Member of the European Commission - Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Speaking points at the Seychelles Forum 2009: "Paving the way towards a sustainable economy"
Seychelles Forum 2009
Mahe , Seychelles , 18 May 2009
It is a great honour for me to be here today in Mahé to represent the European Commission. I would like to convey to you the compliments of both President Barroso and Commissioner Michel. I would also like to congratulate President Michel for convening this Seychelles Forum, in collaboration with the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Today’s Forum is important as it will enable Seychelles Government to present its reform strategy and programme. This initiative will contribute to strengthening further the confidence of investors in Seychelles ability to restructure the country’s economy.
In this regard, the Commission welcomes the positive outcome of the meeting of Paris Club countries which reached agreement on a comprehensive treatment of Seychelles' public external debt. This Forum also offers an opportunity for donors to lay out the manner of coordination and harmonisation of the approach between the country and its partners in a common effort to support a sustainable restructuring of the economy. Coordination is important at all times, but it is particularly needed in times of global economic crisis, in order to regain economic prosperity.
Several donors, including the European Commission, are moving towards budget support as the main instrument to help the economic reform of Seychelles, we would therefore welcome the possibility of working with the Government and the different partners on a joint Memorandum of Understanding and a performance assessment framework.
This would be in line with the spirit of the Paris Declaration and the Accra Action Plan and would ensure coherence in our efforts to avoid duplication and would increase the impact of the measures, including on public financial reforms.
I would now like to share with you some reflections from a European Commission's perspective on the Seychelles' ambitious reform programme.
The world economy is witnessing the sharpest contraction in global growth in many decades. Emerging and developing countries have been particularly seriously hit by the combined effects of declining capital inflows, commodity prices, tourism and exports. Despite recent survey data providing some grounds for cautious optimism, one thing we can be sure of is that 2009 will be a difficult and painful year for economies worldwide, and there is no question that this will also be the case for Seychelles.
Nonetheless, even against this grim outlook, the Government of Seychelles has embarked on a courageous reform programme, and in the last six months the country has responded robustly to the difficult circumstances it is facing and has committed to pursuing an impressive agenda of change. The reform programme has made a good start, reflecting the Authorities’ strong commitment and ownership of the reforms.
This is why the EU is happy to move to a new cooperation approach which indeed is a clear signal of our trust in the country’s ability to tackle the challenges it faces.
We shall take into account new priorities and objectives that result from changes in the country's economy in drawing up our cooperation strategy.
The relationship between the EU and Seychelles has been characterised by substantial and predictable aid flows for the last 30 years from successive European Development Funds, totalling some € 25 m of project aid in the forms of grants, primarily for environmental protection.
As a Small Island Developing State, Seychelles has recently been selected as a pilot country that can benefit from the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA), an instrument that is part of the 2009 Annual Action Programme for the Environment and Natural Resources Thematic Programme. We expect to finalise a project initiative together with the Government of Seychelles in the course of this year. This will provide financial support that will be coherent with the current aid envelope that is allocated to Seychelles.
Development Policy is, however, about much more than financial assistance. We firmly believe that we can help the country develop in many ways. One of these is about promoting regional integration as an important means for enhancing the country's ability to tackle the challenges facing its economy. For this reason the EU allocated over the period 2008 to 2013, a total amount of 645 million Euro for the Eastern and Southern African – Indian Ocean Region, which includes Seychelles. This support will be largely devoted to economic regional integration for initiatives such as productive capacity building and accompanying measures for the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
The Economic Partnership Agreements are part of this approach to support regional integration by helping to build larger markets and foster external trade. The EU's approach to regional integration in the ACP countries is therefore a comprehensive one. And the EPAs – with the possibilities they offer for market building and integration into the global economy – are an integral part of that regional strategy. I am glad to say that Seychelles is a committed partner to the EPA process.
Regional integration should help prevent conflict and maintain peace which are both vital for trade, investment and economic integration to flourish.
Europe and Seychelles are also bound by strong trade links. The EU is, in fact, the Seychelles' main trading partner.
A crucial component of Seychelles’s economy is of course the fishing sector. Seychelles has the top fisheries port in terms of tuna landings and has one of the largest fisheries grounds in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, the impact of the tuna sector is significant both for the economy of the country and for employment. In 2006, this sector accounted for 23% of Seychelles' GDP and fisheries exports made up over 63% of all exports.
A significant element of this sector is the EC/Seychelles Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA), which is the most important fisheries agreement in the region between the European Union and a third country:
- Its financial contributions represented approximately 5% of the national revenue in 2008, not taking into account the additional benefits generated by port related activities.
- The FPA creates around 15 million Euro of value-added for Seychelles and provides around 3,200 jobs, including 2,400 in the canning industry.
- But since fisheries are the country's "blue gold", ensuring a sustainable and responsible fisheries policy is essential. This is why the European Union supports Seychelles in the development of its fisheries policy through the earmarking of 3 million Euro per year for activities such as control, surveillance and scientific research.
The EU is currently considering a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), including of the bilateral agreements. A consultation paper, published last 22 April, proposes that the current architecture of our agreements should be revisited in order to explore alternative forms of arrangements with third countries that would better meet the needs of our industry and those of our partners for sustainable fisheries. The introduction of regional forms of cooperation may be worth exploring in this regard especially at a time when regional integration is being promoted as a tool for development which is especially important for the countries of the Indian Ocean region.
The Commission will engage in discussions with all its partners in order to take into account their specific fisheries' development needs within the context of future agreements. The final objective should be to improve fisheries' governance, for the benefit of both the coastal States and the entire region.
One issue which has recently acquired global importance and that is of particular concern to Seychelles is piracy. I would like to stress the importance that the Commission attaches to a holistic approach to this problem. Piracy can only be tackled in the long-term through the re-establishment of law and order in Somalia. This is why the EU is fully involved in tackling the root causes of piracy which come for a big part from the economic and political underdevelopment of Somalia. Thus in addition to a military (naval) strategy focused on prevention – The EU NAVFOR, Operation ATALANTA – the EU is putting additional emphasis on political and development strategies to help Somalia set up the necessary framework for peaceful and effective government.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude with a few words about my 3-day visit which ends today. I had several fruitful meetings with President Michel, Minister Pillay and Minister Morgan. I also had a very interesting discussion with representatives of Seychelles’ fishing sector. I have listened to the particular concerns of Seychelles on the more recent pirate activities further south than their normal haunts and therefore in Seychelles’ EEZ. Seychelles is doing all it can to deter and detect piracy in its waters. I want to see what else may be done in order to seek to have a more secure environment for fisheries.
I have already asked the Indian Ocean Commission in charge of the regional surveillance programme to immediately contact NAVFOR in order to share its satellite images that allow for the monitoring of the vessels in the Indian Ocean. Fishing vessels would then enjoy even better protection.
I hope that in the coming months we can work together and direct our joint efforts towards achieving a full and timely implementation of the appropriate measures.
I would like to ensure you of our support in your work for the economic stabilisation of Seychelles. You know that the EU is among the partners who want to assist you in the achievement of that task..