Speech by Ms Paula Lehtomäki, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, at the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, 20 - 23 November 2006, Barbados

Co-Presidents of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly;
Honourable Parliamentarians,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to address this distinguished audience of the 12th Joint Parliamentary Assembly today on behalf of the EU Council. It is also a pleasure to share this session with my distinguished counterpart and Ministerial colleague Dr Onofre Rojas, President-in-Office of the ACP Council from the Dominican Republic. I believe that the Joint Parliamentary Assembly plays an important role in the ACP-EU cooperation fostering our joint values of democratic development.

Before I start I would like to take the opportunity to thank the government and people of Barbados for hosting this meeting on their wonderful island and on the hospitality we have received. Furthermore I would like to offer my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the independence of Barbados.

The European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific states are linked together by people, trade and a strong partnership for development. This partnership can play a strong global role and make a difference, provided that we work in a coherent manner. For the EU the year 2006 can be characterized as the year of implementing the development commitments (made in 2005). Moreover, one of the main goals of the Finnish Presidency has been to improve the effectiveness and coherence of the Union's external action. Practical steps for furthering coherence have been taken for example in the field of development and trade, as well as in migration and development.

In the October General Affairs and External Relations Council, for the first time ever, the Presidency convened a Joint Session of Ministers for Trade and Ministers for Development. The theme for this session was Aid for Trade and the Economic Partnership Agreements, EPAs. The adopted operational conclusions on Aid for Trade express a strong commitment on the part of the EU to take forward the international Aid for Trade initiative. The key message is that Aid for trade is important in its own right and is not conditional upon progress in the Doha Development Agenda Round.

In terms of financing, we agreed on measures on how we can further operationalize and strengthen our earlier commitment (of December 2005) to reach an annual target of 2 billion euro for trade related assistance by 2010. We also decided to prepare a Joint EU Aid for Trade Strategy in 2007. This will be a tool for putting Aid for Trade into practice as a part of EU's development policy.

Aid for Trade is needed in all developing countries. It is also a central element in the EU-ACP partnership. The Council has  made a commitment to allocate a substantial share of the Member states' aid-for-trade contribution to the ACP partners. It is important to bear in mind the already considerable level of EU support to productive sectors and infrastructure in the ACP countries. The on-going scaling-up of EU aid provides opportunities to increase  support also in this field - when prioritized by our partners.

The importance of the EPA negotiations is further underlined in light of the temporary suspension of the WTO-negotiations. Making the EPAs development friendly is, however, not just about providing more support. Development funding is no substitute to the potential of economic growth that would result from increased trade and investment. The development agenda needs to be incorporated in the agreements themselves. In this respect, the October Council provided a platform and a boost for intensified internal EU-discussions on these issues, including for example, development friendly approaches to the rules of origin and scope for the negotiations. The Council also agreed that a monitoring mechanism is needed to address the development impact of the agreements.

The EU is committed to an ambitious and timely outcome of the EPA negotiations. We trust that the on-going review will address the remaining bottlenecks and pave way for a positive outcome of the negotiations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Parliamentarians,

Environmental challenges are crucial to the African, Caribbean and the Pacific countries. Climate change will have gradual but devastating effects and threatens to undermine development. The countries least responsible for climate change are often hit the hardest. Here in the Caribbean, as well as in the Pacific, the effects are felt in terms of stronger hurricanes and cyclones and the threat of rising sea-levels. In the meantime, parts of Africa are threatened with more frequent and severe droughts.

Last June at the EU-ACP Ministerial Council in Port Moresby, the EU and the ACP adopted a joint declaration on Climate change and development. This commitment clearly put high priority to adaptation to climate change and its adverse effects. Responses to climate change should be co-ordinated with social and economic development in an integrated manner.

