REPORT on EU relations with the Pacific Islands - A strategy for a strengthened partnership

9.10.2006 - (2006/2204(INI))

Committee on Development
Rapporteur: Nirj Deva

Procedure : 2006/2204(INI)
Document stages in plenary
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on EU relations with the Pacific Islands - A strategy for a strengthened partnership


The European Parliament,

–    having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 29 May 2006 entitled ‘EU Relations with the Pacific Islands – A strategy for a strengthened partnership' (COM(2006)0248),

–    having regard to the Council conclusions on an EU-Strategy for the Pacific adopted by the General Affairs Council on 17 July 2006,

–    having regard to the Partnership Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and the European Community signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000 (the 'Cotonou Agreement')[1],

–    having regard to Article 89 of the Cotonou Agreement, which provides that ‘specific provisions and measures shall be established to support island ACP States in their efforts to overcome the natural and geographical difficulties and other obstacles hampering their development so as to enable them to step up their respective rates of development’,

–    having regard to the report by the UN Millennium Project: ‘Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals',

–    having regard to the Joint statement by the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on European Union Development Policy, ‘The European Consensus'[2],

–    having regard to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness endorsed on 2 March 2005 by the Ministers of developed and developing countries responsible for promoting development and by the Heads of multilateral and bilateral development institutions,

–    having regard to its resolution of 23 March 2006 on the development impact of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)[3],

–    having regard to rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–    having regard to the report of the Committee on Development (A6-0325/2006),

A.  Having regard to the historical involvement of European countries in the Pacific region,

B.  Whereas the majority of Pacific island countries are relatively newly independent,

C.  Whereas the EU has a significant presence in the region through the Overseas Territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna (France) and the Pitcairn Islands (UK),

D.  whereas the Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific Movement(NFIP) is campaigning for the halting of all nuclear tests in the region and respect for the dignity of its indigenous peoples,

E.   Whereas the EU is a substantial donor to the region, with a total aid granted, since the accession of the first Pacific Island countries to the first Lomé Convention in 1975, exceeding EUR 1.8 billion,

F.   Having regard to the adoption of the Pacific Plan by the 16 member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum, which aims to strengthen regional cooperation and integration, focusing on economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security through regionalism, and offering the opportunity to further EU-Pacific relations,

G   Whereas the Pacific island countries face significant problems arising from high population growth, insufficient supply of skilled labour, low economic growth, ethnic tensions, socio-economic disparities, governance failures and the impact of global economic trends, giving cause for concern as to further increases in poverty and instability in the region,

H.  Whereas the Pacific region possesses substantial natural resources, yet has very complicated land tenure systems which may in some cases be obstacles to development,

I.    Whereas the Pacific ACP states are fully fledged democracies, except for Tonga which is a constitutional monarchy,

1.  Welcomes the initiative of the Commission to develop the first EU strategy for the Pacific after 30 years of cooperation, following on from the signature of the first Lomé Convention in 1975 and the Cotonou Agreement in June 2000;

2.  Emphasises that, as a major donor to the region, the EU has an opportunity to create a strategy that will support the island countries of the Pacific in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);

3.  Emphasises the heterogeneity of the region and therefore calls for flexibility in the Commission strategy to ensure that development assistance is channelled according to national and regional priorities, thereby achieving maximum benefit for both the more developed and less developed countries of the Pacific;

4.  Endorses the Commission’s view that enhanced political dialogue is needed with the Pacific Islands Forum, whose leaders have adopted a new agreement establishing the Forum as an intergovernmental organisation under international law; at the same time, emphasises that any increase in dialogue at regional level must also address the needs of the region’s poorest countries;

5.   Stresses that any strategy must adequately address the development needs of all the Pacific island countries, especially the poorest, in order to support their efforts to achieve the MDGs;

6.   Recognises that the Pacific is endowed with an abundance of natural resources, especially fisheries, minerals and forests and that in many countries of the region, agriculture and tourism are the mainstays of the economy; stresses, therefore, that ecologically and economically sustainable development must be at the heart of any strategy relating to these key sectors; stresses that the exploitation of natural resources must contribute to income generation for the entire population of the Pacific island countries and support poverty alleviation in particular;

