The European Union and Namibia have wrapped up negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), and are expected to sign the agreement later this year as the EU builds on its involvement with Namibia. This was revealed by the Head of the EU Delegation to Namibia, Ambassador Raúl Fuentes Milani at a reception marking the European Day celebrations held at the EU Residence in Windhoek on Friday last week.
“We have finalised negotiations and are ready to sign sometime this year,” said Milani adding that the cooperation, once officially announced, would “open a new page in economic relations.” The EU and Namibia, together with other SADC countries, have been negotiating the EPA since 2007, and although initialised, Namibia is one of the countries that have not signed the EPA citing differences on key issues of export taxes, safeguarding measures on agricultural products and rules of origin.
“The idea is to change the current situation, based on un-bilateral concessions by the EU, into a bilateral understanding,” said Milani on the new direction of the EPA.
Despite economic and trade agreements, the EU head says there is a lot of scope for cooperation on issues of international relations, as many of the goals that Namibia aim for in international relations are also in the EU’s focus.
“Namibia is an efficient and respected actor. Namibia’s credentials in the fight against colonialism and apartheid, together with its attachment to international law principles, are a worldwide reference and precious to EU member states. We believe that Namibia has a lot to say in international relations,” said Milani.
Further, Namibia and the EU would soon sign a new ‘National Indicative Plan for Namibia’ document that charts development cooperation for a period of five years from 2015 to 2020.
“Our focal sectors will be the support to early childhood development and pre-primary education in Namibia, and the rural economy, more particular the livestock value chain in communal lands,” said Milani, adding that the National Indicative Plan would also support civil society.
The National Indicative Plan will be fully coordinated with other European donors under the Joint EU Development Strategy for Namibia, which was adopted last year.
“No overlaps. No waste of resources, full alignment along Namibia’s development priorities. We want to support Namibia’s development as the Namibian government sees it. And we are here to stay,” said Milani.
He said that emerging investment opportunities both in Namibia and Europe, access to new markets and the exchange of skilled labour would make the Namibia-EU partnership more equal.
“Today the European Union (EU) and its member states are Namibia’s main trade partners, main development partners and a trusted political partner,” he said.
Fuentes further noted that 2015 is a special year for Namibia, citing the country’s 25th independence celebration and peaceful transferring of power from the second president Hifikepunye Pohamba to the current and third President of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob.
“Namibia has been able to live up to its founding principles, such as reconciliation and the protection of human rights, to become a functional democracy which enjoys sustained growth and peaceful relations with its neighbours.”
“Since the first days after independence, we have worked together in the areas of development cooperation, trade, investment and people-to-people contacts,” he added.