The European Union ambassador to Uganda, Mr Jan Sadek, speaks during celebrations to mark Europe Day in Kampala on May 9. PHOTO/COURTESY


Anti-gay law a test to strong EU relationship with Uganda

What you need to know:

Last Tuesday, the European Union held celebrations at the ambassador’s residence in Kampala to mark Europe Day. We bring you the speech delivered on the day by EU ambassador to Uganda Jan Sadek.

Europe Day is celebrate to mark the founding of the European Union as declared by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950. The first recognition of Europe Day was by the Council of Europe, introduced in 1964.  

Your Excellency, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
This is my first Europe Day celebrations in Uganda, and let me start by thanking all of you for your warm welcoming and support when we arrived last year in Kampala, my wife Anna and I and our three children.

We have been in your country only 7 months but we already feel at home here. As the national anthem says, Uganda is a land of beauty, and we are enjoying it every day here in our garden on Kololo. And we look forward to continuing exploring the whole country.

On Europe Day, we celebrate the foundation of the European Union and commemorate Robert Schuman’s declaration on this day in 1950. It was a historic moment when the French Foreign Minister proposed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which later became the European Union as we know it today. But Europe Day is not just a day to celebrate the birth of the European Union, it is also a day to reflect on the values that we hold dear, such as peace, democracy, and the rule of law.

Robert Schuman once said, “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.” This solidarity has been a cornerstone of European unity and cooperation for more than 70 years. And it is highly valid also today, as we witness the Russian aggression war in Ukraine. 

This is a threat not only to Ukrainian sovereignty and European stability but also to global peace and security. As you can see, the Ukrainian flag is flying alongside the EU one. Ukraine has our support and the response from the European Union and its Member States has been swift, united, and strong, countering the imperialism and colonialism on the Russian side.  So we stand in solidarity with Ukraine. And it is the same solidarity that we have extended to partners around the world for decades, promoting peace, prosperity and sustainability. This includes the African continent, and it includes Uganda.

EU interest
Your Excellency, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
The EU takes a great interest in Uganda. The EU wants to build a strong partnership with Uganda, on the political side, on cooperation, and on trade and investment, working with all segments of the Ugandan society.

We have a continuous and broad-based dialogue with the Government, and we share the same views in many areas. We commend Uganda’s positive role in the region, we celebrate its developmental gains, its progressive refugee policy and its ambitions on renewable energy – where 90 percent of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources – I think that is worthy of some applause!

We also applaud the political representation of women – and H E the Vice President herself is an excellent example of that – so let’s also applaud her. We cherish the freedom of religion in the country and the fine coexistence between its ethnic groups.

But as friends and partners we also speak out when we have different views. For example, there is no secret that we disagree about the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which contradicts universal values and threatens the safety and dignity of a group of citizens. We believe it is important to be able to have a frank exchange also about such matters. And I am happy to see that Uganda allows such a dialogue. I recall my own meeting with His Excellency the President, when he received me so that I could express the concerns of the European Union. 
This shows there is trust in the relationship. And I think you agree, in this increasingly polarised world, we should all seek the option of dialogue.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
Since I arrived in Kampala, I have understood what a sizeable cooperation the EU has with Uganda. The current cooperation budget for the EU Delegation is 800 MEUR, and taken together, including the efforts of the EU Member States, Team Europe is the leading development partner for Uganda.

I have also been struck by the breadth of our cooperation, we are active everywhere, from infrastructure and renewable energy, trade and investment promotion, to education and gender, culture and support for Civil Society. It will be impossible for me to cover everything in this speech – then you would not be home before breakfast… So let me instead give you some examples, connected to the things you see here tonight.

Let me start with the illustrious young and not so short men behind me. Apart from carrying the EU and Uganda flags, they represent the youth of this country, and thereby the engine and driver for the country’s development. And put on the right track, there is no limit to what they can achieve – like for these two gentlemen, the sky is the limit! And this is where the European Union wants to contribute – by promoting jobs creation and growth, which is one of the three priorities for our cooperation.

We want to help young people to access skills and livelihoods. And we also feel it is essential to listen to them, listen to their concerns and aspirations – which we will do in our Youth Sounding Board.