7.   Stresses the importance of good management in the fisheries sector so as to discourage over-fishing and destructive fishing techniques and to prevent environmental hazards from destroying marine life, in particular in the case of tuna fisheries, where the Pacific has one of the richest fishing grounds in the world;

8.   Applauds the regional approach that the Pacific Island countries have taken to managing tuna fisheries in their region, and encourages the EU to negotiate any tuna agreements with the entire region, rather than with individual States;

9.   Recognises the importance of imposing license fees for the long-range fishing of tuna in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of countries in the region, which are a major source of revenue for Pacific island countries, especially the lower income countries such as Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Tuvalu; is concerned, however, about the low number of catches actually processed within the EEZs and the consequent loss of earnings;

10. Welcomes the Commission’s proposal to increase efforts to promote sustainable fisheries management by supporting the monitoring, control and surveillance systems of the region, and to strengthen the capacity to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing;

11. Recommends that more developed Pacific island countries continue to develop local processing, thereby creating more employment, and explore the possibility of European Investment Bank soft loan lending to small and medium-sized enterprises owned by Pacific island interests so as to increase processing capacity in order to bring increased revenues to the region; welcomes the evaluation of fish resources and fishing capacities undertaken by the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, and calls, where there is scope for increases in capacity, for local fleets to be expanded;

12. Calls on the Commission to conduct an ecological and social impact assessment of illegal and large scale industrial logging activities and their related trade in the Pacific countries;

13. Calls on the Commission to focus on the rapid implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and related agreements, especially the programme of work on protected areas, which is an effective instrument for preventing further destruction or degradation of forest and marine ecosystems in the Pacific region;

14. Calls on the Commission to increase support for ecologically and socially responsible forest management and for the implementation of reliable systems which can provide credible guarantees to European consumers that wood products sold on the EU market are made out of timber from sustainable sources; stresses the importance of shifting the paradigm from excessive large scale industrial logging to eco-forestry projects to generate income for local communities and support poverty alleviation;

15. Endorses the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean signed in September 2000 with the aim of achieving the long-term sustainable harvest of tuna fisheries, as a sign of cooperation between Pacific island countries and distant water-fishing nations;

16. Emphasises that substantially greater investment is needed in the management of mineral deposits, a vital source of foreign exchange to both more developed and less developed Pacific island countries, in order to prevent the premature depletion of resources, as was witnessed in Nauru during 50 years of continuous phosphate mining;

17. Calls on the Commission to ensure, in collaboration with the Pacific island countries, that full disclosure of all taxes and duties paid by oil, mining and gas companies in the region to the various governments is given in their published annual financial reports;

18. Draws attention to the economic importance that tourism has for the region, given that one of the main assets of the Pacific islands is their idyllic setting; stresses that any encouragement of tourism in the region must go hand in hand with increased local ownership of tourist services, to ensure the sustainability of the tourist sector and to maximise the benefits to the local economy;

19. Recognises the benefits that the setting up of low-cost airlines servicing the region has brought to the Pacific island economies, and calls for impediments to "open skies" policies to be eliminated while developing air transport rationally so as to minimise emissions and other environmental impacts of increased air travel;

20. Stresses that in the majority of cases only the richer countries with more developed infrastructure and more frequent air connections attract significant numbers of tourists each year; emphasises that in these cases development assistance must continue to be used to finance infrastructure and to encourage sustainable tourism;

21. Calls on the Commission to place the emphasis, in projects implemented under the 10th European Development Fund, on support for the education and technical training systems of the States in the region whose development is being hampered by shortcomings in this area;

22. Recognises the importance of agriculture as a primary source of income, including export earnings, and as a means of subsistence, and of employment in the region;

23. Emphasises that globalisation, together with the loss of preferential access to the EU market, has already had a profound economic impact on the region, especially on Fiji;

24. Stresses that in less developed countries which survive mainly on subsistence agriculture, a gradual transition should be made from the production of staple crops to the production of cash crops so as to provide more agricultural products for export, and that the viability of setting up food processing and packaging services should be examined;

25. Underlines that skilled labour is an important pre-requisite for the economic growth of Pacific countries and therefore calls on the Commission to support national policy frameworks aimed at providing vocational training facilities and other tailored training to support local industries in Pacific countries;

26. Emphasises the importance of intra-regional trade with the EU, including under regional trading arrangements such as the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreements (PICTA), the proposed Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), as a means of increasing economic prosperity in the region;

