Mr. Friedrich Hamburger

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30TH SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM Koror, Palau

11th South Pacific Forum – Post Forum Dialogue
Opening Statement By
The Representative of the European Commission
Mr. Friedrich Hamburger
Director, Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean

October 7, 1999

Mr. Chairman, Prime Minister, Honorable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen

1. It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you in Koror to represent the European Community in the Post Forum Dialogue. The Community has had the honor, since 1991, of being invited to attend this, one of the most important gatherings of Pacific leaders, politicians and partner countries. We feel privileged to be a part of this Dialogue, which – over the years – has developed into a true meeting of minds in which each party expresses its views, positions and interests in a true spirit of partnership. I am sure that the Dialogue itself, and the other meetings that are held around it, have greatly contributed to deepening our knowledge and understanding of each other, and of our ways of thinking and acting, thereby greatly strengthening the ties between our two regions – the Pacific and Europe.

I also want to say a great "thank you" to the Government of Palau for the efficient organization of this meeting and for the warm welcome we have all been received. It is a shining example of the hospitality for which the Pacific is legendary.

Since October last year, I have held the position within the European Commission of Director, within the Directorate-General for Development, for the ACP States in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. This is my first visit to the Pacific and the first, I hope, of many. Having been briefed on the Dialogue by my predecessor, Francisco Granell, and by my colleagues, I am looking forward with great interest and pleasure to participating in this experience and I want to assure you that I will do my best to continue and, if possible, to deepen the cordial relations which I believe have been established by those who have gone before me.

2. Mr. Chairman, since the last Post Forum meeting in Pohnpei, a great many significant political events have taken place in Europe, and many far-reaching decisions have been taken. Let me just mention a few of them.

The enlargement of the EU remains a historical priority for the Union. The formal negotiations on the accession of Cyprus the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia began on 10th November 1998. For each country, the negotiating process is advancing at its own pace and as far as possible.

On an overall basis, the process has gathered momentum in the last months and is on the right track. However, not all problems have been dealt with yet, and a firm forecast on the successful outcome of the negotiations is not possible. The problem is to strike a balance between responding to the applicants’ requests for speedy accession on the one hand and precision and profoundness of the talks on the other. The state of the enlargement process will be examined again during the next EU summit in Helsinki in December.

It is expected that the Helsinki summit may also express an opinion on – or perhaps even decide on – the target date for the first accessions to the EU and the start for negotiations with other candidate countries.

Since 1st January of this year, the exchange rates between the currencies of 11 EU member states have been irrevocably fixed. The rest of the present EU member states will possibly join "Euroland" in the near future. With the start of the third and final stage of economic and monetary union and the adoption of the single currency, one of the highest priorities of economic policy in the EU has been achieved. Reducing unemployment in a common monetary area now constitutes the principal social, economic and political objective of the Union. In order to guarantee the stability and the place of the Euro in the international market place, the provisions of the Stability and Growth pact will be strictly applied, involving also ambitious efforts to consolidate public budgets.

The Berlin Summit in March 1999 decided on the so-called "Agenda 2000." Agenda 2000 is about equipping the Union with more effective policies and the financial means with which to implement them. This budgetary framework defines firm perspectives for the expenditure for common policies and their financing during the period 2000 – 2006. Budgetary ceilings have been defined for the 15 member states on the one hand and for an eventually enlarged EU.

On 1st May 1999, the Treaty of Amsterdam has entered into force. This Treaty, which is another important step forward in the history of the European Union, builds on the Maastricht Treaty by complementing it in a large number of fields, such as freedom, security and justice, the Union and the Citizen, effective and coherent external policy and institutional questions. In respect of the latter, allow me to just highlight the strengthened position of the European Parliament, which has been given a much greater say in the Union’s decision taking. In the area of external policy the post of High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy has been created, for which Mr. Xavier Solana, the former Secretary-General of NATO, has been nominated and will start his new assignment this month.

