Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

EU increasing Pacific funding despite crisis

The Rio+20 conference will involve about 200 countries as well as several non-governmental organisations. Photo / AP
The Rio+20 conference will involve about 200 countries as well as several non-governmental organisations. Photo / AP

The European Union is increasing its aid funding for the Pacific despite economic crises in many of its member countries, according to EU representatives in New Zealand for Pacific talks.

The EU has announced it will boost its aid to the Pacific by a further $40 million, adding to a five year funding package of $1.4 billion from 2008 to 2013.

Denmark's Development Cooperation Minister Christian Friis Bach, representing the European Council President, said said while some countries in Europe had had to cut aid spending, others - including Denmark and the United Kingdom - had increased it, despite the financial crisis.

"We have just had a strong commitment in Europe to stand by our international commitments when it comes to development finance, and that is because we believe an open and engaged Europe in the midst of a financial crisis will come out stronger at the other end."

Development funding was currently 0.42 per cent of gross national income across the EU and 16 out of 27 countries increased aid spending last year.

He and the European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs were in Auckland yesterday for talks in the lead up to the Pacific Islands Forum with foreign minister Murray McCully, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna and Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Moana Caracasses Kalosil.

Mr Piebalgs said the EU had decided to increased its funding envelope for the Pacific because it had seen very good use of its aid funding and there was a high need.

"After analysing which region really needed an increase in the envelope of support, it was the Pacific which came out on top."

Although Africa and countries in Europe's own neighbourhood were the focus of most of the EU's aid, it was also the second largest donor in the Pacific region, after Australia. Of the EU's total aid spend of about $50 billion a year, the Pacific got about $0.2 billion - or 0.4 per cent of that budget.

Mr Piebalgs said in return, Europe gained political partnerships that allowed a joint voice in international fora, such as the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development later this month and in pushing other countries to sign up to binding commitments in climate change negotiations.

"We need partnerships like the Pacific convincing the world what we are doing is good for each and every country - for the rich countries and the poor countries."

Yesterday, those at the meeting also launched a plan of action to build stronger dialogue between the EU and Pacific on climate change, and ways to increase international support for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The Rio+20 conference will involve about 200 countries as well as several non-governmental organisations and considers sustainable development issues such as oceans management and renewable energy.

- NZ Herald

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