As you know, these issues had a central role in the negotiations in Nairobi where the parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change had their Conference last week. This Conference was a success in developing country matters: a Special Climate Change Fund is now fully functional and steps on how to proceed with the Adaptation Fund were agreed upon.  The monitoring of capacity building efforts of developing country partners and the special issues of Small Island Developing States received greater attention. The EU countries have respected the objectives of the political declaration on climate change funding for developing countries given in Bonn in 2001. We are ready to continue this support in the future.

Biodiversity conservation is another environmental issue that has been at focus during our Presidency. We are well aware that biodiversity provides the basic conditions for living and that the major part of global biodiversity is in developing tropical countries. It is important that the message of The Paris Conference (September 2006), which was also attended by several ACP ministers and experts, is well followed-up. We need to ensure that biodiversity issues are well integrated into the European development co-operation. 

Good governance, respect for human rights and rule of law are the foundations of democratic development. This entails participation of the people - men and women alike. It also entails the important role of parliaments and civil society organisations in the management of common affairs. In October the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council agreed on the Good Governance Initiative. The initiative has a holistic approach to governance, supporting comprehensive action from fighting corruption to improving public management systems. The principles of the initiative guide the ongoing EDF programming but are also followed outside the ACP region.

Another issue with an important bearing on the programming of the funds of the EDF 10 is infrastructure on which the Council also adopted conclusions in October. In the governance and infrastructure sectors, as in others, ownership and partnership remain the key operating principles.

One of the main priorities of the EU this year has been to secure future development financing. Major steps have been taken in 2006, first with the agreement on the Financing Protocol of the 10th EDF with our ACP- Partners in Port Moresby in June. I can also note with satisfaction that we have agreed on a common position on the Development Cooperation Instrument which has been submitted to the European parliament for their final approval. The negotiations on the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights are still on-going and our goal is to have the new instrument ready by the beginning of 2007.

The Finnish Presidency is doing its utmost to guarantee that the 10th EDF is operational from January 2008. It is our shared responsibility to finalise the national ratification processes of the revised Cotonou agreement and its financing instrument in the limited time available. At the same time, we are working hard in the EU Council to have the regulations on implementation and financing ready to support the continuation of the programming exercise.

The EU is committed to the growth of development financing, but more effective use of this financing is also needed if the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved. During our Presidency we have built on prior work, focusing on the implementation of the donor commitments given in the Paris Declaration. For example, in October the Council approved conclusions on complementarity and division of labour. This is a long process and needs to be taken forward by the in-coming presidencies. Results can only be achieved by further strengthening our partnership and by all of us implementing the commitments we have made. I am delighted that an increasing number of ACP countries have formulated joint planning processes for their aid, and that these have also been a notable feature in the EDF programming.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Many significant issues have already been addressed, but several important items still require our attention. The linkages between migration and development have been discussed in the UN HLD in September as well as in the October Council. It also forms a part of EU-Africa relations. As we speak, the EU and African Ministers are meeting in Tripoli, Libya to discuss joint action in this field.  When discussing cooperation in the area of migration and development we have to consider the human resources aspects of it and bear in mind the aggravating effects of HIV/AIDS. The critical shortage of skilled health workers, to a large degree caused by emigration, has been seen as a major impediment to the advancement on health systems development. This is an integral part of the discussions regarding the effects of brain drain and the wider development impacts of migration.

In December, the EU Council will receive a progress report on the implementation of the EU Strategy for Africa. Regarding the future of the EU-Africa partnership I am glad to note that, thanks to the intensified dialogue, we have made some real progress in the elaboration of a joint Africa-EU strategy. With our Caribbean partners we had last month a separate Senior Officials meeting as an avenue of taking into account the specific concerns of the area.  As follow-up of the Pacific strategy, the EU and the Pacific Islands Forum are also engaged on enhancing the political dialogue.

I have dealt with only some issues that are on the EU-ACP agenda at the moment. Our partnership has proved to be a fruitful basis for our joint efforts of poverty alleviation.  I believe you share my view that our partnership is unique and something worth nurturing and developing with the aim of reaching our common goals.

Thank you very much.