EU RELATIONS WITH THE PACIFIC ISLANDS
Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Geoff
Hoon MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Thank you for your explanatory memorandum dated
21 June 2006 which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on
6 July 2006. The Sub-Committee agreed to clear the document from
Overall we support the objective of the Communication,
and believe that it is a timely and well-thought out proposal
for the strengthening of relations between the EU and the Pacific
However, we consider that some important issues
have been understated or left out of the Communication. We would
like to draw particular attention to the following points:
The Communication gives the impression that
development cooperation takes place in a vacuum. We would have
preferred to see key international frameworks figure much more
prominently. The Millennium Development Goals should have been
a central theme. Reference could also usefully have been made
to the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA), which is the "blueprint
providing the fundamental framework for the sustainable development
of small island developing states".
Similarly, there should have been an adequate reference made to
the need to coordinate activities with the UN and other international
The area of conflict prevention and management
receives scant attention in the Communication, despite the challenges
of security and stability faced by many of the Pacific Islands.
Greater emphasis should be laid on the frameworks that can be
applied, and the actions that can be taken, to assist states experiencing
or recovering from violent conflict, such as Samoa and Timor Leste,
in a way that is tailored to their specific situation.
We consider that the Council should specifically
consider the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) dimension
of the partnership. One area in which the CFSP could add value
is crisis management, both through civil and military instruments,
as well as through assistance in building the capacity of the
Pacific Islands Forum to respond to crises.
We welcome the Communication's recognition of
the vulnerability of the Pacific Islands to natural disasters,
and are fully in favour of the proposed expansion of the current
regional disaster preparedness programme into the area of disaster
However, given the extreme vulnerability of these countries to
and the huge impact of disasters on development, it seems worthwhile
emphasising a stronger focus on disaster risk reduction. A reference
to the Hyogo Strategy for Action 2005-2015, which is the overarching
international framework in this field, would also be helpful.
We would like to emphasise the role that both
Australia and New Zealand play in the Pacific region, both bilaterally
and as members of the Pacific Islands Forum. Whilst the EU could
play a useful role in the development of good governance and institution-building,
this must be done in coordination with these two countries. There
is a need to strengthen the EU's dialogue and cooperation with
Australia and New Zealand on regional development and security
issues. We would like further information on the current partnership
between the EU and Australia and New Zealand as it relates to
the Pacific Islands. Are there any formal consultation mechanisms,
and what is the level of bilateral dialogue between the Member
States and Australia and New Zealand?
Finally, in its conclusions the Commission states
that "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 Commissions'
regional Delegations in the Pacific."
Do you support this proposal?
We request that you take account of the above
considerations when considering the Communication at the forthcoming
General Affairs and External Relations Council, and that you write
to inform us of the outcome of that meeting.
6 July 2006
Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP to the
Following the Commons Scrutiny Committee's report
on our recently deposited EM on the Commission's Communication,
"EU relations with the Pacific Islands", I am writing
to give you the Government's views on the passage you highlight
from the conclusions of the Communication.
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 Brusselsa system that
has proved successful in promoting a better mutual understanding
of policies and working practices.
13 July 2006
Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP to the
Thank you for your letter of 6 July, in which
you confirmed that Sub-Committee C had considered the EU's Communication
on a Strategy for the South Pacific and cleared it from scrutiny.
I welcome your Committee's support for the objective
of the EU Communication and your confirmation that it is a timely
and well-thought out proposal. Your letter also drew attention
to some issues of particular importance to Committee Members and
asked that full account be taken of their considerations at the
General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) meeting.
The GAERC met on Monday 17 July and approved, without discussion,
Conclusions agreed at the COREPER Meeting on 12 July. I enclose
for your information a copy of the agreed Conclusions (not printed).
