Oct 24, 2020 Last Updated 9:52 PM, Oct 21, 2020

The European Union (EU) and the South Pacific Community (SPC) have launched three separate projects for the Pacific region focussed on cutting dependence on imported fuel and improving access to clean water and sanitation.

Approximately EUR 19 million (US$22.68 million) has been committed by the EU to help SPC facilitate projects ranging from enhancing food security, improving access to clean and safe drinking water, and improving access to the renewable and effective energy. 

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Suva recently, the Charge d’affaires of the FSM Embassy, Wilson Waquk welcomed the EU’s support of EUR 11.6 million ($13.85 million) towards the Sustainable Energy and Accompanying Measures (SEAM) initiative, underlining that this would help the territory cut spending on fossil fuel imports and create a more ‘viable investment environment’ for private sector companies. 

“In the FSM, its highly dependent on imported petroleum fuels,” Waquk explained. “It annually spends US$50 million on fuel imports, with most (fuel) used for electricity generation.”

Approximately 42% of the FSM’s emissions derive from the electricity generation sector.  Authorities are confident that the implementation of SEAM would not only improve access to renewable and effective energy but would reduce the country’s greenhouse emissions by 21,000 tonnes per annum. 

The High Commissioner of Kiribati, David Teaabo commended the EU and SPC’s continual efforts to improving access to clean water and sanitation on the Kirimati atoll under the Pacific Regional Integrated Food and Nutrition Security Initiative COVID-19 (PRISCO19) project.  Roughly EUR 6.2 million (US$7.4 million) has been allocated to the Kirimati atoll project. 

“While we are still COVID free, implementation of the PRISCO-19 now contributes to building our preparedness response to COVID, should it ever reach our shores,” said Teaabo.

“These projects will put food on people’s plates, it will turn on electricity and support aspirations around renewable energy, and of course enable access to clean drinking water to wider communities of Kirimati,” said Deputy-Director General of SPC, Audrey Aumua.

“Whatever we do in this region, we do in the spirit of partnership,” said the European Ambassador to Fiji, Sujiro Seam. “We are here today in these challenging circumstances and we’ll still be here in the years to come.

The French Ambassador to Fiji, Sujiro Seam has been nominated as the new Head of the European Union Delegation to the Pacific Region.

The nomination was announced by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He is also the Vice-President of the European Commission.

Seams’ nomination is one of 43 worldwide that will come into effect once agreements are received.

He has tweeted “I’ve just been officially nominated as Head of the European Delegation for the Pacific. Honored to soon represent the European Union in this region.”

Sujiro Seam was appointed Ambassador of France to Fiji, in residence in Suva in September 2017.

As a career diplomat, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris in 1998 and first served at the Directorate of Legal Affairs.

He took his first overseas assignment in Brussels in 2001, where he was an Expert at the European Commission, in the Trade Dispute Settlement Unit, and then Counsellor in charge of Fisheries, regional Policy, Maritime Policy, Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories.

Back in Paris in 2009, he was promoted Assistant-Director for Food Security and Economic Development and then Deputy-Director for Development and Global Public Goods, with responsibility for Economic Development, Climate and Environment, Health and Human Development and Governance.

He was appointed Consul General of France in Houston in 2013, with jurisdiction over Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

He studied at the National School of Administration (“Valmy” Class of 1998) and the Institute of Political Sciences of Paris. 

He also graduated from the Paris Graduate School of Management and holds a certificate of Commercial Russian from the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Born in Cambodia, Sujiro SEAM is married with two children.

FIJI, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu have been added to a European Union blacklist of tax havens. And despite concerns about process raised by all three countries, the EU has told Islands Business that these jurisdictions should not be surprised to find themselves on the list, “as they were given every chance to engage and address EU concerns.”

The countries were added to the blacklist in March, joining Samoa, American Samoa and Guam who were already on the list, but had been given a year to change their tax rules.

Calling the list a “last resort”, the EU states: “Over the course of 2018, countries were assessed on the basis of three criteria – tax transparency, good governance and real economic activity – as well as one indicator, the existence of a zero rate of corporate tax. This methodology is clear, transparent to all jurisdictions concerned and supported by all Member States. Our method is fair: progress made should be acknowledged and visible in the list.”

The blacklist, which was first established in 2017, subjects identified countries to stricter controls on transactions with the EU and reputational damage. It includes tax jurisdictions which are alleged not to comply with EU regulations. In effect, it means European banks must carry out extra checks and due-diligence on any transactions involving customers or other financial institutions in the listed countries and territories.

However Fiji’s Revenue & Customs Service has dismissed the listing as “largely symbolic” and says it will have virtually no impact on the minimal EU trade and investment in the country.

FRCS Chief Executive Visvanath Das claims the EU’s decision was based on the incentive package that Fiji uses to attract and cultivate new business, such as moving headquarters to Fiji. He says Fiji stands by this package, and that the EU did not take this into consideration during consultation on the issue.

In response the EU says while jurisdictions can design their tax systems as they wish, “not being in line with the good governance standards the EU is promoting, implies being included in the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.”

“Furthermore, Fiji’s commitment to comply with two articles under Tax Transparency and the implementation of the anti- Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) measures by the end of 2019 will continue to be monitored. BEPS refers to tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations,” it says.

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