Tuesday 26th February, 2019
Excellencies, Pacific ACP Leaders
Honourable Dussey, ACP Group Chief Negotiator
Commissioner Mimica, EU Chief Negotiator
Secretary-General, Dame Meg Taylor
Secretary General ACP Dr Gomes
Ladies and Gentlemen
Talofa lava! It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this important meeting, which is a significant milestone in Pacific relations with our European Union partners. A very special and warm welcome to Commissioner Mimica(Mimitsah) and Minister Dussey (Dusay), our chief negotiators for a successor Treaty to Cotonou. I understand both are visiting Samoa for the first time – I trust you will take the opportunity to enjoy our Samoan hospitality and to visit some of the spotlight sights and landmarks before your departures.
European Union assistance to the Pacific region continues to be key and pivotal in the sustainable development of the region since the last 44 years and will remain so into the future. Our region, the Blue Pacific continent, has distinct features and characteristics that set it apart from other regions of the ACP Group; this diversity defines its special relationship with the EU. The most glaring of these is the great physical distance between the 15 Pacific ACP states themselves, scattered as they are throughout this vast Pacific Ocean and with Europe. Our isolation and remoteness is defined by the expanse of oceans that separates us, as well as unites our islands in common purpose – it is our home, and our key to a future of infinite promise. If the narrative of distance fails to grip the imagination, think of the whole of the Caribbean fitting into Kiribati’s EEZ.
But the Pacific is also at the frontlines of some of the most pressing and urgent challenges facing the global community. Climate change is one and naturally occupies centre stage of the Pacific panorama
Annual discussions between the EU and the Pacific at the highest level are normally undertaken during the week of the Pacific Forum meetings, at which issues of import mutual concern and interest are discussed. In the formative years of the EU-Pacific partnership, the consultations were mainly focused on aid related matters and in particular implementation issues which were seen as a perennial problem added to by procedural complexities. In recent times and in the context of the Cotonou Agreement, trade and the political dimension of the relationship have been added with trade domination of the discussions in more recent times.
Whilst the focus on implementation and trade is seen as a logical extension of evolving common interests between the two groups, now is an opportune moment to take stock, review and seriously explore how Pacific-EU relations might be progressed and elevated to the next level. It is of critical importance for both parties, therefore, as we enter the second phase of ACP-EU negotiations for a post-2020 Treaty, that we be guided by the principles and values jointly agreed to in the foundation agreement, on how to broaden and deepen Pacific-EU relations.
This 1st Political Round of consultations with Commissioner Mimica therefore provides an excellent opportunity to exchange views and reach understanding on the general direction we should traverse together, post-Cotonou.
Recent developments within the EU as manifested in the introduction of the Multiannual Financial Framework, as well as the approval of its Negotiating Directive among others, give a fair indication of the EU’s thinking on its future relations with the ACP Group and by extension the Pacific ACP countries.
At the ACP Group level, I believe current negotiations have agreed on the general structure of the new agreement comprising six Parts populated by titles, chapters and relevant articles. There remain some outstanding issues but in most cases these will be resolved once agreement is reached on texts.
There is much that binds rather than separates us. The need to deepen and broaden engagement of the Pacific with Europe should therefore be seen as a logical progression in our future relations.
I am certain that our frank, fruitful and successful exchanges today will steer the process in the right direction.