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Brussels, 3 August 2010

Pacific Islands – EU relations

From 3 – 6 August, Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, will host the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). Founded in 1971, it is the region's major political and economic policy institution with a mission to strengthen regional cooperation and integration. The PIF comprises of 16 member states – fourteen Pacific Island countries plus Australia and New Zealand. The Forum Leaders meet annually and give political guidance to the region. The 41st Annual Forum meeting is structured in a series of five meetings: Smaller Island States Leaders meeting, Pacific - ACP leaders meeting, Pacific Islands Forum Formal Session, Forum Leaders Retreat and Post-Forum Dialogue Partners Meeting. The European Commission is in a privileged position and is the only partner invited to deliver a speech at the Pacific - ACP leaders' meeting. Participation at the Annual Forum is a great opportunity for the Commission to meet with leaders of the PIF Member States and key regional partners. The Commission will continue discussions with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat on a possible Memorandum of Understanding for a Joint Pacific-EU initiative on climate change. The objective is to facilitate implementation of the Joint Declaration adopted in November 2008 and also to attract international climate change funding to the Pacific.

Pacific Islands – EU cooperation

The Pacific Plan for Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Integration, adopted by PIF leaders in 2005, sets out the Region’s cooperation and integration goals from 2006 to 2015 in four areas: economic growth, sustainable development, governance and security. As a response to the Pacific Plan, the European Union adopted in 2006 the EU Strategy for a Strengthened Partnership with the Pacific. The Commission uses a comprehensive mix of policies and financial resources to put the Strategy into effect:

  • Increased development assistance to Pacific Countries and the region.

  • Enhanced EU-PIF political dialogue, through participation in the Annual Forum Meetings and Ministerial Troika Meetings. The dialogue covers matters of common interest ranging from regional security and governance to economic stability and growth, international trade, environment, climate change and development cooperation.

  • Trilateral Pacific dialogue with Australia and New Zealand at Heads of Mission level, covering: country situations, Peace and Security in the region, Cairns Compact, Climate Change, Aid for Trade, Energy, Budget Support and Delegated Arrangements.

Pacific Islands and Millennium Development Goals

While some countries have made good progress towards, and even achieved, some Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the region as a whole remains off track to meet 2015 targets, although, at sub-regional levels some differences could be observed with Polynesian countries performing relatively better. 3.2 million people in the region (including Timor-Leste) are living in poverty and do not have the income to satisfy their basic human needs. Around 480,000 children are not enrolled in primary school and 64 out of every 1000 children die before the age of five. Lately all countries with the exception of Nauru have reported steady improvement in infant and under-5 year mortality rates. Maternal mortality rates have risen significantly since 1990 in the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and Tonga. Papua New Guinea is most off-track country in the region in combating HIV.

The EU response – development assistance

The Pacific region is the highest per capita recipient of EU development aid. Overall, three factors justify this:

  • the Pacific region is becoming an "aid orphan", in terms of aid provided bilaterally by the EU Member States and the Commission has "substituted" decreasing bilateral assistance;

  • delivering effective aid in the Pacific is cumbersome and more expensive than elsewhere, due to its dispersed population base, numerous languages, low capacity in public administration and large distances between and within countries that make economies of scale hard to achieve;

  • this region is possibly the most vulnerable, in global terms, to natural hazards and climate change impact.

Development assistance to the Pacific has increased between the 9th European Development Fund and the 10th European Development Fund (2008-2013):

  • 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Regional and Country Programmes, signed in 2008, mobilised €475.3 million (a 60% increase compared with the 9th EDF);

  • 10th EDF Regional Strategy Paper (RSP) and Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) - €95 million. It is broken down as follows: Regional economic integration - €45 million, Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Environment - €40 million, Non state actors, technical cooperation, etc. - €10 million. A major part of the implementation is well under way, with projects to a value of €54 million having been included in the Annual Action Plans for 2009 and 2010;

  • An additional €27.7 million from the Vulnerability Flex mechanism (2009 and 2010) mobilised to help Pacific countries to cope with the Financial Crisis;

  • In the area of Climate Change, support to countries and the Region under the Global Climate Change Alliance amounted €25 million in 2009-2010;

  • The Commission intends to contribute with €10 million to the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Fund (PRIF), in addition to a substantial contribution expected from the European Investment Bank;

  • The Pacific will also benefit from "all-ACP" programmes, such as the "Disaster Facility" (total amount €150 million), the "Migration Facility" (total amount €25 million) or the "Science & Technology research programme" (total amount €20 million).

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