WELLINGTON, New Zealand: During his visit to New Zealand, Ambassador Sujiro Seam, Head of the Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, said the European Union is working to boost its presence in the Pacific through economic ties and new security commitments in the region.
The EU's push comes as major powers are vying for influence in the region, with the United
States and Australia ramping up engagement in the Pacific after China signed a security pact
with the Solomon Islands this year.
"The geostrategic importance of the Pacific is recognised by everyone, including the
European Union," Seam said.
The EU has several development projects underway in the region and is looking at others, he said, noting it is finalizing plans to spend 5 million euros on a feasibility study to build a wharf on Kiritimati Island in Kiribati.
"We've always said our position in the region is not against anybody. We're not here to
contain China," Seam said.
However, when countries make decisions on who to partner with it is important they assess
the consequences, such as whether they are being offered development aid or loans.
"Most of the assistance from China actually ... it's loans. So that increases the debt
vulnerability of these countries."
Part of the strategy to boost the EU's presence in the Pacific is to provide economic
opportunities, Seam said, and it has signed a number of trade partnerships with Pacific governments and is negotiating a similar agreement with Tonga, to allow it better access to European markets.