You will also have seen that we are surrounded by the most emblematic animals of the Pearl of Africa, the elephant, the ostrich – and of course the crested crane! They signify the EU-Uganda partnership to protect the environment, to conserve the country’s unique biodiversity, to restore forests, through our flagship Forest Partnership.

Green transition is the second of our priorities, and it also includes support to the renewable energy sector – where Uganda has an incredible track-record and where there is so much more potential.

The third priority for our cooperation is Governance and Social Inclusion. This priority is represented by the wide diversity of women and men here today. After all, building good governance and social inclusion is all about individuals working together to make government and society work for the majority. As the EU, we are proud to be associated through our support to many of the government and civil society representatives here this evening.

Let me now draw your attention to the nice coffee bar over there, provided by our partner the Uganda Coffee Development Authority. They represent our support to Ugandan exports. I am sure they don’t protest when I say that coffee is what really links Uganda and the EU! Out of the Ugandan coffee exports, around 60 percent go to Europe, to a value of more than 800 MEUR per year.

The sector employs over 3,5 million families. Isn’t that remarkable! And we believe there is potential to grow this further! To celebrate the EU-Uganda coffee partnership, we, the UCDA and the EU Delegation, will present you with a package of delicious Ugandan coffee as you leave! Please enjoy it with family and friends!

Support to investments
And then I wonder, have you tried the special EU Beer that we serve here tonight? It is part of our collaboration with Banange Breweries and produced according to a top secret EU Delegation recipe. Banange has European investors and apart from serving superb beer tonight, they also represent our support to foreign investments in Uganda. European investors come in all sizes, up to the biggest, which is TotalEnergies. 

At the EU, we are working hard to promote private sector development in general, through the platform Sustainable Business for Uganda – SB4U. Many of you will remember the annual Business Forum that we have hosted here in Kampala – that is also part of SB4U.

Finally, on our symbolistic journey through the garden we have arrived at our photo exhibition, over there at the front, where we highlight the resilience and hope among the refugee and host communities in this country. Uganda’s open door policy is well-known and highly appreciated.

Earlier this year, the EU Group of Ambassadors visited the Kisoro district, where many men, women and children find refuge from the violence in the DRC. We were able to witness Uganda’s generous refugee response and the Team Europe support, including from the EU and its humanitarian branch ECHO. In this and many other ways, Uganda is playing a major role for the stability in the region.

The EU is committed to support these efforts, and we have just launched a Great Lakes Strategy, to share our unique experience and to address the root causes of the conflicts in the area, as well as to unleash the full potential of trade and cooperation and the sustainable use of the natural resources in the region.

These days we have been reminded again of Kisoro, because of the rains and the landslide, and the district has our sympathies and support – the EU has been able to fund the response through the Ugandan Red Cross Society, with eg shelter kits.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Now you have an idea of what the EU Delegation is working on, at the top of Crested Towers. All of this is a testimony of our partnership with Uganda and the strong idea of solidarity that remains at the core of the European Union and its Foreign Policy. I believe the European Union is needed and plays an important role in the rapidly changing world we live in.

As our High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell put it the other day, “the future is unknown but we have to try to shape it, together with the countries and the peoples across the world, including of course in Africa”. And he also acknowledged that, “we need to take the expectations and grievances of our partners seriously and avoid misunderstandings that lead to frustrations, such as perceived double-standards”. In doing so, he emphasised the EU as a listening partner and the need for us to step up our dialogue.

This is the engagement of our High Representative for Foreign Affairs; and ladies and gentlemen, this is also my commitment towards Uganda.

As I end my remarks, let me thank my talented team at the EU Delegation, coming from all over Europe and from Uganda.

It has been a pleasure to join you here in Uganda, and Anna and I thank you and the Residence Team and the staff from many other EU Member States residences who are working here tonight, for all your efforts to create this beautiful Europe Day reception!
Thank you for your attention!

"But as friends and partners we also speak out when we have different views. For example, there is no secret that we disagree about the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which contradicts universal values and threatens the safety and dignity of a group of citizens. We believe it is important to be able to have a frank exchange also about such matters. And I am happy to see that Uganda allows such a dialogue,” he shares