The 17th Regional Seminar of ACP-EU Economic and Social Interest Groups kicked off, today, at Sofitel Hotel, Flic en Flac. The EU Ambassador in Mauritius and Head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Mauritius, Mr Vincent Degert, was present at the event which is organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).
The EESC is mandated, on the basis of the EU-ACP Partnership agreement, to hold consultations and meetings of ACP-EU economic and social interest groups, in order to voice these actors' views on this partnership and foster cooperation between civil society organisations.
The two-day Regional Seminar is seeing the participation of institutional stakeholders including EESC Members, representatives of COMESA, representatives of the Government of Mauritius and representatives of EU institutions and EU diplomatic corps. The main topics of discussion are: Infrastructures as a factor of progress, a greater role in trade relations and regional integration for civil society, and the blue economy.
Threats and challenges in the Indian Ocean region
In his address, Mr Vincent Degert recalled that countries in the Indian Ocean region are faced with serious threats and challenges namely maritime insecurity, climate change, boosting trade and investment, and the blue economy.
Speaking about maritime security, the EU Ambassador highlighted that for the European Union, Mauritius and Seychelles, and other countries of the region, ensuring maritime security in the Indian Ocean and the Horn of Africa is a priority. Indian Ocean countries also face other ongoing maritime security threats, including armed robbery, human smuggling, drug smuggling, and illegal and unreported fishing, he added.
In that context, the EU Ambassador stated that the EU assists the region in developing their capabilities and adopting a regional approach to maritime security with programmes such as the Critical Maritime Routes, Cutlass Express exercise, and the MASE programme. Through the MASE programme and the EU's cooperation with the Indian Ocean Commission, regional cooperation has been enhanced with the signature of two important agreements which will make it possible for countries of the Indian Ocean, as well as Djibouti, and Kenya to cooperate to combat maritime crimes in terms of information sharing and joint actions at sea, he further said.
As regards climate change, Mr Degert indicated that in line with its global commitment, the EU is engaged in building the resilience of Governments and other stakeholders to the negative impact of climate change. In Mauritius, he said, the EU is assisting farmers to adopt environment-friendly measures, such as making more judicious use of water resources and adapting to increasing temperatures, pests, diseases as well as reduced soil fertility through the adoption of climate smart practices. Support is also being provided to several small and medium entrepreneurs and organisations in Mauritius and Rodrigues to adopt more sustainable consumption and production practices and contribute to greening the economy, he added.
The Ambassador furthermore underlined that the EU is accompanying the energy transition of Mauritius in partnership with the public sector, the private sector, and the Agence Française de Développement. A dedicated policy dialogue on climate change has also been launched with Mauritius which helps in defining priorities and contributing to a more coherent approach.
Referring to trade, Mr Degert underlined that it is one of the key drivers to support development, stimulate growth and lift people out of poverty. Acknowledging that the EU has developed solid trade relations with Mauritius, he stated that their relationship is bound to further develop with the launch of the negotiations on the deepening of the interim Economic Partnership Agreement. In Mauritius, he said, the EU works in close partnership with the Government to contribute to a business environment that is conducive to private sector initiative. As a result, Mauritius leapfrogged from the 20th in 2018 to the 13th position in the Ease of Doing Business, he added.
Speaking about the EU's longstanding partnership with Mauritius in the fisheries sector, Ambassador Degert announced that the EU will shortly be providing the Albion Fishing Monitoring Centre with the Electronic Reporting System which is the latest technological tools for fisheries monitoring which allows the automatic transmission of the vessels' position and catch data. The EU, he pointed out, also supports the Government's programme on off-lagoon fisheries through the purchase of small and medium boats. This helps fishermen supply the local market with local species, have more business-oriented activities which ultimately contributes to improving fishermen's livelihoods, he added.