The European Business Council for Africa

Europe is facing a perfect storm: energy prices are up, economic growth is down and winter is coming. The Kremlin is using energy as a political weapon. We must prepare ourselves for a possible gas cut-off, principally through savings, diversification and solidarity among us. At the same time, we must accelerate investments in renewables and wage a global campaign for energy efficiency and savings to ensure sustainable energy access to all while staying within planetary boundaries.

When it comes to energy, Europe faces a dilemma: it needs to balance its short-term goals – to wean itself off Russian oil and gas while getting through the winter – with its long-term net-zero targets under the Green Deal. And it must ensure that its internal choices are compatible with its external commitments. There is no point pretending that doing so is easy, cheap or without trade-offs. But it is possible, if we invest seriously in energy savings, renewables and solidarity, both at home and around the world.

Today, ambassadors of member states to the EU agreed the Council's position on the 2023 EU draft budget. In total, the Council's position for next year's budget amounts to € 183.95 billion in commitments and € 165.74 billion in payments. Compared to the budget agreed by the Council and the European Parliament for 2022, this is an increase of +8.29% in commitments and a decrease of -3.02% in payments.

"The Council decided to pursue a prudent approach to the annual budgetary process. We will make sure that EU financial resources are focused on our current priorities. This means that we have adjusted several of the figures proposed by the Commission. I am pleased that we now have a solid basis for our negotiations with the European Parliament."
- Zbyněk Stanjura, Minister for Finance of Czechia

The EU, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and the cocoa sector have today agreed to step up work on making cocoa more sustainable. At today’s high-level event of the sustainable cocoa initiative, “Cocoa Talks”, they jointly endorsed an “Alliance on Sustainable Cocoa”, an ambitious roadmap to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of cocoa production and trade.

Following two years of discussions, all sides have committed to a set of concrete time-bound actions to improve the sustainability of the cocoa supply chain in West Africa. These actions aim to halt deforestation and child labour, and improve the living income for farmers. These commitments were endorsed by all and will be closely monitored.

The European Commission adopted today a proposal to mobilise €600 million from the reserves of the European Development Fund to address the current food security crisis aggravated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. These funds will support African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to cope with the dire situation, through humanitarian assistance (€150 million), sustainable production and resilience of food systems (€350 million) and macro-economic support (€100 million).

Announcing the new support measure at the 2022 European Development Days in Brussels, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Russia's war of aggression is taking a heavy and senseless toll, not only on the Ukrainian population, but also those most vulnerable around the world. Russia is still blocking millions of tonnes of desperately needed grain. To help our partners we will mobilise an additional 600 million euros to avoid a food crisis and an economic shock.”

Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: “Solidarity is at the core of our European Union values. The most vulnerable are facing tremendous suffering with a worsened food crisis following Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. With these additional €600 million, we will strengthen our support to address the crisis, while contributing to sustainable and resilient food systems.”

The European Commission is today taking a major step in making EU trade greener, fairer and more sustainable. It has unveiled a new plan to enhance the contribution of EU trade agreements in protecting the climate, environment and labour rights worldwide. In its Communication on “The power of trade partnerships: together for green and just economic growth”, the Commission is putting forward how to further strengthen the implementation and enforcement of Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters of the EU's trade agreements.

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “We promised to make trade more sustainable and today we are delivering. Our trade agreements give us clout on the world stage and support economic growth and sustainable development – but as of now, we want to make them an even bigger driver of positive change. We will engage and support our partners to make this happen. We will step up our enforcement, and we will resort to sanctions if key labour and climate commitments are not met.”

Today in Cairo, on the occasion of the visit of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her meeting with Egyptian President El Sisi, the EU and Egypt issued a joint statement on climate, energy and the green transition.

President von der Leyen said: “We are starting to tap into the full potential of EU-Egypt relations, by putting the clean energy transition and the fight against climate change at the heart of our partnership. I look forward to working with Egypt as COP27 Presidency to build on the good momentum from last year in Glasgow. Egypt is also a crucial partner in our efforts to move away from Russian fossil fuels and towards more reliable suppliers.”

Russia’s war against Ukraine threatens to create a global wave of hunger. We must urgently enable Ukraine to export its grains through the Black Sea. We also see a “battle of narratives” around Russian grains and fertilizer exports. While our sanctions do not target these exports, we are ready to work with the UN and our partners to prevent any unwanted impact on global food security.

For several decades, hunger was declining and the international community committed to end it globally by 2030 with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted in 2015. However, since then, the number of undernourished people had stopped decreasing and the COVID-19 pandemic had already made things much worse. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that this number has risen from 132 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic to 276 million in early 2022 and 323 million today.

Even before Putin's war against Ukraine, we were losing ground in the global fight against hunger. Now, this unjustified and unprovoked war puts the world in danger of a famine affecting hundreds of millions of people. According to the UN Global Crisis Response Group, 1.2 billion people - one in six of the world’s population - are living in ‘perfect-storm’ countries that are severely exposed to the combination of rising food prices, rising energy prices and tightening financial conditions.

At the Fifth Global Conference on Child Labour in Durban (South Africa) in May 2022, the EU joined other key international partners in a call to action to end child labour. The outcome was a list of 49 concrete actions with specific targets, including legislation and decent work throughout globalized value chains. But the over-arching aim is to tackle child labour at its roots, through social protection for even the poorest – the theme for this year’s World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June, which marks the end of a Week of Action.

Significant progress was being made to end child labour until 2016, but according to the latest estimates, various challenges have reversed the downward trend: 160 million children are currently victims of child labour, half of them in the worst forms.

This trend is alarming, given that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 targets an end to child labour in all its forms by 2025, just three years away.

Today, the European Commission announced the first 118 regions and local authorities that will participate in the EU Mission for Adaptation to Climate Change, the so-called Mission Adaptation, which will support the European Green Deal and the EU Climate Adaptation Strategy.

These regions and local authorities will sign the Mission Charter today at the Committee of the Regions' first Forum of the EU Mission Adaptation to Climate Change. A further 17 private companies, service centres, research networks and local action groups active in improving climate resilience will endorse the Charter and become friends of the Mission. The 118 signatories come from 18 Member States, with 6 more parties coming from countries associated or potentially associated with Horizon Europe, the EU's research and innovation programme.

The Commission has today proposed an annual EU budget of €185.6 billion for 2023, to be complemented by an estimated €113.9 billion in grants under NextGenerationEU. The EU budget will continue to mobilise significant investments to boost Europe's strategic autonomy, the ongoing economic recovery, safeguard sustainability and create jobs. The Commission will continue to prioritise green and digital investments while addressing pressing needs arising from recent and current crises.

Commissioner Johannes Hahn, responsible for the EU Budget, said: “We are continuing to put forward extraordinary amounts of funding to support Europe's recovery and to tackle current and future challenges. The budget remains an important tool the Union has at its disposal to provide clear added value to people's lives. It helps Europe shape a changing world, in which we are working together for peace, prosperity and our European values”.

The draft budget 2023, boosted by NextGenerationEU, is designed to respond to the most crucial recovery needs of EU Member States and our partners around the world. These financial means will continue to rebuild and modernise the European Union and strengthen Europe's status as a strong global actor and reliable partner.