Speech by Commissioner Urpilainen at the 2021 Cooperation Days, High-level session 1 “Implementing Geopolitical Priorities”, 15/03/2021

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Dear colleagues and friends,

Let me thank you for your relentless work and dedication.

This past year has really tested us.

However, despite all the difficulties – your strong work ethic has never faltered.

It has not gone unnoticed.

Through International Partnerships, we are adapting the European model of development in line with new global realities.

Our post-war multilateral system is under pressure. Unilateralism is on the rise.

Models are competing and alliance dynamics are changing.

At the same time, we face a number of global challenges, and, since last year, a global pandemic.

In this challenging time, the EU must step up.

We need ambitious action at home but also in our international partnerships.

There is a momentum right now.  With a new MFF and the programming we have the opportunity to get it right.


We already have a lot to be proud of.

Team Europe is a major innovation in how the EU, Member States, implementing agencies and European Development Finance Institutions work together.

Team Europe has led the charge on the global COVID response and vaccine solidarity.

We have seen the first COVAX deliveries to our partner countries.

Thank you for delivering Team Europe visibility on the ground. That is a challenge we have to answer also each following day.

We have also concluded two major negotiations – NDICI and post-Cotonou.  These agreements will lay the ground for our future work.

So, what then are our operational priorities for the coming months?

First, the ongoing programming exercise. It is a heavy investment.

Together with the European External Action Service, we now assess the draft country and thematic Multi-Annual Indicative Programmes.

Around mid to end of May, we will provide you with the political assessment and operational feedback on these.

Accountability, transparency and policy dialogue with partner countries will be essential. And in particular when it comes to Budget Support.  I count on you to engage with your counterparts in partner countries and consult thoroughly with civil society.

Secondly, we have the Team Europe Initiatives.

This is the first time we have large-scale flagships designed, funded and implemented with Member States.

Team Europe has really become part of the fabric of our external action.

I know it is demanding for all of us to bring Member States fully on board. But, it is vitally important.

I have also taken the decision to commit a fifth of ODA funding to human development. And, we will ensure 85% of our actions have a gender component.

Education will be a top priority because it is the best possible future investment.

On top of the global learning crisis, youth has been hard hit by school closures.

We will increase funding on education from seven to at least 10 %. I also want to engage more on education in sub-Saharan Africa and identify Team Europe initiatives.

Our third priority is multilateralism and a renewed transatlantic relationship.

The Global Recovery Initiative provides an opportunity to renew multilateralism, guided by the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

Multilateralism is the best method to find sustainable solutions to global challenges.

It is essential to re-energize and reform multilateralism to face the 21st Century challenges. Our new Joint Communication sets out our way on this.

EU will strengthen EU-US relations with the new US administration.

Dear colleagues,

2021 will be another challenging year. It is not going to be easy.

I realise that programming puts a lot of pressure on Delegations.

But please never forget how much this work matters.

It’s work that will make a difference to the lives of millions of people, for years.

It protects EU values and interests, and makes us stronger in the world.

So again, thank you for your hard work and your commitment!