Delivered by the Chair of the Pacific ACP Leaders Meeting and Prime Minister of Cook Islands , Hon, Mark Brown
at the Pacific ACP Leaders Meeting
8 November 2023, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
It is my great pleasure to Chair this important meeting before us, as we consider the future arrangements of our engagement one of our long-standing Partners, the European Union.
Indeed, our bilateral and regional relationships with Europe and the EU have evolved over centuries – either bilaterally, regionally through the PACP, and inter-regionally, through the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).
Today, it has matured to a respectable partnership that enables us to engage meaningfully as sovereign states, building on our shared history.
Indeed, this was at the core of our theme for the meetings this week: Our Voices, Our Choices, Our Pacific Way: Promote, Partner, Prosper.
Indeed, through the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and its Implementation Plan which we will consider on Wednesday, we are taking control of our destiny.
The Te Moana Nui a Kiva, our great Pacific Ocean, is our future – as a region and as a people.
Leaders, as we will hear often this week, our region is the focus of heightened geostrategic interest – and never has it been so high as it is today. And these new realties will require us to think differently, to be progressive, and to be front footed where we have not been in the past.
Over recent years, our discussions have focused primarily on the arrangements for the new EU-OACPS Partnership Agreement or Samoa Agreement. As we look forward to the signing of the Agreement next week, we do so with our collective ambition to drive our partnership agenda in a manner that best aligns to our needs under the 2050 Strategy Implementation Plan.
A constantly evolving global order requires our PACP grouping to take a step back and consider a range of existing and emerging issues impacting the Blue Pacific. Climate change remains our single greatest security threat, and we should be using all opportunities and all fora to discuss the issue.
The opportunity and challenge for PACP Members then is to consider our comparative advantage as a group to drive our collective aspirations. As countries that represent the majority of the independent Pacific Islands region, the so-called Blue Pacific Continent, we share common strategic interests and common strategic assets that are arguably at the heart of the world’s interest in our region. The ocean, which we all share, is central to that.
Finally, and before I conclude, allow me on behalf of the Leaders present today to extend my warmest wishes to the people of the Kingdom of Tonga on their Constitution Day, celebrated on 4 November.
I invite Leaders to join me in a round of applause to congratulate Tonga.
Meitaki Maata, and I thank you.