There are creative ways in which we can stimulate new economic growth and now more than ever, powers like the European Union (EU) must give Small Island Developing States (SIDS) the policy space to seize those opportunities. 

Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama made these remarks while delivering the opening statement at the two-day High-Level Virtual Political Dialogue between the EU and Fiji, at the EU Pacific Headquarters in Suva on Tuesday 27 October, 2020. 

Prime Minister Bainimarama highlighted the socioeconomic challenges encountered by SIDS particularly, Fiji amidst the present global coronavirus pandemic. 

“Fiji may have spared ourselves a second wave of infection but the pain this pandemic has inflicted on our economy has not ebbed a centimetre. Our vital tourism industry has ground to a standstill, Government revenues are gutted while historic numbers of our people are out-of-work or on reduced hours,” he said. 

“Flows of remittances are falling, as is demand for our exports in foreign markets crippled by lockdowns.

Alongside Small Island Developing States the world over, Fiji will see a double-digit contraction in our GDP. 

“More than 190 days removed from a COVID-19 case among the public, we have made the world’s strongest case for European travellers from Fiji to be exempted from quarantine requirements upon arrival into the EU.

The United Kingdom recently granted Fiji that very designation.” The Head of Government also called on EU’s strong support, with emphasis on providing a more inclusive and innovative solution for sustainable recovery. 

“We know better choices exist and we see clearly how blue and green development can put Fijians to work future-proofing our economy, but that demands resources we cannot access from an outdated, 80-year-old development finance architecture; one designed by and for the colonial powers and economic powerhouses of the post-war era,” he added. “The world has changed a great deal since then.

New nations have come forth and we have new needs, particularly for innovative financial solutions.

The EU can help usher in a more inclusive era of development finance and assistance, but only if you leave the power dynamics of a different century behind in our post-COVID-19 world.” Meanwhile, this High-Level Political Dialogue is forged under Article 8 of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) – EU Partnership (Cotonou) Agreement. 

The Dialogue provided an opportunity to review recent developments in the EU, Fiji and the broader region, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health and the support provided by the EU under the Team Europe response amounting to € 119 million for the Pacific region. 

The meeting took stock of the negotiations of the new Partnership Agreement between the ACP countries and the EU, including EU’s strategy and commitments on climate action and implementation of the EU Green Deal and its priorities for the Oceans Conference. 

The Dialogue took place under the co-chairmanship of the Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service, Mr Gunnar Wiegand, and Fiji’s Permanent Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister and Acting Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr Yogesh Jitendra Karan. 

EU and Fiji highlighted their commitment to further strengthen their political partnership and continue their joint efforts towards the full implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and promotion of the rules based on international order and effective multilateralism. 

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