industries, renewables, fishing, industry and raw materials.

In that connection I will, once the proceedings here have come to an end, visit the CEMOI factory, which transforms cocoa – a raw material vital to the GDP of Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s leading producer – into chocolate. It thereby generates added value, jobs and income for the Ivoirian people and the state.

This is the way forward: through industrialisation and economic diversification.

Yet we should not forget the need for a holistic approach.

Companies, commerce and investment can only prosper and create jobs and sustainable, inclusive growth in a climate of peace, security, stability, good governance and respect for human rights.

With regard to respect for human rights, I must condemn the re-emergence of a form of slavery which we have recently seen in Libya.

This is unacceptable, and we must not close our eyes to the phenomenon. And not only because we have seen pictures of what is taking place in Tripoli; it is sure to be happening elsewhere.

This is why we need an honest, open discussion on the subject of migration. Legal migration must be encouraged, to be sure, but we must take a firm approach to cooperation on readmission and return in order to protect the dignity of the individual.


Tomorrow must mark the beginning of a new relationship between equals. It is our task, as parliamentarians, to carry out our role of exercising scrutiny over the executive, thereby ensuring that the decisions taken are acted upon.

I would like to thank you once again for your work, which has resulted in the declaration that has just been adopted and which President Nkodo Dang and I will pass on tomorrow. It will, I am certain, contribute greatly to the success of the summit.

Rest assured that you can count on the commitment of the European Parliament, and in that connection I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Michael Gahler, Chair of the Delegation for Relations with the Pan-African Parliament, and all Members of the European Parliament present here who have worked so hard on this important subject.

You can also count on my personal commitment to ensuring that Africa remains at the centre of the European Union’s political agenda.

Finally, I undertake to come and address the Pan-African Parliament before the end of my term in office. 

Thank you.

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