The EU and its African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partners have found that regional economic and political integration can bring prosperity, peace and stability, and help achieve the 8 millennium development goals (MDGs) set by the international community in 2000 to meet the needs of the world's poorest by 2015.
The importance of regional integration is highlighted in:
- the EU/ACP Cotonou Partnership Agreement
- the European Consensus on Development
- the EU Commission document Regional integration for development in ACP countries.
There are three main benefits:
- political stability - solving existing conflicts, preventing new ones, and improving administration, governance and economic development
- prosperity - larger and more effective marketswhichintegrate more smoothly into the world market
- addressing common challenges - AIDS, the protection of natural resources and migration can be dealt with more effectively at regional level.
And EU help is needed with five challenges:
- lack of regional/national ownership and institutional capacities - EU to help strengthen regional institutions
- fragmented regional markets - EU to support more integrated regional markets
- insufficient economic diversification - EU to reinforce the regional dimension of its business development support
- inefficient infrastructure interconnections - EU to support the increase in infrastructure stock, focusing on connecting national networks.
- no effective regional policies on sustainable development - EU to help the regions manage common challenges where regional added value is greatest.
The EU approach must be integrated across priorities and policy areas:
- political partnerships - the EU-Africa , EU-Caribbean and EU-Pacific strategies should consistently promote regional development
- development policy - funding should move towards jointly programmed by the EU, the member countries and other development partners. Regional "aid for trade packages" should be combined with more European Community support for regional integration (regional funding almost doubled to €1.78bn)
- trade policy - full Economic Partnership Agreements are being negotiated, to build upon and promote existing regional integration processes.