To ensure that the European Union’s institutions can continue to work efficiently after enlargement, the European Council has called for an inter-governmental conference early in 2000. The scope of these talks mainly preparing the Union’s institutional structures for enlargement is still to be defined.

3. You have certainly heard in the last months of developments within the Commission, which led to the appointment of a new team of Commissioners, under the Presidency of Mr. Romano Prodi. Let me take this opportunity to give you some first hand information about the new organizational set-up of the Commission’s external services in general and of the Directorate-General for Development and Humanitarian Aid in particular.

Over the last decade, the tasks of the European Commission in the area of external relations have grown considerably. In addition to managing huge aid and assistance programs in many different parts of the world, the Commission has also become an important actor in numerous fields of external political and economic cooperation.

At the international level, the nature of external relations has also changed. Globalization has led to wide-ranging international cooperation in all fields, including the environment, transport, trade, energy, the fight against international crime, etc.

The Commission’s external services, whose responsibilities were originally specific, and mainly economic and development policy-related, need to respond to these changes as well. In adopting a new structure, the new Commission will become a more visible and reliable actor on the international scene.

The Commission’s external services have been restructured on the basis of the following principles:

· Four Commissioners will be responsible for the external relations issues;

· Their portfolios are defined according to policy issues – which means functionally- rather than, as was the case up to now, on a mainly geographical basis;

· The portfolios will cover development, external relations, trade and enlargement of the EU.

The Commissioners who will deal with these policy areas are Messrs. Nielson, Patten, Lamy, and Verheugen, respectively.

Based on these orientations, Mr. Nielson, the new Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, will be responsible for the overall co-ordination of community development policy. These competences relate not only to the ACP region, but also to all other developing countries in Latin America, Asia, the Southern Mediterranean and the Middle and Near East. He will also take over responsibility for "ECHO", the European Community Humanitarian Office.

It is clear that this new structure will require reinforced co-ordination between the four Commissioners and their Services. For example, all trade matters of the Lomé Treaty and its Successor will be dealt with by the new Trade Commissioner and his Directorate-General.

Appropriate measures to assure coordination and policy coherence will be taken and will have to demonstrate their effectiveness in the future.

4. Increased efforts have also been made to strengthen co-operation between the Community and its Member States. In May 1999, a Communication to the EU Council on the complementarity of the policies of the Community and its Member States stresses that in order to increase the effectiveness and the impact of European development assistance, the strengthening of the complementarity of the policies and actions of all players should become a key issue. Consequently, the Council approved a Resolution designed to ensure that Community aid is in all instances complementary to Member States’ operations. This implies in general an intensification of the co-operation of the Commission’s services with their counterparts in Member States, and vice versa. For example, a more systematic exchange and joint examination of the respective country strategies should help to identify existing areas of complementarity and offer scope for enhancing it.

We are convinced that this process is also in the interest of beneficiary countries. It can, of course, only succeed with their active cooperation and involvement, in particular in the area of formulating development strategies. Our Delegations will therefore fully be involved in this process and serve as a link to the Governments and the Representations of Member States on the spot. It is our intention also to involve other donor countries in this process.

5. Before talking about the current negotiations for a successor Agreement of the Fourth Lomé Convention, let me just say a few words on one of the important innovations introduced into this Convention when it was revised in 1995.

You will remember that during those negotiations we agreed that something should be done to avoid significant amounts of our development fund remaining unused, whether because cooperation with an ACP State had to be slowed down – or even completely halted – for political reasons, or because a country had difficulty in absorbing its allocation within a reasonable timeframe. We all agreed that the efficiency of our cooperation must be improved and in order to achieve this, there should also be a greater flexibility in the use of the EDF resources. In order to achieve this, we introduced the principle of two-tranche programming and the subsequent Mid-term Review of the implementation of the agreed National Indicative Programmes. In these Programmes, we agreed that – irrespective of the level of implementation – this Review had to be carried out before the end of this year.

