Following the opening of the new Seychelles Embassy in Abu Dhabi last Thursday, the Seychelles Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, has met with his counterpart, the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and with the Minister for the Interior, His Highness Sheik Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister.
These discussions follow pledges made by Minister Adam and the new Seychelles Ambassador to the UAE, Mr. Dick Esparon, to strengthen existing ties and cooperations, which the Ambassador described as marking a new era of in bilateral relations between the two nations.
“Seychelles’ foreign policy has grown and evolved into an active economic diplomacy that recognizes that we cannot just wait for the world to come to us. We must reach out to the world… And we believe there is no better place to start than in Abu Dhabi,” said Minister Adam.
In the meeting with Sheik Abdullah, the two ministers exchanged views on measures that need to be taken to resolve the situation in Somalia. Minister Adam also took the opportunity to thank the UAE for its support in the fight against piracy, notably through the recent donation of a state-of-the-art Coastguard base and radar system that would better allow the patrol and surveillance of Seychelles waters.
The two Ministers also discussed a special conference on Somalia and on piracy that the UAE will be organizing in Dubai in 2012 to further raise funds for the fight against piracy, and to strengthen nation building efforts within Somalia.
In the meeting, both Ministers reiterated their joint commitment to continue to prosecute pirates as a key aspect of ending the impunity associated with the crime. The UAE has already arrested and prosecuted a number of Somali pirates.
In addition to piracy, the Ministers also discussed the future widening of cooperation in renewable energy, following from the President’s meeting with the CEO of MASDAR. Minister Adam highlighted, that the potential for investment in renewable energy in Seychelles would be an example of public private partnerships.
During his inaugural remarks at the new Seychelles Embassy, the Minister described the UAE engagement with renewable energy as visionary:
“All countries that believe in sustainable development must look seriously towards fast tracking investments in renewable energy to be able to contribute to the global effort to reduce emissions. Despite being an oil producer, the UAE has displayed a long-term vision, which is exemplary in this regard, through the creation of MASDAR city, which will be the world’s first carbon neutral city.
“Our government is in the process of passing new legislation that will empower the independent production of renewable energy in a cost effective manner. The new legislation will also facilitate the creation of commercial business driven models. We firmly believe that renewable energy can create new opportunities for growth in this time of global distress, and the cooperation between our two countries can serve as an instigator of successful models that can be replicated elsewhere.”
In the meeting with the Interior Minister, HH Sheik Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Minister Adam pursued the discussions on a future agreement on visa waivers for Seychelles nationals visiting the UAE, which has been ongoing between the ministry and the UAE Embassy.
In the discussions, HH Sheik Saif indicated the willingness of the UAE to bring these discussions to a fruitful conclusion as soon as possible, and noted that this would be done as soon as all the necessary requirements of legislation and process were completed. He noted for example that the UAE had introduced a system of iris recognition at all airports, and this brought certain specific challenges that need to be addressed before visa waiver agreements could be concluded.
The address delivered by the Seychelles Minister of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of the opening of the Seychelles Embassy in Abu Dhabi spell out the cordial relationship between the Seychelles and the UAE.
The entire address is eprinted here for information:
“President James Michel, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
“It was less than 2 weeks ago, that we had the pleasure to inaugurate in Seychelles a new state-of-the-art Coastguard base – generously funded by the government of the United Arab Emirates – under the leadership of His Highness Sheik Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“Today we come together once again in Abu Dhabi to celebrate the opening of our Embassy – Seychelles’ first diplomatic presence in the Gulf and Middle East region.
“The investment in the new coastguard base by the UAE is a strong message of the importance of our shared security; of shared responsibility for an oceanic space, which is an essential corridor for our respective development.
“The opening of our new embassy is a strong message of our shared values; of the principles of development that we share and which are mutually beneficial to our respective peoples.
“Not many people know that before Seychelles was claimed by the French in 1756, and even before Vasco Da Gama made maps of our archipelago, our islands were visited by a number of Arab trading vessels that stopped off to take water and timber. Our islands were stepping stones for these traders between the Gulf and the African continent and beyond.
“Travel in those days was often a life-threatening pursuit, and a number of graves with Arabic inscriptions on our islands bear testimony to these brief encounters.
“In 2011, our islands are once again positioned as stepping stones – as essential links – between the Gulf and the wider Indian Ocean.
“Never has the importance of the Indian Ocean become more apparent than today, as the world faces the unprecedented rise of piracy off the coast of Somalia. Two thirds of the world’s shipped oil passes through these waters. Over fifty percent of the world’s container traffic.
“We are thus the guardians of the arteries that supply the world economy.
“And regrettably the continued rise of this problem is impacting consumers around the world. And of course, there are still hundreds of hostages being held in Somalia, including two Seychellois fishermen.
“But the joint efforts being taken by the UAE and Seychelles to tackle this scourge show our determination to find long-term solutions to this problem. The leadership of the UAE in working towards more engagement by the developed world in Somalia is to be commended. We also note the success of last year’s Dubai Conference on Somalia and piracy, and we are confident that the 2012 edition will also be an essential event for continuing to mobilize support.
“Seychelles is the smallest of all Indian Ocean countries, and yet we have not hesitated to take responsibility to protect our ocean – not just for ourselves – but in recognition that the whole world is affected by this issue which has a global reach.
