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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
The EU and the Pacific – a renewed partnership for a new era
Pacific Islands Forum plenary
Auckland, New Zealand, 7 September 2011
Prime Minister Key,
Distinguished Pacific Island Forum leaders,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to start by thanking Prime Minister Key and his country for hosting this Forum.
Actually it is not only the PIF that New Zealand is hosting but also the Rugby World Cup. This is a great moment for New Zealand and the whole region.
It is a great pleasure for me to address such a distinguished audience of leaders for the 40th anniversary of the Pacific Islands Forum here in New Zealand. I am honoured to be the first European Union representative to address the Pacific Leaders at a Forum plenary. My colleague Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, joins us also today. Let our presence at this historic forum mark the event as a new milestone in the relations between the Pacific and the European Union.
Europe has a history with many Pacific islands going back much further than 40 years, hundreds of years in fact.
Since the emergence of the European Community in the 1960s, the relationship between our two regional blocs has been marked by partnership and cooperation. Distance has never undermined our determination to build an increasingly comprehensive and meaningful relationship.
As you discuss today the aspirations for the Forum and the region, I would like to state clearly that the European Union sees itself not only as a trusted friend of the Pacific but also as a crucial partner in ensuring a secure and flourishing future for this region.
The Pacific Islands Forum has built up a list of solid and impressive achievements in its 40 year history – from trade agreements to disaster relief and the establishment of the Pacific Plan in 2005.
But perhaps even more importantly, it has built solid relationships - both between island States and their leaders, but also with the outside world.
As we face critical global challenges, from the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to the fight against Climate Change, now is the time to use those relationships to their full potential. To drive awareness of your situation and needs, and to urgently secure the changes your future depends on.
Combined, the EU and the Pacific Islands Forum have the responsibility, the interests and the authority to influence the outcome of international negotiations on some of the most urgent and critical global challenges affecting our world today.
The upcoming fourth OECD High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, the 17th UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, as well as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio next year, will be critical in defining the future global context to the challenges we face. They will also provide excellent opportunities to demonstrate the global dimension of the EU-Pacific partnership and cooperation.
Most countries in this region are the least responsible for global warming – indeed they are the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world – but the first to suffer its consequences.
The combination of sea level rise, ocean acidification, coastal erosion, more frequent and devastating tropical storms and cyclones is rendering many of your islands and coastal zones wholly or partly uninhabitable.
I agree with the Pacific writer Epeli Hau'ofa who said: "No single country in the Pacific can by itself protect its own slice of the oceanic environment; the very nature of that environment prescribes regional effort".
Equally, no single country or region can combat the effects of climate change alone, a global effort is needed. We must together spearhead those efforts.
The EU has the most ambitious climate targets in the world and is willing to do more. We are open and ready to continue to push for a legally-binding global agreement. However, the EU only represents 11% of global emissions, those responsible for the other 89% will have to engage much more. Just as we stood together to make this argument in Copenhagen and Cancun we must continue to encourage all our partners in Durban for a strong global engagement.
Ladies and gentlemen,
If we want to alleviate poverty and boost prosperity in the Pacific, we need to help you make the best of your natural resources.
Now - more than ever - is the moment to demonstrate our shared commitment to addressing the twin challenges of promoting development and combating climate change.
Failure to act puts recent progress in housing, infrastructure and even water supplies at risk.
Since we adopted our Joint Declaration on Climate Change and signed our Country and Regional Strategies at the end of 2008, the European Commission has made available 80 million euro to address climate change in the Pacific. I am pleased to announce today another 10 million euro for those countries who have not benefited from the Global Climate Change Alliance initiative the European Commission launched in 2007, including to Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea. This commitment falls within the overall 7 billion euro contribution of Europe under the Fast Start finance agreed in Copenhagen.
This will be complemented with 16 million euros of additional funds from the European Union's one billion euro Millennium Development Goals Initiative, which I launched one year ago in New York.
Turning now to wider development cooperation, I am proud that the European Union is the second-largest development donor to the region.
The Commission’s cooperation with Pacific ACP countries and Overseas Countries and Territories amounts to 720 million euro for 2008-2013. This effort is complemented by a set of fisheries agreements, two interim Economic Partnership Agreements and a substantial cooperation on research with Australia and New Zealand, expected to expand and involve soon Pacific Islands as well.
Our cooperation has worked well already in expanding renewable energy, improving access to water, natural resources management, and regional integration.
However, we recognise the need for greater alignment of our development and climate aid. I have therefore mandated the European Commissioner for Development to formulate a proposal for a bold renewal of the European Union development partnership with the Pacific: we need to do more and to do it better.
We and the international community need to further adapt our support to the unique Pacific countries' needs and constraints. Budget support, contributing to national trust funds and supporting regionally owned funding mechanisms are promising options in this respect.
As I discussed two days ago with Prime Minister Gillard and the Australian Government, and will raise with Prime Minister Key this afternoon, we are determined to continue improving our coordination with your members Australia and New Zealand, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations, the World Bank and others. We cannot afford fragmentation in our efforts of development assistance.
Your Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination in the Pacific, agreed in Cairns in 2009, is guiding our effort.
Allow me to make a final remark about the centrality of democracy, rule of law and human rights in our relations.
The Pacific and the European Union have repeatedly expressed support for the UN Charter and for a rule-based international environment where human rights are promoted and respected worldwide.
There are two particular areas that we believe must be given priority.
Firstly, improving women's social, economic and political status across the Pacific.
Secondly, affirming the primacy of democracy and constitutional rule, as we have jointly agreed under the Cotonou Agreement.
The violation of this Agreement is the reason the European Union suspended direct development assistance to the Fiji Government in 2007.
A country's path to democracy can only be made by the citizens themselves. In this regard, the European Union can and will support efforts to bring about peaceful change, and to ensure that the people of Fiji do not pay an intolerable price for the lack of progress in restoring democracy.
Meanwhile we stand ready to support any action or reasonable timetable that would bring Fiji back into its rightful place in the larger family of democratic nations.
Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The European Union is here with you today and into the future as your ally and as a key partner in ensuring your future prosperity.
As we head into important international negotiations on issues of common concern, let us speak with one voice.
Let us encourage other partners to join forces with us, both politically and financially. And above all, let us show the world that together, we can overcome the contingencies of geography and bring the EU and the Pacific closer together.