On Wednesday, 6 March 2019, members of the Norwegian Australian Chamber of Commerce attended a Forum with Commissioner Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, and Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, Federal Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific.
Following the third Development Dialogue between Australia and the EU held in Brussels last February, the Forum offered an opportunity for the European Union and Australia to confirm their alignment and commitment to the Pacific region, and in particular, priorities for investing in sustainable infrastructure.
Commissioner Mimica spoke about the EU’s development policy, as the world’s largest aid donor, and highlighted efforts to increase funding for the EU’s Electrification Financing Initiative, whose objective is to de-risk private investments aimed at improving access to energy, principally for populations living in rural areas. He also announced the EU’s External Investment Plan aiming to leverage €1 trillion of investments in EU partner countries, including the Pacific.
Assistant Minister Ruston underlined the importance of the Australian Government’s Pacific Step-Up encompassing $2 billion for the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, along with a $1 billion increase in callable capital to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. She welcomed the EU’s increased support and continued focus on the Pacific region, and expressed Australia’s desire to work more closely with its European partners and the EU as a whole.
Both Commissioner Mimica and Assistant Minister Ruston stressed how Australia and the EU share a strong commitment to the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, and commented on the need for renewed cooperation between Australia and the EU. Historic ties of friendship and substantial support to the region should lead the EU and Australia to further align development efforts and work together in better allocating resources.
The panel discussion that followed the keynote speeches addressed the economic outlook of the region opening up opportunities for business. Moderator Dr Sarah Cook (UNSW Institute for Global Development) and panellists Zarak Khan (Fiji Consul General and Trade Commissioner), Adam Bruun (European Investment Bank) and Jean Ballandras (CEO Asia-Pacific, Akuo Energy), discussed the significance of enhanced EU-Australia collaboration in and with Pacific island countries.
The panellists’ comments and interactive session with participants profiled the fast-changing business environment and landscape in the Pacific, underlining the role of the private sector in the region and how technological innovation is driving the emergence of tailor-made, less costly and more adaptable solutions to existing challenges. Panellists also emphasised the role of value-driven stakeholders, committed to making a difference on issues such as climate change mitigation.
See the photo gallery from the event below.