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FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu (PINA Nius) - Tuvalu and the European Union (EU) yesterday signed an agreement which pumps millions of Euros into the Pacific nation to help raise living and education standards on its outer islands.

The European Union committed 3.3 million Euros for projects on education, environment and water.

European Commission Pacific delegation head Frans Baan flew to the Tuvalu capital, Funafuti, to discuss and sign the agreement with Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoanga.

Baan said: "The objective of the project is to raise living standards by addressing specific disparities in living and educational standards between Funafuti and the outer islands. The project will complete construction of primary school buildings on two islands, construct new school buildings on three more, construct teacher housing, expand water storage and supply, and improve waste management."

In addition, Baan said, the EU has committed 700,000 Euros for emergency services, debt relief, and unstable export earnings.

The Country Strategy Paper and National Indicative Programme that will guide Tuvalu-EU development cooperation 2002-2007 were signed by Sopoanga and Baan. The money comes from the 9th European Development Fund.

The Tuvalu Government and Tuvalu’s community of non-governmental organisations will implement projects over four years, Baan said.

Tuvalu's 12,000 people live on eight inhabited islands in a group of atolls with just 26 square kilometres of land.

Of the total funding commitment, the Tuvalu Government’s allocation is about A$5.4 million. The NGO community will receive an allocation of about A$600,000.

Such a large funding allocation made for projects implemented directly by the NGO community is a first for the Tuvalu Government.

It is a result of innovative provisions set down in the Cotonou Agreement to get NGOs to participate more actively in national development.

The Cotonou Agreement is the aid, trade, and development partnership between the 15-nation EU and its 78 partner states in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (known as the ACP group).

Baan said EU funding will be channeled to Tuvalu as budgetary support to the government. This form of EU-ACP Cooperation is the first of its kind in the Pacific Region, he said.

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