Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Sixth Report

18 EU relations with the Pacific Islands



COM(06) 248

Commission Communication: EU relations with the Pacific Islands — A strategy for a strengthened partnership

Legal base
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 13 July 2006
Previous Committee ReportHC 34-xxxiii (2005-06), para 16 (28 June 2006)
To be discussed in CouncilTo be determined
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared (decision reported on 28 June 2006)


18.1 In this Communication, the Commission:

  • describes the history of the relationship between the EU and the Pacific Islands (the Lomé and Cotonou Agreements; €1.5 billion development assistance over 30 years plus other reconstruction aid in e.g., Timor Leste; previous and present colonial involvement);
  • sets out the key challenges facing the region (environmental degradation, climate change, conflict, poor governance);
  • explains the reasons for EU engagement in the region (all of the above plus political considerations revolving around relations with China, Japan, the USA, Australia and New Zealand);
  • highlights the Pacific Plan adopted by the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum (14 Pacific Islands + Australia and New Zealand); and
  • suggests a strategy for engagement complementary to the Pacific Plan.

18.2 The Commission recalls that the Cotonou Agreement is based on five pillars:

i)  reinforcement of the political dimension;

ii)  involvement of civil society, the private sector and other non-State players;

iii)  poverty reduction;

iv)  an innovative economic and trade co-operation framework; and

v)  rationalisation of financial instruments and a system of rolling programming.

18.3 The strategy proposed consists of three components:

i)  a strengthened relationship between the EU and the Pacific ACP countries and region in order to pursue a broad political dialogue on matters of common interest ranging from political and security to economic, trade, social, environmental and governance issues, thus enhancing the visibility and political profile of the EU-Pacific partnership on both sides;

ii)  more focused development action: greater emphasis on regional co-operation to build up critical mass, enhance regional governance and facilitate cross-fertilisation, and with the main focus on matching the key priorities of the region, notably as defined in the Pacific Plan; and

iii)  more efficient aid delivery: including greater use of budget support and closer coordination with other partners, in particular Australia and New Zealand.

18.4 When we considered it on 28 June, we concluded that the Communication and Annex was a model survey of the region's nature, the challenges it faces and the endeavours thus far to confront them; and that the case for the proposed EU Strategy was well-made and convincing.

18.5 We also noted that the Communication's Conclusions observed that "since only a few Member States and the Commission have representations in the Pacific ACP countries, the Pacific region would appear particularly well-suited for joint EU presence and action in the field, for instance through seconding officials from Member States' services to the Commission's regional Delegations in the Pacific, which could also provide facilities on an ad-hoc basis ('Europe House')". It was not clear from what the Minister said whether or not he agreed with this notion, within which we thought that some might hear echoes of the External Action Service proposed in the Constitutional Treaty. Although we cleared the Communication, we asked for his views on this point.[55]

The Minister's letter

18.6 In his 13 July letter, the Minister for Europe (Mr Geoffrey Hoon) replies as follows:

    "Firstly, it might be helpful to reiterate that the Government supported the idea of a European External Action Service, only as part of the Constitutional Treaty settlement, and as a body to support the proposed European Foreign Minister. Without the provisions of the CT we therefore see no useful role for an EEAS. In addition, and more generally, we would be opposed to any proposals for Commission Delegations to take on responsibility for Pillar II policies.

    "However, we would not be opposed to seconding UK officials to Commission Delegations per se. Provided that those officials were tasked with the implementation of Pillar I policies, this would be similar to our current practice of sending officials to the Commission's headquarters in Brussels — a system that has proved successful in promoting a better mutual understanding of policies and working practices."


18.7 We are grateful to the Minister for this elucidation.

18.8 We also consider this part of our Report relevant to the debate that we have recommended on the Commission Communication "A Citizen's Agenda — Delivering Results for Europe".[56]

55   See headnote. Back

56   (27496) 9390/06; see HC 34-xxxi (2005-06), para 1 (14 June 2006). Back

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Prepared 27 July 2006