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[Media Release - MFAI]

Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration


European Union COVID19 support to the Cook Islands: working together to improve wastewater management systems

Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) is pleased to advise the release of EUR 1,350,000 (NZD 2,350,000) from the European Union (EU) as part of the EU’s partnership co-operation signed with the Cook Islands in 2017 to improve wastewater management systems in the Cook Islands, as committed under the European Development Funds (EDF). The EU has since 2014 supported the efforts of the Government of Cook Islands in the health, water, sanitation and hygiene sectors with the shared objectives of improving water service delivery and quality.


The funds were committed by the EU in 2017 and the confirmation of their release by the EU yesterday is timely in light of the impact of COVID-19 on global health systems and for the Cook Islands, renewed focus on quality access to water, sanitation and hygiene as essential pre-requisites for protecting human health and fighting the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19.


In making yesterday’s announcement, the EU Ambassador to the Pacific, Sujiro Seam said: “The EUR 1.35 M provided today to the Cook Islands is part of “Team Europe” response to COVID-19 in the Pacific. It will support water, sanitation and hygiene, in line with the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) of the Cook Islands. This is a key area not only to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, but also to improve the tourism sector. It shows the EU commitment to promoting a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, as part of the European Green Deal.” See EU Delegation media release of yesterday at https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/fiji/82544/eu-supporting-efforts-improve-wastewater-management-cook-islands_en?fbclid=IwAR3CcuOjDMtgFAlO6Am-19_0iPSBsBqoFVfwOROWkK34Ha5zTercjwqwvC8


In prior years, the Cook Islands has benefitted from EU funding via the EDF towards improving health outcomes in the pa enua and building solar energy capability in the Pa Enua. EU assistance supported the conversion of all islands in the southern group to solar power by 2018.

Since formalization of diplomatic relations with the EU in 2001, Cook Islands-EU relations have grown steadily with co-operation at both bilateral level as well as in broader regional and multilateral fora on a growing number of issues. At the bilateral level tourism, fisheries, financial services, development co-operation and at in regional and multilateral fora, shared global challenges of health pandemics, climate change, security, connectivity, trade and more. Presently, in addition to budget support for wastewater management, the Cook Islands accesses EU funds delivered via the EDF for general budget support and multiyear (fisheries) policy support, as well as the PEUMP and PacWASTE+ Project delivered via regional mechanisms. The Cook Islands and the EU are currently engaged in regional negotiations for a framework for partnership and cooperation between the EU and countries from the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group, of which the Cook Islands is part – namely, negotiation towards a post-Cotonou Agreement. With the broad aim to reduce and eradicate poverty and promote the integration of ACP States into the global economy, the post-Cotonou agreement will provide an additional avenue for the Cook Islands to widen its trade and economic engagement with the European Union beyond development and fisheries, all the more important as the Cook Islands looks towards maximising the utility of trade agreements and promoting diversification of the Cook Islands economy.

Said Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Secretary, Ms. Tepaeru Herrmann, “The Cook Islands is grateful for the release of EUR1.35M (NZD 2,350,00) from the EU under the EDF10 to help support our domestic water, sanitation and hygiene efforts. This assistance is timely given the dual health and economic crisis brought about by COVID-19. The EDF is a programme of support held in high regard by the Cook Islands for its direct contributions to helping lift health and social outcomes, and supplementing our efforts to address waste management, biodiversity protection, ocean and coastal governance and the root causes of gender inequality and violence against women.”


Ambassador Sujiro and Secretary Herrmann met at the end of last year in Suva as part of shared aspirations to elevate co-operation between the Cook Islands and the EU. Ambassador Sujiro, who is concurrently EU Ambassador to the Pacific and Ambassador-designate to the Cook Islands was Rarotonga bound in March to present his letters of credence when COVID-19 border closures interfered. “I’ve been encouraged by discussions with Ambassador Sujiro thus far and look forward to continuing those in the coming months including hosting him to a visit once border settings permit. The health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on all countries require elevated levels of bilateral and global co-operation. The COVID-19 crisis highlights the need for urgent and collective action to cushion the pandemics health and economic impacts, protect vulnerable populations and work collectively to ensure sustainable recovery. Partners like the EU have important contributions to make towards global efforts to strengthen health capabilities including development of a vaccine and urgent targeted measures via global financial institutions to avail debt standstills and scaled up development co-operation to the most vulnerable island economies if we are to avert mass global humanitarian and economic crisis. At the same time, the Cook Islands have valuable contributions to avail the EU and global powers on people and environment centric development approaches including as relate to COVID-19 responses, climate change action and oceans governance. I look forward to discussing these further with Ambassador Sujiro in the coming months.”

The EDF funds committed for wastewater management will be administered by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management Development Co-ordination Division. Queries relating to its administration can be directed to Mani.Mate@cookislands.gov.ck


Dialogue between the two governments will continue to be led by MFAI for the Cook Islands via headquarters in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands High Commission in Suva and the EU Delegation to the Pacific headed by Mr Sujiro in Suva. Queries regarding this media release can be directed to Karopaerangi.ngatoko@cookislands.gov.ck

[END.]


Photos:

1. 2 December 2019, Suva, Offices of the EU Delegation to the Pacific – bilateral meeting between EU Ambassador to the Pacific Sujiro Seam and Cook Islands Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann and officials;

2. 2 December 2019, Suva, Offices of the EU Delegation to the Pacific –EU Ambassador Seam with CKI Foreign Secretary Herrmann

3. 23 June 2020, Suva, Residence of the EU Ambassador – MFAI Charge d’affaires, Cook Islands High Commission to Fiji Jim Armistead with other members of Suva diplomatic corp at the opening of the EU Delegation Residence.

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