Speech by President Charles Michel at the official dinner of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa

It is an honour and privilege for me to take the floor as the voice of Europe before you, in Ethiopia, the land of origins and the cradle of the last Nobel Peace Prize. Congratulations again dear Abiy Ahmed.

It is with deep pleasure that I return to this continent, for which I have so much affection.

I am here today to bear witness to a metamorphosis of this continent but also that of Europe.

Your northern neighbour is changing. I am here tonight to speak for 27 European countries. 21 of them never had any colonies.

A new generation of leaders is coming to power. They are not hampered by the burden of nostalgia.

We want to look towards the future, and to our neighbours. We want to tackle climate change and the digital revolution. The two major challenges we are all facing.

Europe wants to speak up on the international stage, where its values inspire its actions.

This changing Europe is looking at Africa with fresh eyes – with respect, optimism and confidence!

Africa is vibrant, full of the energy of youth and it is buzzing with new technology!

A continent of opportunities: that is what Europe sees.

For a long time, Europe remained trapped in an outdated view of this continent.

Africa, too, has at times cultivated a kind of ambiguity in its relationship with Europe.

Our closeness connects us, our partnership is a rich one. Everything draws us towards one another: history, geography, culture and the many exchanges between us.

Europe is your partner for trade, investment, cooperation and development. But this partnership is no longer enough; it needs to be reinvented. We must build a new house to accommodate our many common interests, and we must write a new chapter together.

[The following text was originally pronounced in French.]

Ladies and gentlemen,

To paraphrase Nelson Mandela, our choices must reflect our hopes and not our fears. Europe wants to talk with Africa about economic and human capital, trade, jobs, investment, infrastructure.

Europe is reaching out to Africa so that we can map out a bright and promising future together.

A strong Europe is good for Africa, just as a strong Africa is good for Europe.

Our shared agenda must be a positive agenda, one that we draw up together. It must not be a one-way street, for one-way streets often lead to a dead end.

And this I say with solemnity: Europe will meet the challenge. This is a priority for my new term as President of the European Council.

We are at the dawn of a new decade. We are ready to exchange, to share and to cooperate.

Long live the alliance between Europe and Africa!