South African youth on Tuesday played a very important part in the 60th celebration of the European Union (EU), with about six youth groups entertaining guests at the 012Central Market@theSheds in the Pretoria city centre.
European Union (EU) Ambassador Marcus Cornaro said the youth was very important for economic development for South Africa and Europe. He said they specifically choose the venue to get people out of the residences at hotels and to come downtown.
He said the celebrations were not only about the EU. Most memorably, he performed a dance for those in attendance.
He said: “I am proudly standing here to mark two things: Firstly, 60 years of Europe. It wasn’t easy. For 60 years of European integration, we are from the rumbles of the Second World War to what we still believe is the biggest-fought power to promote peace and prosperity.
“We also mark 10 years of our strategic partnership with South Africa,” Cornaro said.
He added that the strategic partnership was embedded in 30 years of cooperation and that the sustainable goals agenda would not be there if Europe and South African had not cooperated the way they had.
Cornaro said he was most pleased with European foreign investment, with about 2 000 European companies creating about 350 000 jobs coming directly with European financing embedded in an economic partnership agreement which was enormously successful.
“Just the other day I looked at our trade balance, which in the past was in favour of Europe. Now, in 2016, South Africa was exporting much more to Europe and has caught up very well,” the ambassador said.
He applauded South African institutions, saying it was very good to work with especially with booming science and technology sectors. He said they shared about 250 projects in Europe and South Africa, scientific corporation and that more than 1 000 South Africans had gone on a scholarship programme to Europe.
On Emmanuel Macron (39), the new French President, Cornaro said: “They have a young leader who comes without a party. He opposes a nationalist agenda on the pro-European theme and he gets 66% of the votes where very few other leaders dare to have a pro-European discourse. It’s a very important injection in turning the populist discourse.”
Russian Ambassador Mikhail Petrakov said yesterday was a double celebration for the Russians as Russia was celebrating their victory over Nazi Germany. He said millions of Russians went out on the streets carrying pictures of their fathers and grandfathers, who had fought and died during the war.
Petrakoc said the 9th of May, as Europe Day, was also a very important celebration day “because technically, geographically, Russia is part of Europe and the relationship with the European Union is of great importance to us and development in a constructive and positive way”.