International Cooperation


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Policy Dialogue

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 Pacific region consists of 15 states with a combined area of 528.000 km² and a vast Exclusive Economic Zone of 20 million km². Key challenges are related to the low lying nature of some of the islands that make them highly vulnerable to climate change, small populations, vast distances between the countries, and a strong dependence on fossil fuels.

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 has a great 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. As the world's largest ocean, changes in its ecosystem can have an important impact on climate change.

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.

Over the last 50 years, the relationship was based on development cooperation within the framework of the EU-ACP Partnership established with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, enshrined in the 1975 Lomé Convention and updated in 2000 by the Cotonou Agreement.

The EU is appreciated by the Pacific countries as a constructive and predictable donor, as apart from the conditions set out in the Cotonou Agreement, there are no political conditions or strings attached to EU support.

Lately, the cooperation between the EU and the Pacific has intensified in various other sectors, like the environment, good governance, energy, climate change, fisheries and human rights.

In 2006, a Strategy for a Strengthened Partnership was adopted to develop EU relations with the Pacific Islands from a donor-recipient level to a more political relationship. In 2012 this approach was complemented by the communication Towards a renewed EU-Pacific Development Partnership. This reflects the growing environmental, political and economic importance of the Pacific region with a focus on governance, regionalism and sustainable management of natural resources.

The increasing relevance the EU attaches to its relations with the Pacific is mirrored in its participation at the Pacific Island Forum (PIF). The PIF is the most significant inter-governmental regional organisation in the Pacific, including 14 independent island states (all those mentioned above except Timor-Leste) and Australia and New Zealand.

On 16 June 2015, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the EU signed the EDF11th Regional Indicative Programme.

Worth EUR 166 million, the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme 2014-2020 promotes:

  • Regional Economic Integration,
  • Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Management of Waste
  • Inclusive and Accountable Governance and the respect of Human Rights

The Pacific islands development Forum (PIDF) is another young organisation promoting green economy and sustainable development by bringing together leaders from the public and private sectors and civil society

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is EU's largest implementing partner in the Pacific.

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 and dimension for Research and Innovation with the Pacific Islands
  • 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 and monitoring progress in the bilateral S&T cooperation.
  • 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.

The EU, which maintains a long standing relationship with the Pacific, aims to enhance its profile and reinforce cooperation in STI with the region and promote the development of mutually beneficial partnerships with the Pacific.



PACENET PLUS (2013-2016)

The second series of the project "Pacific Europe Network for Science, Technology and Innovation" is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) that aimeds 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
    1. Health, demographic change and wellbeing
    2. Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio economy
    3. 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 successful project was concluded in 2016.

Other project of possible interest for the scientists of the Pacific region is the MESOPP project which aims to enhance research and innovation cooperation between Europe and Australia by developing research e-infrastructures (standardised methods and datasets for biomass estimates of micronekton organisms in ocean ecosystem models) linked to ocean research.


European Commission
DG Research and Innovation
Szilvia Nemeth
Policy Officer - R&I Relations with New Zealand
Unit RTD C1 - Policy Coordination, EFTA and Enlargement countries, Russia, Asia and Pacific
Telephone: (+32) 229 97685

Szilvia Nemeth