EU makes fresh bid to influence Fiji with sugar money threat

New Zealand Herald Wednesday Oct 07, 2009
By Claire Trevett

The European Union has invited Fiji back to the negotiating table over millions of dollars of sugar industry subsidies the country is in danger of losing.

But the EU’s Pacific director, Roger Moore, doubts that external pressure can produce a swift return to democracy in Fiji.

The European Union has invited Fiji for further discussions over the sugar cane development money – worth about $500 million – despite failing to meet its initial commitment to hold elections this year.

Mr Moore was in Fiji last week on his way to New Zealand for a meeting about aid. He did not meet interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama because on the day he was in Fiji, Suva was was evacuated for fear of tsunamis.

But he hoped Fiji would agree to renegotiate the conditions for the release of the sugar money within a month.

If no replacement agreement was found, Fiji risked losing the money.

He said he made it clear that Fiji would need to provide a “viable alternative” to the promises it had already broken regarding elections for the money to remain within its reach.

But Mr Moore doubted that the value of the subsidies would be enough to force it into early elections.

“My own view is that Bainimarama is somebody who has a vision and he’s going to go for it. And there’s not much that’s going to deflect him. I don’t think it’s going to be external pressure that’s going to force it.”

Mr Moore said the EU was largely taking its lead from the Pacific Islands Forum “and particularly New Zealand” in dealing with Fiji. The EU had found New Zealand “is the island that knows Fiji better”.

“If New Zealand knows the place best, then let them take political leadership. We would rather lend them our economic and political clout.”

He did not believe there should be a civil uprising in Fiji – “they’ve got quite a good Army and it’s well disciplined. That could be a rather messy way of dealing with it.”

He was instead hoping for an agreement on the substance of the electoral reforms needed and on land access issues between the main political groups in Fiji.

Mr Moore was in New Zealand heading an EU delegation that met Australian and New Zealand officials yesterday to discuss ways the three could better co-ordinate their aid efforts in the Pacific.

The European Union is one of the largest donors in the Pacific, with Australia and New Zealand.

Yesterday’s meeting followed a compact signed by Pacific Island Forum leaders in Cairns in August, calling for greater co-ordination of development and aid funding and for it to be focused on improving economic growth.

Mr Moore said he agreed with Prime Minister John Key’s views that China should also be encouraged to work with the other countries.

“Will they buy into it or not? We will see.”

He believed New Zealand’s free-trade agreement with China could be helpful in that process.

“I think the closer we get to operating with China, the better, and certainly one agreement is going to help another.”

The EU has committed about $1 billion to aid in the Pacific to 2013 to assist stability and the environment.

This is a dangerous sign, people. International bodies and foreign governments are now starting to accept the illegal Dictator, and treating him as our head of state. Vore does not deserve such treatment. We The People owe it to ourselves, and our beloved Fiji, to not legitimise the unspeakable, murderous pig.

We want fresh elections!

NOW!

God bless Fiji

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