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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Matangi Tonga, June 1) – Tonga is seeking funds from the European Union to rehabilitate earthquake-damaged infrastructure in Ha'apai and other regions of the country, part of a Tongan proposal for using uncommitted remaining EU country funding.

The EU development projects for Tonga's outer islands were also refocused this year due to the government's difficult financial situation.

The proposals were submitted to the EU for consideration in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, this week at a meeting of ministers from 79 member countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Island countries Group of States (ACP) and 25 European Countries who are EU members.

Tonga's delegation, headed by Hon. Tu'a Taumoepeau Tupou, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in a statement on May 29 said that the EU since 1975 had been a significant donor to Tonga and the Pacific, with the EU becoming a core donor to Vava'u and later the Niuas.

They said that the Vava’u Development Committee Secretariat had discovered uncommitted funds from old and current programmes, which included: a total of €2.5 million [US$3.2 million] representing remaining funds from earlier Stabex transfers; the sum of €3 million [US$3.8 million], unused funds from the 6th, 7th and 8th European Development Fund, and an unallocated amount of €1.2 million [US$1.5 million] from the current 9th European Development Fund.

At the end of 2005, Hon. Tu'a Taumoepeau Tupou as National Authorizing Officer (NAO) had submitted to the EU for consideration, a Framework of Mutual Obligations (FMO) of projects for implementation by utilizing these uncommitted funds and targeting community activities and productive sectors to generate employment and stimulate the economy.

However, the delegation said that this year Tonga's priorities for using the funding had changed because of the difficult financial situation due to the pay rise and the [EU's] preference to apply the remaining funds nationwide as a means to addressing that situation.

Hon. Tu'a Taumoepeau Tupou preferred, "the focus should remain on Vava’u and Niuas, with emphasis on the outer islands of Ha’apai and the most vulnerable and disadvantaged population groups in Tonga".

A time limit for the utilization of the unspent funds demanded that these funds be committed urgently.

The delegation said that consequently, a revised FMO on a nationwide basis to include only the following projects for funding under the remaining Stabex funds had been submitted to the EU for consideration:

June 2, 2006

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