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‘We want to help this country go forward’

By Jyoti Pratibha SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Oct. 31, 2011) - The European Union is eager to meet the Fijian Government for further talks on development.

The new head for the EU Delegation to Fiji and the Pacific, based in Suva, Ambassador Doctor Abdoul Aziz Mbaye told the Fiji Sun in an interview that they were prepared to lift all sanctions against Fiji as long as both parties engaged in dialogue to provide concrete delivery.

Dr Mbaye said their stance on Fiji is governed by the Cotonou Protocol and they adhered to all that had been previously decided upon by all signatories.

"We are prepared to engage on the basis of Article 96 of the Cotonou agreement if the Fijian Government thinks they are ready enough to engage with us. We are looking at all possibilities to do just that," Dr Mbaye said.

[PIR editor’s note: "Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement allows for consultations between the EU and the African Caribbean and Pacific Group Of States (ACP) where a breach of any of Cotonou's "essential elements" - respect for human rights, democratic principles or the rule of law — is perceived to have taken place."]

Dr Mbaye presented his credentials to the President on Thursday and has taken up the office as the head of delegation a week ago.

He said democracy and human rights were the areas of focus for the EU in Fiji as well as the Pacific.

"If tomorrow Fiji starts resuming the process to restore the essential elements as stated by Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement, we will of course change our position regarding Fiji," Dr Mbaye said.

He said the pathway to democracy could only be decided upon by the Fijian Government and the Fijian people.

"We want to help this country go forward. This region is important, thus, Fiji was important to us. The democracy process is in the hands of the Fijian people and the Government, not the EU," Dr Mbaye said. He said they were hoping to provide direct assistance to the Fijian people in the coming weeks; however, these are the projects that they have to work on.

"We are partners with Fiji and to take this partnership further, we need dialogues and concrete delivery. We need to be shown the process that the Government is engaged in," Dr Mbaye said.

The essential elements that Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement deals with human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, while the fundamental element is the element of good governance.

Dr Mbaye had a brilliant scientific career at the National Centre for Scientific Research, the largest governmental research organisation in France and worked his way up before obtaining his PhD of Science in 1984 at the University Paris-Sud Orsay. He started at the European Commission as scientific officer in 1988 European Strategic Programme for Research Development in the field of Information Technology (ESPRIT) before joining as lead director of the Directorate General of Industry.

Dr Mbaye joined the Delegation of European Commission in South Africa in 1996 as an economic and political adviser. Based in Fiji, Dr Mbaye will represent the EU at 11 Pacific countries including the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Independent State of Samoa, the Kingdom of Tonga and Tuvalu.

In this region, it will also represent the European Union from four countries and territories overseas, namely New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis & Futuna and Pitcairn.

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