As you will see, the Council Conclusions address
many of the points raised by your Committee Members, but I shall
attempt to summarise these, and other additional points, in the
same order as in your letter:
The Council has stressed the importance of supporting
the Pacific region to achieve the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs), especially in the fight against poverty. Issues such as
governance, stability, regional and economic integration, and
environmental vulnerability will need to be addressed. The Council
has commented that special attention should be given to Papua
New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, being the three
countries with the lowest GDP/capita in the Pacific, and the most
disadvantaged and poorest groups of society of the countries in
The Council did not include a specific reference
to the BoPA in its Conclusions but highlighted the unique identity
and vulnerability of Small Island States and the importance of
respecting the special needs of the smaller nations in the region.
In addition, the Mauritius Strategy, the outcome of a 10 year
review of BoPA at a special UN international meeting in January
2005, reinforces the BoPA and recognises the need for achievement
of the internationally agreed development goals for Small Island
Developing States (SIDS), which will require a more focused and
substantially increased effort by the SIDS and the international
The Council agreed that a key area of focus
in the Communication was the need for a strengthened political
relationship between the EU and the Pacific ACP countries, for
example through an enhanced dialogue with the Pacific Islands
Forum (PIF). It was also acknowledged that political cooperation
will include specific assistance for fragile states and for post-conflict
reconstruction, in line with the United Nations, and encouragement
for further initiatives, such as electoral monitoring and special
missions to help resolve political issues. It was also recognised
that the objectives and principles of Community development should
highlight the importance of policy coherence and should take account
of individual countries own needs, strategies, priorities and
CFSP AND CRISIS
The EU's limited resources are used in places
where they can best contribute to peace and security through engagement
in active crises. It would be difficult for the EU to prioritise
its limited resources to build crisis management capacity with
other organisations eg the Pacific Islands Forum. In the case
of disaster response, the Pacific Islands are beyond what the
EU is currently considering.
The Council did not include a specific reference
to the Hyogo Strategy for Action 2005-2015 but noted the vulnerability
of the Pacific Islands to natural disasters and the particular
challenges of sound sustainable development. The EU is committed
to support sustainable development in the Pacific and will help
countries to protect their biodiversity, including dealing with
climate change and rising sea levels and addressing diminishing
fish-stock and coral bleaching. In addition, the Council stressed
the need to strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction including through
the Pacific Tsunami Early Warning System and the France, Australia
and New Zealand (FRANZ) agreement.
In underlining the importance of ensuring that
policies fully support the MDGs and the principles outlined in
the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness of March, 2005, the
Council recognised the importance of working closely with all
other donors in the region, including multilateral institutions.
It was also recognised that an improvement on donor coordination,
harmonisation and alignment to recipient country systems was essential
and in this context the Council acknowledged that the EU's existing
relations with Australia and New Zealand should be further strengthened.
There are no formal consultation mechanisms for the EU to discuss
the Pacific Islands with either Australia or New Zealand, although,
as you may know, each Member State holding the EU Presidency hosts
Foreign Ministerial meetings with both countries at which a wide
range of issues are discussed. In addition, the EU, the UK and
France are Dialogue Partners with the Pacific Island Forum (PIF)
and attend the Post Forum Dialogue meeting immediately after the
annual PIF Meeting. Ian McCartney, the Minister for Trade, will
lead the UK Delegation at the 2006 Post Forum Dialogue in Tonga
at the end of October. I cannot comment on the level of bilateral
dialogue between Member States and Australia and New Zealand.
In the South Pacific, only the UK and France have a diplomatic
presence. The Commission has Delegations in Canberra, Wellington,
Suva and Port Moresby, as well as offices in the Solomon Islands,
Vanuatu and Samoa.
A similar question was posed by the House of
Commons Select Committee following their scrutiny of the Pacific
Strategy Communication. I responded to this question in my letter
to you of 13 July.
I hope that this response, and the enclosed
Council Conclusions, addresses satisfactorily the concerns of
your fellow Committee members.
20 July 2006
57 Mauritius Declaration. International Meeting
to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the
Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, adopted
at Port Louis, 14 January 2005, UN document A/CONF.207/L.6 (consolidated). Back
P 10, para 2. Back
As recognised in the annex (p 19, para 4). Back
P 12, para 3. Back