For the great majority of the ACP countries, the review process has begun or will take place between now and mid-October. The reviews are based on an assessment of 7 criteria set out in the revised Fourth Convention and enumerated in individual Indicative Programmes. These criteria refer inter alia to the implementation of the national policies supported by EU cooperation and to the respect of the schedule of implementation of projects and programs as laid down in the annex to the NIP.

I want to underline that this assessment is made in close cooperation between the Commission (through its Delegations) and the National Authorities of the countries concerned, and that the relevant contacts have been made in recent weeks or will be made in the very near future.

So as to dissipate any doubts or apprehension that may exist about these reviews, let me make a few comments. Firstly, this review process is new for us, and the results produce will have to be evaluated very carefully – particularly with the current negotiations in mind. Secondly, the objectives of the Mid-term Reviews are of vital importance to us in ensuring that development cooperation remains, or is returned to a position which is high on the political agenda and in the public mind. We have therefore to implement the provisions of the Convention as faithfully as possible. While doing this, however, we have to bear in mind that we are not always the masters of events and that expectations during the programming phase, when tested later in the light of reality, may turn out to have been too optimistic. Thirdly, I appear to me that while day-today contacts between the Delegations or Offices and the Government pose no problems, the common assessment of the achievements (of failing) of our cooperation and the conclusions to be drawn from this in respect of future cooperation could be improved. Finally, the review is more than a bookkeeping exercise: its initial results will have to be checked very carefully against the specific circumstances of the ACP State concerned.

6. Let me now turn to the current negotiations for a successor agreement of the Lomé Convention.

The last Ministerial Meeting, held in Brussels at the end of July, saw some progress in some areas, including development strategies. On the other hand, the negotiations again got bogged down on issues already identified as difficult – particularly on political and trade issues. As for the chapter of the instruments and management of financial cooperation, while general agreement has been reached the way to make the programming process more flexible, other issues – in particular the scope of debt relief and the question of compensation following shortfalls in export earnings – are still to be dealt with.

What is obvious is that a great deal remains to be done to ensure that next Ministerial meeting in November is a success, allowing the new Agreement to be finalized in time, meaning before end of February 2000. Should we be unable to achieve this, we would enter an interregnum, which would amount to a legal vacuum, with all the uncertainties, and tangible disadvantages that would entail. In addition – and even more serous in my view – is the risk that the negotiation process, once the deadline is passed, would lose momentum and could drag on for an unknown, possibly long period of time. The political damage that this would do would be incalculable, and every effort should be made to avoid it.

In this context, I am particularly happy about the rapid progress the Region has made in the area of trade by endorsing, at the Trade Ministers Meeting in June 1999 – less than two years after the initial mandate contained in the Action Plan of July 1997 – the establishment, in principle, of a Free Trade Area between Forum Island Countries.

I would like to add at this stage that the EU, apart from its projects in the area of trade facilitation, would be happy to assist in the further design of the FTA project by funding Technical Assistance and studies. In this context I recall the text of the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme, which provides expressively for "assisting Pacific ACP States to explore and develop opportunities to benefit from liberalization and globalization of trade."

I know from many contacts I have had that some ACP States or regions feel urged to take such a decision in some hurry and as a response to external pressures, for example from WTO and external trade partners. I think it would be a pity if these were the predominant feeling. We believe that, even without what is usually called "challenge of globalization", there is no alternative for small and isolated countries, in particular, to the strengthening of regional integration, in particular in the trade area, if the welfare of their peoples is to be improved and if they are to avoid pushed to the margins of the world economy. In the longer run, and if I look at the timeframes proposed, the benefits of a closer integration into the world economy in terms of increased trade and private investment will by far outweigh the cost. There are many examples for this all over the world.

