Saturday August 02, 2014 - 12:52 am | Login

EU delegation closing down office in Vanuatu

The office of the European Union delegation in Port Vila will cease to exist in Vanuatu from December 31 this year.

Late last month, the head of the delegation and ambassador of the EU to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Martin Dihn, visited Port Vila and met with Prime Minister Moana Carcasses, Foreign Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Edward Natapei and other government and private sector stakeholders to announce the closure and to explain the reasons for moving the delegation office to Honiara in the Solomon Islands.

Since then, a skeleton staff has been busy with packing and other tasks to close the office and finalise the move to the Solomon Islands.

Adrien Mourgues, International Aid and Cooperation Officer, explained that the decision to close the EU delegation office in Port Vila has been mainly due to the economic crisis facing the EU, particularly the situation in Spain and Greece with people losing jobs. However, he pointed out that whilst the EU’s physical presence will not be in Vanuatu, the support of the EU to the country will actually increase by over 21 million euros to 31 million euros next year.

“Vanuatu is doing well compared to the Solomon Islands, so the EU delegation office will be in Honiara. Starting from September 2014, an ambassador will be based in Honiara and will be looking after the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and this will mean increasing visits to Vanuatu compared to now,” Mourgues added, highlighting another positive development that will result from the move.

He said this was the message Ambassador Dihn gave government leaders and other development partners on his last visit, that the EU will be maintaining its support to the Vanuatu government until 2020, focusing on rural development - mainly in beef, coconuts and food and vegetables.

The European Union established its office in Vanuatu in 1984, four years after the country’s independence. Over the years, the EU’s focus has been on education, agriculture and road development support. And recently, Vanuatu has become the only country in the region to get direct budgetary support from the EU.

“During nearly 30 years in Vanuatu, the EU has contributed between 90 and 100 million euros, or about VT1 billion in development support,” Adrien Mourgues said.

In addition, the EU contributes to regional projects managed in Fiji that also benefit Vanuatu, such as in fisheries, and the European Investment Bank, based in Sydney, from which 8 million euros have benefited Vanuatu.