ALEXANDER DE CROO, Prime Minister of Belgium, said there is reason for grounded optimism based on the world’s recent climate track record, despite extreme climate events and long periods of drought and water stress. A record-breaking €340 billion have been invested this year in renewable energy globally, and prices of renewables continue to go down. “We should speed up the green transition instead of talking ourselves down,” he said. Calling for a “New Industrial Deal,” one of Belgium’s big priorities for its Presidency of the European Union next year, he emphasized that “we need to include our industry” because “we will not build a climate paradise on an industrial wasteland.” He called for partnerships, especially between Europe and Africa, to accelerate the green transition across wind, solar, and hydrogen. Additionally, to achieve climate neutrality, “we will need both renewables and nuclear.” Belgium will remain a nuclear nation, including through an agreement with its nuclear operator to prolong the lifespan of its two biggest power plants.
On migration, Belgium will seek to conclude a new European pact during its European Union Presidency, rebuilding the current migration model and ensuring every bloc member does its part. Instead of the current “lose-lose” model that “gives all the control and power to human smugglers” to decide on life or death, he called for a “win-win” approach that creates legal channels to Europe and strengthens societies in home countries. The new model will enforce solidarity, standardize fast-tracking procedures, and work on common European readmission and return policies. While the pact will seek to strengthen the bloc’s common borders, he also called on Europe to partner with countries of transit and origin to address migration’s root causes, including poverty and lack of economic opportunities. Instead of having young Africans risk their lives at sea for the European or American dream, they should have the opportunity to pursue the African dream.
Regarding international security, the “clear and present danger” is coming from the Russian Federation, which has thrown “all international rules overboard” and invaded its neighbour, as well as executed its opponents and created the Wagner group “to bring death and destruction to Africa.” In fact, he continued, “what Wagner and Putin are doing to Africa is exactly the same as in Ukraine.” They are not only denying African countries their sovereignty, but also plundering Africa while increasing the price of grain for the most vulnerable. “They want to restore the old world order as it was dominated by colonial powers.” Meanwhile, in the Sahel, a “perfect storm” of terrorism, poverty, and climate change are undermining societies in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. While he noted that “our track record in the Sahel should be reason for humility,” it should not lead to indifference. “The only way forward is to restore the rule of law,” because without it, self-government will never be possible and the Sahel “will always be a potential playground for foreign bullies.”
Reflecting on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he affirmed the decolonization and emancipation of African, Asian, and South American countries as the most important achievement after the World Wars. “We should protect this legacy” and shield it from new forms of imperialism, he affirmed. “Each of us has a choice” of whose side to pick — that of the colonizer or the victim. He called on the international community to recognize the Declaration’s true universality and to remember the progress made for common humanity. When the freed slaves of Haiti, for example, finally had freedom to choose their own destiny, they defined living in dignity as living in liberty and equality. In closing, he urged the United Nations and world to come together to secure progress that works for everyone.
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