“Your excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,
“The opening of this new embassy, is not only an important milestone in our bilateral relations, it is also a seminal moment in Seychelles’ approach to the wider region.
“The world faces a crisis of unforeseen proportions, and we are all still guessing on what will be the eventual consequences. This turmoil feeds the continued uncertainty of international markets and a lack of stability in the international economy. Coupled with political crisis in many parts of the Middle East, Europe, and beyond, we are certainly facing what many may consider a threat to the make-up of politico-economic structures as we know it.
“In the face of such volatility, it is important that the world can turn to certain oases of stability. The UAE is certainly one of those oases. It is an anchor of stability for the Gulf region, and even more importantly, it offers a safe haven for the world at this time.
“As the UAE approaches its 40th anniversary of statehood, I would like to take this opportunity to salute the vision of His Highness Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan – the founder of the UAE who had the foresight to create a union of strength and durability – built on tradition but open to the modern world.
“The strong relationship being built between Seychelles and the UAE is also based on a long-term vision. In our cooperation, we are building the next 100 years, and not just next year.
“Seychelles is often referred to as a small country. And it is not too long ago that the UAE may also have been referred to as being a small country. But we all know how the UAE has succeeded in building a modern nation, which is now a model for many others to emulate.
“Seychelles has also succeeded despite its size – we are the highest-ranked country in Africa by the United Nations Human Development Index. We have also declared 50 percent of our land territory as nature reserve – the largest proportion of any country in the world.
“We are two countries that have a lot to offer each other.
“And the true mark of friendship is that when our two countries speak to each other – neither one of us feels small.
“Your excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,
“I am also especially proud that this new embassy is also accompanied with a dedicated tourism office to better serve the UAE and also the wider Gulf region.
“The growth of this tourism market for Seychelles is already very encouraging, but we know that for many of you, Seychelles is still a mysterious secret ready to be discovered.
“We have many pictures to paint for your imaginations. But I can assure you that nothing compares to actually experiencing the Seychelles islands, which are truly ‘another world.’ Seychelles is now the best connected island destination to the Gulf region, and we are but 4 hours away from Abu Dhabi.
“Our new tourism office can offer you a taste of what we have to offer. But I take this opportunity to invite you all to come to Seychelles to see for yourselves, because this is the only way that my speech will be able to be justified in its true context.
“As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am, of course, expected to tell you how wonderful my country is.
“But it is as a Seychellois that I can invite you all to truly feel the warmth of our hospitality, the spirit of our nature, and the vibrancy of our culture.
“Your excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,
“Seychelles has consistently put the protection of the environment at the forefront of its development strategies.
“Our economy depends on a healthy natural environment, and it is for this reason that in many cases we have foregone development opportunities to preserve sites of exceptional beauty. We consider this to be, however, a long-term investment in our children’s future.
“Environmental protection however can only truly bring us towards sustainability if it is situated within a global effort to preserve our planet.
“In that regard, the lack of progress on a legally-binding agreement on carbon emissions as a successor to the Kyoto protocol is a cause of much concern.
“All countries that believe in sustainable development must look seriously towards fast-tracking investments in renewable energy to be able to contribute to the global effort to reduce emissions. Despite being an oil producer, the UAE has displayed a long-term vision, which is exemplary in this regard, through the creation of Masdar city, which will be the world’s first carbon-neutral city.
“Masdar is also investing in renewable energy projects in Seychelles. Such projects are essential for our future development, as reliance on oil imports creates great disruption for Small Island Developing States. The fluctuation of oil prices disrupts the planning process more acutely in small economies, and sudden rises are difficult to absorb because of the overall smallness of the market. Energy produced from renewable sources will allow more predictability in energy prices and thus strengthen the resilience of the national economy.
“I am pleased to inform you that our government is in the process of passing new legislation that will empower the independent production of renewable energy in a cost-effective manner. The new legislation will also facilitate the creation of commercial business-driven models. We firmly believe that renewable energy can create new opportunities for growth in this time of global distress, and the cooperation between our two countries can serve as an instigator of successful models that can be replicated elsewhere.
“Your excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,
“It is with immense pride that we are opening this embassy today.
“Seychelles has been through a lot these last few years. In 2008, we faced what many thought was an insurmountable task – with debts of over 180 percent of GDP, black market currency trading, and difficulties to import sufficient for our national needs.
“In 2011, we are proud that our economy is growing at an impressive annual rate, our debt to GDP ratio has been halved, and we have solved all import constraints with fast-growing domestic consumption.
“We have succeeded because of our hard work and our determination. But we have also succeeded because we have had support from our friends.
“We can count on the UAE as a true friend that has enabled us to maintain a model of development that puts our people first – whether it be through the provision of US$30 million for housing projects, the construction of a new diagnostic center, or through the procurement of specialized IT equipment for our schools.
“Through the opening of this Embassy, we would like to say thank you.
“But we are also saying that we fully believe that a presence in Abu Dhabi offers us a world of new opportunities.
“Seychelles’ foreign policy has grown and evolved into an active economic diplomacy that recognizes that we cannot just wait for the world to come to us. We must reach out to the world.
“And we believe there is no better place to start than in Abu Dhabi.