Tomorrow, European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will attend in Auckland the EU-Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Meeting, along with Christian Friis Bach, Minister of Development Cooperation of Denmark, who represents the High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton. A wide range of issues affecting the region will be discussed, such as climate change, sustainable development, economic stability, growth and trade, and development cooperation. The positions ahead of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on sustainable development of 20-22 June will also constitute a part of the debate and focus on how the EU and the Pacific could reach a substantial outcome in Rio+20 especially around the adoption of concrete goals and targets supporting the transition to an inclusive green economy.
Ahead of the Ministerial meeting, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach, said: ''Our presence here demonstrates the EU's expanding interest and continuous engagement in the Pacific, as a foreign policy priority for the EU. Our cooperation has worked well both in political and financial terms, but we can still do more. In the future, we expect that our partnership will continue to grow and intensify. The EU is committed to consolidate its position as a reliable and substantial development and climate change partner in the Pacific''.
Before his departure, Commissioner Piebalgs said: "The European Union is a global player and respects its global commitments. The Pacific Islands are the first to suffer the impact of climate change, which is why the EU decided to take the lead in rallying substantial international community support for the Pacific's climate change adaptation efforts. The ministerial meeting gives us yet another opportunity to strengthen our partnership and take forward our shared positions to international stage. Rio+20 conference will give us an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable development and green economy."
The European Union is a global player and is committed to supporting its Pacific partners in reaching the Millenium Development Goals, whilst at the same time addressing the threat of climate change, for which Pacific Islands have no direct responsibility but are the first to suffer its impact.
The EU and the Pacific are important for each other, due to:
-Pacific Island Countries and Territories cover a sizeable part of the planet and share the EU's concerns and aspirations on sustainable development.
-The Pacific and the EU have a longstanding partnership and shared interest when it comes for instance to climate change, ocean protection and other global issues.
The 2nd Ministerial Meeting between the EU and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) will take place in Auckland, New Zealand. Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark, Christian Friis Bach is taking part in the Ministerial Meeting on behalf of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The Pacific Island Countries and Territories have a total population of 10 million people, the majority of them scattered across thousands of islands in the Pacific, which covers 1/5 of the globe. The islands are very isolated developing countries which have already suffered from regular natural disasters, limited access to infrastructure and high dependence on natural resources.
In the worst case scenario, some islands could disappear due to rising sea levels (in Kiribati and Tuvalu, for example, a rise of sea level of merely 60cm would render the majority of these islands inhabitable) and increasing erosion occurring from intense storms. Moreover 80% of the Small Island States' population live in coastal areas which make them particularly prone to changes in sea level or weather conditions.
Support for the Pacific
At the core of EU-Pacific partnership is cooperation on climate change; the single greatest threat to the region. Since the EU and the Pacific Islands Forum adopted the Joint Declaration on Climate Change in November 2008, EU-Pacific cooperation on climate change has increased substantially, both politically and financially.
The EU and its Member States are the largest donor worldwide and the second in the region, after Australia.
EU development cooperation with Pacific ACP (The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States) countries and OCTs (Overseas Countries and Territories) managed by the Commission is estimated at €750 million for 2008-2013. EU aid is funding bilateral assistance programmes as well as regional programmes managed by Pacific Regional Organisations.
On top of resources for development and climate change initially allocated to the Pacific ACP countries for the period 2008-2013, the EU has made available a financial package of €110 million in additional climate change related resources committed by the Commission since 2008.
Pacific Islands Forum
The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) was founded in 1971. It is the region's major political and economic policy institution. The PIF's formal mission is to strengthen regional cooperation and integration, and it also acts as an inter-governmental body.
PIF comprises 16 member states: 14 Pacific Island Countries, plus Australia and New Zealand.