27. Bearing in mind the costs of the management and administration of such trading agreements, including the implementation of the Pacific Strategy by the Pacific Island countries and regional organisations such as the Pacific Forum Secretariat, calls on the Commission to provide appropriate financial and technical assistance for the timely and effective implementation of such agreements;

28. Endorses the Commission’s assessment of the significance of key regional actors such as Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Japan, given that they are important donors to and trade partners with the Pacific, and that bilateral relations between the EU and these countries will improve through increased involvement in the Pacific;

29. Endorses the Commission’s assessment that closer coordination of aid delivery with other partners in the region such as Australia and New Zealand would increase the effectiveness of aid delivery;

30. Emphasises the fact that the Pacific region is one of geo-political significance, and expresses concern that inter-state rivalry can foster low quality, politically-linked aid, to the detriment of longer-term development, resource sustainability and good governance;

31. Calls on the Commission to recognise that land tenure systems, especially in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia (a French Overseas Territory) are very complicated and are real obstacles to development; therefore urges the Commission to support the national land reform initiatives undertaken by those countries and that territory;

32. Calls on the Commission to initiate policies to tackle the rapid spread of HIV/Aids in the region, which is becoming increasingly prevalent in countries such as Papua New Guinea;

33. Draws attention to the four countries affected by malaria in the region, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Timor-Leste; urges the Commission to develop programmes to tackle this problem, ensuring that there is adequate protection from malaria, for example, through the supply to affected countries of anti-malarial bed nets;

34. Stresses that, in order to ensure the efficient delivery of aid, the promotion of good governance throughout the Pacific region is vital so as to prevent corruption, one of the key obstacles to meeting the MDGs, as well as to achieve sustainable development; emphasises that national institutions and transparent and robust procedures must be put in place so that development aid reaches the intended recipients in the region;

35. Shares the Commission’s views that political instability and conflict can be devastating for the region’s economic development, especially in terms of lost revenues from tourism and the destruction of economic infrastructure;

36. Emphasises that the strengthened partnership between the European Union and the Pacific islands countries must be reflected in increased support for the parliaments of the States concerned with a view to strengthening their capabilities and their role in fostering regional political stability;

37. Draws attention to the vulnerability of Pacific island countries to natural disasters and the devastating effects on their economies; and therefore endorses the Commission’s call for the establishment of a regional disaster preparedness programme;

38. Endorses the Commission’s view that the Pacific island countries have a major stake in tackling climate change, given the potential effect on the region through rising sea levels; takes note of the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change 2006-2015 as a regional mechanism to support responses to climate change, and calls for an increase in dialogue between the EU and the Pacific region with a view to tackling climate change and related concerns;

39. Draws attention to the situation in Timor-Leste which was torn by violence in May and June 2006 and expresses the hope that the Commission, working closely with the international community, will assist Timor-Leste’s leaders in addressing the underlying problems contributing to the crisis, including the need for political stability, poverty alleviation, social development and reconciliation among various sections of society ;

40. Welcomes the Council conclusions on an EU-Strategy for the Pacific of 17 July 2006 and its emphasis on poverty eradication, achievement of the MDGs, human resources development and health issues; deplores, however, that the Council has adopted its conclusions without waiting for the position expressed by the European Parliament;

41. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the EU Member States and the governments and parliaments of the Pacific island countries.

  • [1]  Partnership Agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States of the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000 (OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 3).
  • [2]  OJ C 46, 24.2.2006, p. 1.
  • [3]  Texts Adopted, P6_TA(2006)0113.


The Commission's 2006 strategy will be the first formal strategy in over 30 years of EU-Pacific relations, aiming to strengthen political dialogue, provide a greater focus to development cooperation and increase the effectiveness of aid delivery.

Historically, Europe has had much influence in the Pacific region through colonial rule and cultural ties, and more recently through the Lome Convention and Cotonou Agreement, linking the EU with ACP countries politically and through development cooperation and trade.

As a region it is becoming increasingly dynamic both economically and politically and is adjusting to the rise in power of China. Many of the Pacific islands have found themselves endowed with an abundance of natural resources, be it minerals or fisheries, whilst others have taken advantage of their idyllic settings to accrue foreign exchange through tourism.

