Pacific ACP Heads of State and Heads of Government
Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor
Heads of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Pacific ACP Leaders Meeting is an important platform that provides for an open political dialogue on specific issues affecting our PACP States, but in particular, our current and future relations with the European Union.
At the outset, let me thank the outgoing Chair, the Prime Minister of Samoa, for his stewardship over the past 12 months. I have been briefed on the good progress we have made and I look forward to steering the Pacific ACP agenda over the next 12 months, particularly as we commence negotiations for a post-Cotonou Agreement.
As we approach these negotiations, it is important to reflect on our historic relations with the European Union in advancing our interests and mutual cooperation post-2020. The Georgetown Agreement, dating back to before 1975, which inevitably established the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group, and the intentions for a ‘desire to consolidate and strengthen the existing solidarity’, remains as relevant today considering the geo-political circumstances, the enlargement of the EU block to 28 States, and challenges affecting our region.
We have seen, that through our solidarity we are able to agree and achieve outcomes for our mutual interests as witnessed with Climate Change vis-à-vis the Paris Declaration, an issue that resonates very well with our ACP Group region.
Indeed, climate change is the reality for our islands and our peoples, requiring financing for infrastructure proofed foundations; building resilience; safeguarding our Blue Pacific resources; and providing jobs and opportunities for our bulging youth populations.
Excellencies, as we map out a path for the next 20 years through a post-Cotonou partnership with the 28 European Union countries, we should reflect also on the achievements and shortfalls encompassing the existing relations. We need to be alert to the circumstances and the influence countries seek to have within our region. We need to ensure that we maintain the ability to exercise our will over our Blue Pacific, the resources within it, and the security of the region, whilst negotiating opportunities accorded through market access. Such challenges and opportunities require further consideration in the context of the post-Cotonou negotiations and our expectations of the future. It is also a platform through which we will need to determine how we strengthen our engagement with the African and the Caribbean regions.
An important part of the post-Cotonou agreement is the financial and development cooperation arrangements. The European Development Fund has provided support through the National and Regional Indicative Programmes, as well as the Intra-ACP and thematic programmes. The post-2020 arrangement requires vigilant analysis, crafting and meaningful negotiating to ensure that the ACP region is adequately supported. We need to seek improvements to the joint decision and management of these funds so that the partnership is effective. In the meantime, we need to ensure minimal interruptions to existing programming, given the current delay in the 11th EDF implementation.
Excellencies, we need to act collectively in this endeavour and stay as a united Blue Pacific. We should be able to tell our next generations, that YES, we have contributed to ‘building a strong Pacific’, ‘for our people’, ‘for our islands’ and at ‘our own will’.
I thank you.