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This Communication is the first formal strategy in thirty years for EU-Pacific relations. It aims to strengthen political dialogue, place greater focus on development cooperation and improve the effectiveness of aid delivery. It reflects the growing environmental, political and economic importance of the Pacific region.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 29 May 2006 - EU relations with the Pacific Islands - A strategy for a strengthened partnership [COM(2006) 248 – Official Journal C 184 of 8 August 2006].
The strategy will bring the EU's relationship with the Pacific into line with the new EU development policy statement adopted by the EU institutions in December 2005 and with the revised Cotonou Agreement of 2005. It will also help put into practice the EU's commitments to aid effectiveness in the region.
The strategy consists of three components:
- stronger political relations on matters of common interest such as global political security, trade, economic and social development and the environment;
- more focused development action, with greater emphasis on regional cooperation to build up critical mass, enhance regional governance and facilitate mutual enrichment;
- more efficient aid delivery, including greater use of direct budget support and closer coordination with other partners, in particular Australia and New Zealand.
In this strategy, the EU concentrates on sound management and protection of the environment, which are essential to the prosperity of the Pacific region, and takes into account its specific character: some of the islands are small, remote and vulnerable to natural disasters; they also face the challenges of state fragility and weak governance; moreover, their political and economic importance has increased owing to a growing demand for their substantial natural resources (fish, timber, minerals, oil, gas).
As regards strengthening the political dialogue between the EU and the Pacific region, the proposal is to increase contact with the Pacific Islands Forum, which is the main regional institution for political issues. It is also important to conduct a dialogue at national level with key Pacific ACP countries, in accordance with the Cotonou Agreement.
More focused development action
The action will focus on three priorities: governance, regionalism and sustainable management of natural resources.
Drawing on its experience, the EU will help prevention and stabilisation in post-conflict situations and establish good governance by strengthening credible institutions. It will encourage greater compliance with international standards as regards workers and in the fight against corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing.
Regional integration is crucial for an effective development aid strategy. The Pacific needs to strengthen this dimension and the EU will bring added value where it can. It will continue to help the Forum Secretariat and the other Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) agencies, in particular as regards natural resources management, vulnerability and governance.
The EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) has a catalytic effect on economic cooperation and integration in the Pacific region as it stimulates the Pacific ACP countries to negotiate as a group, open up to each other and improve regional governance. Of the Pacific ACP countries’ total exports, 10 % go to the EU. This is a remarkable figure considering the size of these countries and the physical distance between the Pacific and Europe. In order to maximise the benefits of the EPA, the negotiations are closely coordinated with the programming and implementation of development assistance.
The Commission proposes that the central theme for strengthened cooperation be “blue-green”: that it deal therefore with sustainable management of natural resources and that it support Pacific ACP countries in their action to cope with environmental problems and resource-management issues. This is an area where Europe could contribute with its clearly recognised added value and where it could offer its collective experience and know-how.
The EU can assist these countries in managing their ocean and coastal resources in a sustainable manner through initiatives that could combine the use and conservation of fisheries and marine biodiversity. The new generations of Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs) are an important milestone. They provide regulated access to fishing opportunities for European vessels and envisage close cooperation to promote responsible fishing and ensure conservation and sustainable use of the fishery resources of the partner countries concerned.
To make EU development assistance more efficient, the Commission proposes that assistance should be more concentrated, with a stronger focus at regional level, more efficient use of small-country allocations and greater use of budget support. The proposed concentration will facilitate donor coordination and avoid overlap or inconsistencies between those seeking to achieve common goals.
With a view to a more systematic application of the budget support instrument in its cooperation with the Pacific ACP countries, the EU plans to enter into a dialogue with the International Monetary Fund (the IMF) in order to share analyses, experience and studies.
Furthermore, the EU will proactively assist these countries in meeting the eligibility criteria for budget support, i.e.:
- a poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) or a national development strategy under preparation;
- a stable macroeconomic framework which is either satisfactory or under reform;
- transparent and sound public finance management.