The year 2002 will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most significant in the life of the Centre for the Development of Enterprise. Having lent support to the private sector in ACP countries for 25 years under the Lomé Conventions, the Centre completed the reforms required to enable it to discharge, to good effect, the additional new responsibilities entrusted to it by the Cotonou Agreement.
The Director’s term of office was extended. Immediately on being appointed, the new Executive Board set to work on an examination of the Centre’s basic texts: its statutes, rules of procedure, financial regulations and multiannual strategic plan.These various documents had been drafted in close consultation among the European Union States, the Commission, the CDE and the ACP States, so that all had had the opportunity to put their views on the priorities to be pursued over the years ahead. I take the opportunity to pay tribute to this collegiate exercise, yet another demonstration of how worthwhile it is to have joint ACP/EU institutions, to which we in the ACP States have always attached the highest value.
The year also saw the start of the PRO€INVEST programme drawn up on behalf of the ACP States by the European Commission, which took the logical course of entrusting its implementation to the CDE.We regard this choice of a joint institution as a guarantee that the programme will be responsive to the needs and aspirations of our enterprises and trade associations, while making the most of the clear potential for synergy with other European support facilities, notably those of the Centre.
When it was launched – on schedule – by the specialized unit in the CDE, I took the opportunity to emphasize that PRO€INVEST was both a valuable programme, designed as it was to help the most dynamic ACP enterprises establish themselves firmly in the world economy, and a timely one, coming as it did just as the negotiations between the European Union and the ACP States on EPAs (Economic Partnership Agreements) were getting under way.
Those negotiations, officially opened on 27 September 2002, prompt me to stress that, as well as dealing with trade concessions and tariff matters, the EPAs must pursue the objective of fostering sustainable development.That is a process in which the private sector in our countries has a vital part to play.The CDE/PRO€INVEST combination, which has been provided with resources for this purpose, must therefore commit itself to accompanying our enterprises on the road to a sustainable future, supporting action they take to modernize, organize, find outlets for their products, and meet the certification requirements for standards and quality labels so that they can establish themselves on world markets.
It is therefore an extremely testing challenge that we now face. Even so, I know we can rely on the CDE to lend active support, as always in the past, to the private sector in our countries in its preparations for its role as the engine of sustainable development, in the new context that the ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements can confidently be expected to create.