ACP – EU Presidents issue Joint Statement
The Joint Council of Ministers of the ACP and EU concluded its meeting at Le Lagon Hotel yesterday and Ministers walked out smiling, well before they were expected to finish business. The meeting has been labeled “historic” in that it has given birth to a new dawn for both sides to work together for the long term benefits of a joint population of 1.4 billion people.
President of the ACP Council of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation of St. Lucia in the Caribbean, Alva Baptiste and President of EU Council of Ministers, Christian Friis Bach of Denmark met reporters from Europe, Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific to make their final remarks yesterday afternoon.
ACP President: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the press! I am very, very pleased to report that consistent with the spirit of cooperation that existed in the ACP Meeting, there was an extension of that spirit of mutual trust and respect at the Joint Meeting between the EU and the ACP. We are very pleased to announce that we were able to adopt a Joint Declaration for Sustainable Development for the Rio + 20 Conference coming up next week in Rio Brazil. It is very important to see 79 States of the ACP plus 27 countries from the EU (come up with) a unique plan to go to Rio with a common platform. Essential aspects of this platform, the continuing commitment to the fight against poverty, strong commitment to sustainable development, dealing with new global challenges such as climate change, energy, food security, water, the environment and biodiversity for sustainable agriculture, and of course these are some of the issues that would occupy the forefront of our attention leading on to the Rio Meeting.
Since we are in the Pacific there is also an interest in the blue economy (marine resources including fisheries) as well as the green economy and of course fundamental aspects of that would be technology transfer, capacity and financing. All in all we were able to make some significant progress. Like I indicated at the previous press conference, the EU and the ACP have had a very important and long relationship; a relationship that the current turbulence will never be able to change. The only thing is that we need to re-invent both sides to make it more relevant to the socio economic realities of our times but we shall cooperate, ponder our respective mandates to bring about change, meaningful change to the people that we represent to provide a common framework for the future of our people.
Another very important issue that we discussed which received quite a bit of ventilation was the EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement). And again this is not new and in the presence of my colleague I can say that the Caribbean were up front. They signed on to the EPA and the rest of the ACP Family can learn from the implementation challenges of the Caribbean islands. For the Pacific Region, they have their necessary proposals to the EU and it is in the camp of the EU to respond to their proposals.
We concluded by indicating to the EU that greater flexibility must be shown as far as the whole issue of the EPA is concerned. We admitted South Sudan and we have encouraged them and they are currently observers. We have actually asked them to present an instrument for accession so within the next few months; we should see a new member of the ACP Family that will increase the ACP Family Numbers from 79 to 80. So these are essentially the central focus of our deliberations over the last two days. Our deliberations took place in a positive atmosphere – one that was not turbulent at all. In fact we navigated our agenda to the extent that we finished way ahead of time so that’s an indication that there were no points of collision.
EU President: Thank you very much Minister. Let me start by saying that I think the warm hospitality and the excellent facilities provided by our hosts in Vanuatu have been an important part of gracing a conducive and constructive dialogue here. It does matter whether you feel that you are in a place that greets you with warmth and hospitality. It does matter whether the facilities provided are efficient and meeting the needs and transportation and all it comes together and brings about an efficient meeting. I think all of that has been achieved and even more so we would like to thank our host Vanuatu for providing these excellent facilities and the warm hospitality. It has been an important part of achieving the success of the meeting that we have seen.
I would like to emphasise the declaration that is coming from here. It is a very, very strong statement on behalf of more than one hundred countries and 1.4 billion people. It comes at a critical moment as the Africans, Caribbeans and the Pacific and the European Union countries stand together in a strong statement to send a message that we would like to come together and develop a set of sustainable development goals and bring us together beyond 2015 in a set of sustainable development goals that can really increase our ambition when it comes to sustainable development. It’s a statement that emphasizes that the green economy is a win win opportunity. Certainly we have turned the moment of climate of negotiations a little bit on the head and instead of looking at constraints and quotas, we are looking at opportunities and investment coming together and building a green economy as a building block of sustainable development.
It’s a statement that stresses the need for institutional innovation in sustainable development, creating a mechanism that can hold us accountable by having a review mechanism and strengthening the UN governmental programme in international and specialised agencies. It is a statement stressing the need for improving our management of marine resources and the oceans in what is called the blue economy. It is a message critical to this (Pacific) Region. So let me state like my colleague that it is a very strong statement on a number of key issues being negotiated and many of us from here will go directly to Rio to make an impact. I think this statement shows that it is not a statement that makes an impact only on the ground but it is also a partnership that can make an impact in the world and global negotiations.