European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard took part in the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in New Zealand on 7 September.
President Barroso underlined the long-lasting ties between Europe and the Pacific island nations, and highlighted the fruitful partnership that the EU and European Community had enjoyed with the region during the past 50 years.
Barroso stressed that the EU and the PIF have the responsibility to influence international negotiations on some of the most urgent and critical global challenges. He singled out the upcoming fourth OECD High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, the 17th UN Climate Change Conference in Durban and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio next year as “critical in defining the future global context”.
The commission president emphasised climate change as being one of the biggest challenges and specified that most of the island nations “are the least responsible for global warming…but the first to suffer its consequences”. He also addressed the problems of rising sea levels, ocean acidification, coastal erosion, more frequent and devastating tropical storms and cyclones that render many islands and coastal zones wholly or partly uninhabitable.
Barroso underlined that the EU represents merely 11% of the global greenhouse-gas emissions and reiterated Climate Action Commissioner Hedegaard's call for the other 89% to engage more in efforts to deal with climate change. He added that the EU has the most ambitious climate targets in the world and highlighted that it “is willing to do more”.
Barroso drew a parallel between combating climate change and the promotion of development. He announced that the Commission would contribute another €10 million to those countries that have not benefited from the Global Climate Change Alliance initiative launched in 2007.
Barroso expressed satisfaction with the fact that the EU is the second-largest donor to the regions, saying that the Commission’s co-operation with Pacific countries and Overseas Countries and Territories amounts to €720 million for the 2008-2013 budgetary period. He announced that comprehensive co-operation on research with Australia and New Zealand should soon expand and involve Pacific Islands.
Finally, Barroso emphasised the “centrality of democracy, rule of law and human rights” in EU-PIF relations. He highlighted the areas of improving women's social, economic and political status across the Pacific and affirming the primacy of democracy and constitutional rule, as jointly agreed under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement, adding that violation of this agreement led to suspension of the EU's direct development assistance to the Fiji Government in 2007.