The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, has urged leaders at the Pacific A.C.P. Leaders (P.A.C.P.) Meeting to make a decision in relation to the European Union’s development assistance to the region.
Dame Meg delivered the message when she spoke during the opening of the P.A.C.P. meeting at Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel, yesterday. The meeting was part of the build up to the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, opened at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, last night. Speaking about the European development assistance, Dame Meg reminded that such assistance is channelled through the European Development Fund (E.D.F.).
“We are now in the middle of its eleventh cycle,” she said.
“Excellencies will further recall that at your meeting in 2016, leaders were updated on the challenges faced in the programming of the European Development Fund -- Pacific Regional Indicative Programme for 2014--2020, commonly referred to as E.D.F.11.
“It is extremely disappointing that the region has still not been able to draw down on the regional envelope of E.D.F.11 funds to address the agreed priority areas identified by the region.
“Further, the region has witnessed in recent months, a redistribution of funds within the regional indicative programme. It has also been brought to my attention that the European Union is considering a reduction in the allocated funds for the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme, particularly in the focal area on Regional Economic Integration. This meeting provides the opportunity for leaders to discuss this matter in more depth.”
Dame Meg also touched on other 'high-level political issues and some operational matters', including the 'post-Cotonou negotiations'.
"As the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement in 2020 approaches, we will need to be proactive in ensuring that the development support under this arrangement is channelled effectively to our region and aligns with our regional priorities. We must also ensure that our priorities are reflected in any future partnership agreement with the European Union.
“The broader theme of the 48th Pacific Island Forum -- The Blue Pacific -- focuses on strengthening our collective identity and indeed, collective political action to advance our regional priorities.
"I would therefore encourage the Pacific A.C.P. leaders to capitalise on this renewed impetus and new narrative in progressing the preparatory discussions on post-Cotonou.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who chaired the meeting, said A.C.P. Secretariat’s efforts to ensure an inclusive approach with respect to the post-Cotonou negotiations with the European Union are of crucial importance.
“Substantial efforts remain and are needed on both fronts from our regional organisations in ensuring that our efforts are prioritised and coordinated, and that the political will and solidarity of P.A.C.P.S. remains strong,” Tuilaepa said.
“It is important that we are active and involved in discussions relating to our relationship with the A.C.P. Group, and with the European Union, particularly given these uncertain times that we find ourselves in.
“In New Caledonia, many of us met with the E.U. High-Level representative, H.E. Pascal Lamy, through bilaterals as well as the collective consultations with P.A.C.P, representatives, wherein we were advised that the E.U. Parliament will discuss the negotiating directive in November 2017, before the roll-out of the negotiating process with the A.C.P. Grouping."
In May 2017, the A.C.P. Council of Ministers mandated the A.C.P. Ambassadors to constitute and determine the negotiating structure for the A.C.P. Group.
P.A.C.P. Foreign Ministers took the opportunity of being together in Suva for the second Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting to hold an informal caucus on 11 August, to specifically discuss post-Cotonou arrangements and the approach the Pacific region would take in the A.C.P. Group negotiating structure.
“The negotiations for a post-Cotonou arrangement will need to commence no later than August 2018,” said Dame Meg.