Development Policy in the Pacific: Stefano Manservisi Outlines the European Commission's Vision concerning the European Union's Development Policy in the Pacific and Co-Operation with New Zealand

Article excerpt

The Pacific matters to Europe. For many reasons Europe is interested in the Pacific and its developing countries. There is our shared history with the Pacific Islands states, and there is the fact that three Pacific territories have constitutional links with France and one with the United Kingdom. All the Pacific Islands states have one or more European languages as official language. There is a continuing fascination in Europe with the extraordinary richness of cultural expression found in the Pacific, and it has inspired great European artists, such as the painter Paul Gaugain. The Pacific Ocean and the tropical rainforest of Papua New Guinea are of global importance for climate stability and in terms of bio-diversity.

In addition, a number of what we in Europe call Pacific ACP countries have shown signs of fragility and in a few cases even near-failure in recent years. First and last, there is the continued hardship in many of the Pacific Islands states, in particular in the larger Melanesian countries, and women still have far to go in terms of empowerment.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall the world has been changing rapidly. Such important geo-political changes generate strong political and economic dynamics all over the world, and this is certainly the case for the Pacific, with its many big and powerful neighbours.

A considerable number of countries in the neighbourhood of the Pacific are experiencing rapid economic growth. China's economic growth rate is well-known. India is not far behind and ASEAN also has dynamic economies. This development has the potential to increase the markets for goods and services from the Pacific Islands states, and also to increase the demand for its many natural resources, some of which are finite, such as oil, gas and minerals.

Pacific regional co-operation in the form of the Pacific Islands Forum is unusual in that it encompasses fourteen Pacific ACP countries, and East Timor as an observer, with two OECD countries, New Zealand and Australia. The fact that it includes two developed countries makes the Pacific Islands region different from the African and Caribbean regions we also co-operate with. It is the region's choice, it is a home-grown model with real ownership and it is an example to all of how developed and developing countries can co-operate intimately.

On-going problems

The problems of the Pacific ACP countries are well known, and have often been

described. Not all problems apply to all countries and not all to the same degree, but together they are a very serious development challenge for these countries.

Most have had very limited economic growth in recent years. And growth is needed to lift people out of poverty and to provide for increasing populations, especially in Melanesia. Reports have indicated that an important number of Pacific ACP countries will struggle to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, while statistics show that these countries are among the most vulnerable in the world. No less than six of the fifteen Pacific ACP countries are less developed countries. So poverty and equity need to remain very high on our shared agenda with the Pacific region.

The Cotonou Agreement is a key component in the European Union's relations with the Pacific in terms of political dialogue, development co-operation and trade. Our development co-operation is evolving. In 2005 the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament jointly adopted a policy statement called 'The European Consensus on Development" This was a decisive moment also for our relations with the Pacific. It reflects the European Union's willingness to make a decisive contribution to the eradication of poverty in the world and to help build a more peaceful and equitable world. In the words of Commissioner Louis Michel, responsible for Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid, it truly marks the beginning of a new paradigm. …