As far as our offer for the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (REPA) is concerned, this was explained and discussed in a Workshop held here with our partners in June this year, and I will not come back to this in detail. I would just like to recall that the decision to embark on the negotiations of a REPA lies with the Pacific countries themselves. An eventual Pacific-EU REPA will not be imposed, but would follow and build on your own regional integration process. We want firstly to support your own integration and only when that integration is sufficiently advanced will we be able to negotiate a REPA.

We are happy to see that the seed for this have been shown and we are looking forward to the Pacific ACP States’ response, which Ministers decided to consider at their June meeting. Again, should you think it’s appropriate, we would be glad to fund from the Regional Indicative Programme the assistance that may be needed.

7. Mr. Chairman, this is the last Dialogue of this decade. When we meet again it will be in the first year of the new millennium. Looking back, I think we can be proud of our cooperation. Since the beginning of "Lomé" 25 years ago, the Community has become, I believe, a substantial and firmly established donor and trading partner to the Pacific ACP countries. If we include the French and British OCTs in the Pacific, the overall figure of more than Î 1,550 million of aid (some $ 1,600 million) makes the Community an important player in the field of ODA for the Region. Furthermore, the benefits from the Sugar Protocol and other trade facilities may be estimated at something like an additional Î 1,000 million since 1975. From many evaluations, personal experiences and contacts we know that behind these dry statistics lie actions which lead to the final goal of our cooperation: improving living conditions for the many peoples in the Pacific ACP States, men, women, and children, wherever they live, and the enhancement of their ability to freely determine their lives.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to develop this a bit further. The basis of our co-operation policy is the conviction that strong, active participation in global co-operation is natural for the EU in view of the political ideals upon which European co-operation is based. At UN conferences, the EU has proved itself as a progressive factor in the shaping of the norms of the international society. This is also the case in the global negotiations concerning trade, debt and other economic issues. A strong inspiration for peaceful regional co-operation is, in fact, a very credible message coming out of our own effort in Europe.

Looking at the proportions of ODA flows it is clear, that with the combined efforts of the EU and its member states, the future role of ODA to a large extent is our responsibility. Reversing the sad declining trend we have witnessed year after year is now fortunately a goal share by European countries. In view of the conditions, which a vast majority of the world’s population live in, development assistance is a self-evident contribution to world peace and prosperity. The way in which we relate to ODA tells everything about how we see our own moral position in the process of globalization.

Efforts towards conflict prevention will never acquire significant muscle without a substantial increase in global ODA. In the discussion about values defining future societies and guiding the direction of the process of globalization, Europe should find inspiration in its own rich heritage of political and philosophical ideas and be appropriately humble and concerned in taking into account the traditions and aspirations of its partners in development.

Our combined influence in international organizations is of a magnitude that challenges us to make them function better. There is a positive trend towards improved co-ordination between different donors, and the developing countries are welcoming this.

The principles embedded in the mandate for the EU/ACP negotiations concerning the prioritizing, planning and implementation of activities are fine. The real test lies in focusing more clearly on poverty, both in relation to differentiation among countries and at the individual country level. The shift towards more emphasis on sector programs corresponds to what is today seen as good development co-operation practice and should be welcomed. It is certainly not less demanding than running specific projects, but it provides a better basis for a more demanding and ambitious relationship between the both sides.

To conclude, and looking forward, I think we can be confident: a solid basis of co-operation, founded on mutual understanding, solidarity and partnership, has been established. I am sure that the present negotiations between the EU and the ACP States will reach a good conclusion. I am equally sure that the new Agreement will provide for the Pacific States a substantial contribution to smoothing the path to sustained human and social development. Of course, there will be changes, because the world has changed. To ignore these changes carries with it the risk of becoming ignored. But time is a continuum, and what appears now to be a big leap into the new millennium with all its challenges and uncertainties is in reality just a small step. As far as I am concerned, I believe that working together in solidarity and partnership, and taking one step at a time, we can go into the new millennium with optimism, serenity and confidence.

Thank you.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj 

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