By Deli Oso
The ruling Democratic Coalition for Change Government (DCCG) is determined to ensure its relationship with the European Union (EU) flourishes with greater cooperation in governance, trade and development programmes.
Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare articulated this at the opening of the 6th European Union-Solomon Islands Enhanced Political Dialogue at the Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara this morning.
He said the event manifests an important exercise for the renewal and reinvigoration of the long-forged relationship between these two parties under the auspices of the EU Partnership Agreement with the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Member States which is commonly referred to as the Cotonou Agreement.
The Prime Minister said the relations between Solomon Islands and the EU, an “influential player in the global stage’ and ‘economic prowess,’ is embedded in a strong and enhanced partnership.
This relationship, he said, has resulted in increasing support by the EU towards Solomon Islands development endeavours as evident through subsequent EDF/NIP (European Union Fund National Indicative Programme) 9 and 10 as well as regional EDF packages accessed over the years and even tuna market accesses.
“This relationship has remained vibrant over the years and though we may have faced challenges over time, we have together pushed on.
“Through this platform for dialogue, I hope the parties involved can continue to work to harness this relationship and bring it to new development heights.
“I must hereby stress that it is the intention of the Democratic Coalition for Change Government to see to it that this relationship flourishes even more with greater cooperation in governance, trade and development programmes as we move forward into the future.”
Prime Minister Sogavare said when the DCCG took office in late 2014, it put in place a development policy that may seem ambitious but necessary to chart the way forward for the country in terms of development.
“We intend to work to achieve the goals contained in the plan (policy) through mobilisation of support from development partners including the European Union along with local resources and therefore I intend to ensure that whatever relationship we have is utilitised to its full potential,” he added.
Elaborating on the ACP-EU relations, the Prime Minister said Solomon Islands shares a common interest with other ACP Member States on the future of this relationship and together they deem it must continue but with innovative modifications that are adaptive to changing circumstances and effectively deals with peculiarities of the different regions of the group.
He said it is his expectation that in the course of the one-day dialogue, participants will deliberate meaningfully on the important issue of renewing and reinvigorating the long-forged relationship between Solomon Islands and EU under the auspices of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement.
“I have just returned from the ACP Leaders’ Summit in Papua New Guinea and it is clear that a lot remains to be done in anticipation of Post-Cotonou 2020.
“I hope that in your deliberation, you will indulge in these important areas for whilst these agreements may be done at the bilateral level, it is imperative that at the bilateral level, we are able to coordinate our relationship to ensure its continuity and vibrancy.”
The Prime Minister took the opportunity to also welcome the dialogue’s inclusion of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Development Forum as part of its discussions on regional cooperation.
“I have noted that the discussions of this dialogue will cover regional cooperation and it is heartening to note that the European Union has taken notice of the MSG and the PIDF, two organisations of which I am currently Chair.”
He said these two organisations have potential in bringing forth development growth at the sub-regional level and also at the private sector and civil society levels hence it is important that they are covered in the discussions so as to find a way forward to utilising them for the benefit of EU targeted development areas.
The Prime Minister said the MSG and the PIDF should not be viewed as competing institutions for development programmes with the Pacific Islands Forum but as potential complimentary service providers.