Brussels, 23 July 2012/ ACP: Members of Parliament from the Pacific region and visiting counterparts from the European Parliament wrapped up three days of deliberations in Apia, Samoa last week, concluding the 8th Regional Joint Parliamentary Assembly between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU).

“Deliberations were very lively, very engaging and we covered a lot of ground. We were able to discuss several key development issues – regional integration and trade, climate change, governance issues, the Millennium Development Goals amongst others. We were extremely impressed with the preparations made by Samoa to host the meeting, and overall I think it went very well,” said ACP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

Around 30 parliamentarians from ACP and EU countries, including Co-Presidents of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Hon. Louis Michel (EU) and Hon. Musikari Kombo (ACP), held discussions in the Parliamentary House in Apia on 18-20 July.

In a communiqué released after the meeting, members noted the key role of regional integration in ACP-EU development cooperation. Regional organisations such as the Pacific island Forum and the Pacific community were highlighted as “crucial” to increasing the region’s participation in the world economy, as small island states. Members underlined the key role of EU technical support for continuous regional political and policy dialogue.

On Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), the parliamentary group stressed that they should aim at enhancing regional integration, in addition to sustainable development and economic growth.

The WTO’s “Most Favoured Nation” clause was noted as a “particularly sensitive issue” in view of trade relations with New Zealand, Australia, China and other regional actors. At the same time, Pacific members emphasised the significant progress has been made by Pacific negotiators in 2011, with market access offers still awaiting the Commission’s response.

The communiqué acknowledged there is a lot of “misunderstanding and misinformation” about EPAs, asking for more factual information to be communicated to all stakeholders.

Climate change was underlined as a major concern for the Pacific, whose islands are threatened by rising sea levels and natural hazards. Members acknowledged the EU’s support so far to the region in mitigating the effects of climate change. Calls for more effective partnerships with the EU at local, regional and global levels were voiced, while members were encouraged by the Joint Declaration made by the ACP and EU at the recent Rio+20 Conference.

The assembly heard a report on the region’s progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), where they noted progress in health and education sectors, although high rates of diabetes, obesity and hypertension remain a concern. Pacific participants were encouraged to make strong efforts to enact laws that address gender inequality and gender violence.

Good governance was emphasised as “indispensable” to achieving MDGs, and discussions noted that democracy could only thrive with strong institutions including legislatures, judiciaries and active civil society. While members noted that overall, the Pacific has a good record of governance, democracy and the rule of law in the islands, they were concerned about the low number of women in Pacific parliaments. They called for measures to address this imbalance.

The outcomes of meeting will be presented at the upcoming session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly to be held in Paramaribo (Suriname) in November 2012, and forwarded to the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Pacific Island Forum and Pacific Community Secretariats, the ACP Group of States, the Governments and National Parliaments of the Pacific region of the ACP Group of States and to the EU Member States.

Read the full Apia Communique

– ACP Press