European Year of Development starts in Riga

European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday launched 2015 as the European Year of Development in a ceremony at the National Library building on a second day of high-level discussions among EU leaders. 

"I am honored to be officially opening today here in Riga the first European Year for Development," Juncker told a crowd consisting of politicians, civil servants and development specialists.

"One of my priorities for this Commission is to strengthen Europe as a global actor," Juncker said.

Europe can only be a global actor if Europeans understand how the role of the European Union and its Member States benefits us all in our interdependent world."

"2015 is the deadline for meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. At the end of this year we will replace them with a new global agenda, the so-called 'post-2015 development agenda'. In order to do so, we will have the 3rd Financing for Development Conference in July in Addis Ababa, and at the United Nations post-2015 Summit in September in New York. And finally, 2015 is also the year where we are working towards a new Global Climate agreement in Paris," Juncker said.

Describing the EU as "the world’s most important donor", Juncker pledged that "in a few weeks my Commission will call for us to collectively renew our support and commitment to the world's poorest."

However, despite stressing his commitment to "sustainable development," Juncker avoided naming any figures in regard to how much money might be directed towards development goals over the next 12 months.

"May I now declare the European Year for Development open!" he concluded. 

Following Juncker on stage was EU foreign policy supremo Federica Mogherini who said it was important that the year did not involve just EU institutions but would "reach out to people everywhere, to European citizens and far beyond European citizens."

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