The Pacific Ocean covers 35% of the planet’s surface. The location of the Pacific Island ACP countries and the Overseas Territories of France and the United Kingdom, whilst bringing huge benefits to the region through fisheries and tourism, has also brought negative consequences, as the countries and territories find themselves isolated through a ‘tyranny of distance’. Within the region, Papua New Guinea is 4,500km from Samoa and 8,000km from French Polynesia. Advances in telecommunications, air travel and infrastructure have helped somewhat alleviate these problems.

The Pacific islands are vulnerable to severe storms, with many lying in the path of powerful cyclones. Tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are commonplace in countries such as Papua New Guinea, and can have a devastating effect for development.

Many of the islands are politically fragile as we have seen through military coups in Fiji, conflict in Papua New Guinea and currently through the unrest witnessed in Timor-Leste. Worryingly HIV/Aids has now begun to spread in the region.

Given that the Pacific Islands are developing countries and that the EU provides about one quarter of development assistance to the region, it is vital that we have a coherent policy for relations with the Pacific island countries. As major donors, the EU has an opportunity to create a strategy that will support the Pacific Islands towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Sustainable development in key sectors:

The Pacific region has been endowed with an abundance of natural resources especially with regards to fisheries, minerals and forestry, whilst agriculture and tourism are vital for economic growth in many of the Pacific island countries. If carefully managed, these sectors have the potential to bring long term sustained growth to the region. Therefore, it is vital that any strategy for the region promotes the ecologically and economically sustainable development of these key sectors and ensures that the exploitation of natural resources will benefit the entire population of Pacific island countries.

In devising a strategy for the region, it must be recognised that the Pacific island countries, although all classified as developing countries, do contrast both economically and politically.

For many of the Pacific islands, their agricultural products are their primary exports to international markets, supplying commodities such as sugar, copra, bananas, coconuts, palm oil. Whilst for others, often the smallest and most isolated islands, all agricultural activity takes place merely in the form of subsistence, providing food, employment and income for these poorer islands.

Disparities also exist between respective Pacific Islands regarding mineral deposits. Some through bad management have managed to virtually deplete their resources, now relying solely on imports, whilst others, savaged by conflict have managed to turn their economic fortunes round by successfully exploiting high commodity prices.

One of the major challenges faced by the region is the sustainable management of fisheries. Tuna is especially abundant in the Pacific, with a third of the world’s catch caught in the Pacific Island countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), valued at 2 billion Euros. The majority of tuna are caught by distant water fishing, which requires fleets to pay licence fees in order to fish in the EEZ, creating a major source of revenue for many of the islands. Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, French Polynesia and Kiribati have all taken advantage of the licence fees by creating local processing and national fleets. However, it is estimated that only one fifth of the tuna catch is actually ever processed in the Zone.

Tourism tends to favour the more developed islands, those with a more favourable geographic location and with advanced infrastructure – many of the islands have runways, but a limited amount are actually of a standard to land jet aircraft passenger planes. Recent political tensions and conflicts on the Islands have also seen tourist numbers fall dramatically, emphasising the necessity for democracy and good governance in the region in order to ensure the sustainability of this key sector.

Given the disparities that exist between the Pacific island countries it is essential that any strategy for the region must have sufficient flexibility to ensure that development assistance is channelled according to national and regional priorities, thereby achieving the maximum impact for both the more developed and less developed countries. Increased dialogue with the Pacific islands and closer coordination with partners in the region can only be beneficial in increasing the effectiveness of aid delivery.



EU relations with the Pacific Islands - A strategy for a strengthened partnership

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Enhanced cooperation
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Nirj Deva


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Members present for the final vote

Margrete Auken, Alessandro Battilocchio, Margrietus van den Berg, Danutė Budreikaitė, Marie-Arlette Carlotti, Thierry Cornillet, Nirj Deva, Alexandra Dobolyi, Michael Gahler, Filip Andrzej Kaczmarek, Glenys Kinnock, Maria Martens, Gay Mitchell, Luisa Morgantini, José Javier Pomés Ruiz, Horst Posdorf, Frithjof Schmidt, Jürgen Schröder, Anna Záborská, Mauro Zani.

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Milan Gaľa, Manolis Mavrommatis, Anne Van Lancker, Anders Wijkman, Gabriele Zimmer.

Substitute(s) under Rule 178(2) present for the final vote


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