Pacific situation summary
The Pacific region is rich in diversity. The essayist Epeli HAU'OFA calls it :"Our sea of islands" (A new Oceania: rediscovering our sea of islands, 1993). The region stretches some 10 000 km from east to west and 5 000 km from north to south, with a combined exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of close to 30 million km2.
The Pacific is the world's largest ocean, with about 30,000 islands with high ecosystems diversity, ranging from offshore marine realms, coral reefs, shoreline atolls, mangroves, coastal plains, lowland forests, mountain forests and wetlands. It faces high demographic and urban growth, complex issues as regards resource exploitation (mining, fishing and agriculture) and many Pacific island countries strongly rely on development aid. The region comprises 22 independent countries and territories, ranging from very large countries like Australia (7.682.300 km2) to very small ones, such as Pitcairn (40 km2). It has agreat diversity of political regimes and statutes and presents an extraordinary cultural and linguistic variety.
The Pacific Islands constitute living laboratories as regards biological evolution and diversity and in terms of nature/culture interactions.
The Pacific-EU Partnership
The EU has a long-standing development partnership in the Pacific, involving 15 independent countries and four Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT), as well as Australia and New Zealand, two like-minded strategic partners and donors.
In 2004, Pacific Leaders adopted a Vision encapsulating Pacific Islanders' aspirations. The Pacific Plan (2005) gives effect to the PacificLeaders' Vision and to the goal of regional integration. The EU Strategy for the Pacific, adopted in 2006, was the initial EU response to the Plan, through increased development assistance and enhanced political dialogue, both with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and with Australia and New Zealand.
In March 2012, the EU decided to engage in "a renewed EU-Pacific development Partnership".
That strong partnership with the Pacific is important for the EU's external action:
- Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTS), caretakers of a sizeable part of the planet, share with the EU concerns and aspirations about sustainable development.
- Pacific Countries, Australia, New Zealand and the EU represent 42 votes in the United Nations (UN) and form a significant group in international fora.
- The Pacific Ocean is vital for the future of the planet, for its function as a carbon sink and for its unique and rich biodiversity and ecosystems.
- The Pacific is important for EU's sustainable access to a wide range of natural resources.
- The Pacific Islands, and in particular Papua New Guinea (PNG), represent potential opportunities for the EU business sector.
- The EU is a global actor with responsibility to support Pacific Islands Countries and Territories (PICTS) to attain the Millennium Development Goals, to conserve and restore biodiversity, as well as address climate change.
More specifically, in terms of Research and Innovation policies, the EU aims at:
- Improving relationships with Australia and New Zealand, as well as developing a regional approach for Research and Innovation with ACP islands and the PICTS located in the South Pacific;
- Supporting the institutional policy dialogue under the bilateral S&T agreements signed by countries such as Australia and New Zealand;
- Promoting bilateral cooperation between research and innovation actors;
- Promoting synergies between EU policies and programmes addressing targeted countries in the Pacific and facilitating the coordination of research projects and initiatives supported by EU programmes and by the Member States and/or associated countries; and
- Monitoring progress in the bilateral S&T cooperation.
The EU has decided to involve civil society, local authorities, the private sector and also research communities, by supporting regional networking and Pacific-EU partnerships and by promoting public interest and debate in Europe on issues of common concern for the Pacific Islands Countries and Territories and its people.
The bi-regional dialogue platforms on S&T between the EU and the 15 member countries of the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Group of the Pacific region.
The EU, which maintains a long standing relationship with the Pacific, aims to enhance its profile and reinforce cooperation in STI with the region, in the perspective of the forthcoming Horizon 2020 Programme, and promote the development of mutually beneficial partnerships.
The Pacific-EU network for Science and Technology (PACE-NET) launched in July 2010 for a three-year period (2010-2013) has established a bi-regional dialogue platform on S&T between the EU and the 15 member countries of the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Group of the Pacific region, namely, Cook Islands, Federate States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, East Timor, Tonga, Tuvalu and Samoa. The PACE-NET project will also closely involve the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in the Pacific region (French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, Pitcairn) while Australia and New Zealand will bring to the PACE-Net project their long-standing expertise in the Pacific.
PACE-NET fulfilled the following main objectives:
- To reinforce existing S&T dialogues and networks and promote regional integration for those networks. PACE-NET has increased the cooperation between the research organisations and universities in the Pacific region;
- To identify S&T international cooperation activities and programmes towards the Pacific region. PACE-NET has set up dialogue fora, bringing together the relevant S&T experts and stakeholders to establish the priorities areas for R&D;
- To strengthen the coordination of S&T cooperation and the complementarities with activities and programs carried out by other European instruments. PACE-NET has analysed possible synergies or complementarities with EU activities, especially with respect to the challenges faced by developing countries.
PACE-NET came to end in April 2013. The network's results were presented at the Suva Conference in March 2013 and were transmitted to the main Pacific fora, gathering key stakeholders from Pacific and from Europe. For more information on PACE-NET events, and in particular the last EU Pacific stakeholder conference in Suva in March 2013, visit the Website: http://www.pacenet.eu/
Taking into account the results of PACE-NET supporting the EU-Pacific STI cooperation, a new network -PACE-NET Plus - will be launched in September 2013 for a three-year period (2013-2016) in order to:
- Support the EU-Pacific policy dialogue in STI, including dialogue on innovation issues.
- Reinforce the EU-Pacific STI cooperation, focusing on 3 major societal challenges:
- Health, demographic change and wellbeing;
- Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio economy;
- Climate action, resource use and efficiency, and raw materials;
- Encourage the coordination between the EU and Member States STI programmes and policies targeting the Pacific by promoting the implementation of joint actions.
- Enhance cooperation on innovation issues, by helping to bridge the gap between public and private sectors.
The project will promote the idea of innovation as an essential means to tackle global challenges and will respond to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and its Innovation Union Flagship Initiative. It aims at strengthening the Pacific-EU research cooperation partnerships through the promotion of EU and Member States and Associated Countries programmes, especially Horizon 2020, among the Pacific's research community, as well as those opportunities for the European researcher in the Pacific.
DG Research and Innovation
Policy Officer - R&I Relations with Pacific
Unit RTD D 1 - Policy Coordination, EFTA and Enlargement countries, Russia, Asia and Pacific
Tel. +32 2 29 65170