COVID-19, Economic recovery, Climate Change and Maritime Security on the agenda of the 8th EU Seychelles Political Dialogue
(Victoria) – The 8 th Political Dialogue meeting between the Republic of Seychelles and the European Union (EU) was held today in Victoria. The annual meeting, which is a milestone of the EU-Seychelles longstanding partnership, was co-chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Hon Sylvestre Radegonde, and the Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Seychelles, H.E. Mr Vincent Degert. At the end of the meeting, the co-chairs stated that Seychelles and the EU will continue working actively together to address post pandemic challenges and recovery. They also agreed to explore further cooperation in the areas of maritime and global security, blue economy and sustainable fisheries management as well as preservation of the environment and the fight against climate change.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Hon Sylvestre Radegonde, said:
– “Our presence here today, notwithstanding the difficulties posed by the pandemic, demonstrates, in no small measure, our commitment to strengthening the cooperation that exists between Seychelles and the EU. The Dialogue adds a political dimension to our development, trade, and economic cooperation. We will continue to work together in order to further strengthen our partnership on shared interests at regional and international forums. Seychelles and the EU will work shoulder to shoulder to overcome our challenges. I am optimistic that our partnership will continue to strengthen on issues such as the blue economy, fisheries and climate change”
The Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Seychelles, H.E. Mr Vincent Degert said:
– “I am really glad to be in Seychelles, with Ambassadors and representatives from 8 Member States for the 8 th Political Dialogue with the Government of Seychelles. It is really important for us to hold this meeting this year as the last Political Dialogue took place in November 2019, almost two years ago. We were unable to do it last year due to the pandemic. Today, we had open and constructive discussions with Seychelles on a number of key subjects of mutual interest. We agreed to work closely in international fora for environmental protection and the fight against climate change and to pursue our collaboration to promote regional maritime security. The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss Seychelles’ economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic and explore how the EU and its Member States, as key trade and investment partners of Seychelles, could support the Government in this context. “
Seychelles and the European Union (EU) had an open and fruitful exchange of views on subjects of mutual interest, that are high on their agendas including the state of their bilateral relations, the deepening of the Economic Partnership Agreement, maritime security, fisheries, environment and climate change, governance as well as regional and multilateral issues. They also shared views on the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social recovery process in the two regions.
The EU commended Seychelles for the management of the sanitary crisis and provided an overview of the situation within the EU, including the conditions of travel to and from the EU. The EU reaffirmed its commitment to sustaining a comprehensive response to the pandemic at multilateral level, notably in the framework of the World Health Organisation – including for the universal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and their production at the African level. Seychelles and the EU welcomed the action of the Indian Ocean Commission, with financial support from the EU and France, to enhance the region’s epidemiological surveillance and response capacity, in order to build its resilience to future crisis. They also discussed the economic impact of the pandemic. Recognising the severe impact that COVID-19 has had on Seychelles economy, in particular due to its high dependence on tourism, the EU congratulated Seychelles on its bold response. They took note that in 2020 the EU remained Seychelles’ main trading partner and source of tourists. The EU confirmed its commitment to support Seychelles’ sustainable development notably with a bilateral envelope of EUR 2 million for the period 2021-2027 to assist the government on its environmental and governance priorities.
The EU and Seychelles also discussed international security threats and their impact on the region. Reiterating the importance of safe seas and freedom of navigation for trade and the economy overall, they took note of the action of the Regional Centre for Operational Coordination (RCOC) that Seychelles hosts, as a key component of the Regional Maritime Surveillance Mechanism. Underlining the importance of the latest extension and broadening of the EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta mandate, Seychelles and the EU reaffirmed their strong involvement in the fight against maritime threats including, in addition to piracy, drugs and arms smuggling, human trafficking, illegal fishing and maritime pollution. They agreed to work on adequate solutions to take into account the new framework of the broadened Atalanta’s mandate. They also agreed to continue to work closely together in the context of the MASE, Port Security and CRIMARIO programmes. In this context, the EU highlighted Seychelles’ strong involvement in those programmes including as chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Group.
Recalling their joint commitment to achieving the global commitments of the Paris Agreement of 2015, and taking account of the latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Seychelles and the EU underlined the importance of its full implementation for our planet. The EU provided information on its Green Deal that translates its willingness to lead by example by committing to climate neutrality by 2050. The EU confirmed its commitment to support partner countries, in particular Small Island Developing States like Seychelles in meeting their commitments for the implementation of the Paris Agreement including with the provision of financial support to update their Nationally Determined Contribution. As they stand united in the fight against climate change, the EU and Seychelles stated that they will endeavour to create strong alliances in international fora, notably at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, in November in Glasgow, UK, and in the upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference in April 2022, in Kunming, China. They also welcomed the key achievements of the Global Climate Change Alliance + initiative for the protection of the population of La Digue against flooding; they further underlined the key importance of climate change mainstreaming in national policies.
They also exchanged views on the governance and human rights situation in Seychelles and reaffirmed their strong attachment to democratic values and respect for human rights. The EU congratulated Seychelles on the organisation of fair and transparent elections and the smooth transition of power. The EU reaffirmed its readiness to continue to support Seychelles in reinforcing the capacity of its administration as well as in the fight against corruption, an area where the EU has been working with Seychelles for the last two years. They also discussed about gender equality and underlined in particular the need to act decisively to prevent and combat gender-based violence.
Acknowledging that Seychelles is well-known for applying high standards in all areas, the EU encouraged Seychelles to continue its efforts to align with international best practices in the fight against Money Laundering and Harmful Tax Regimes.
Recognising that the EU is a key business partner for Seychelles, the most important market for Seychelles’ exports, the first provider of tourists and a reliable source of foreign investments, they discussed about regional economic integration and the opportunities provided under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). They agreed on the importance of exploring new sectors with export potential, such as cinnamon, as part of the EPA support programme. They also took note of the state of play of the ongoing negotiations for deepening the EPA, which aim at establishing an advanced framework of trade and cooperation, covering trade matters such as technical barriers to trade, food safety, plant and animal health standards, digital trade or intellectual property rights. The EU also confirmed its full commitment, together with its Member States, as Team Europe, to boost the competitiveness of the Seychelles’ economy and to work closely with the Seychelles’ authorities to ensure the swift and full implementation of the Port Victoria rehabilitation and expansion project.
Seychelles and the EU welcomed the signature of their Fisheries Partnership Agreement in 2020 and underlined the progress made on the repayment of the Seychellois seamen on-board EU vessels. Recognising that joining forces is essential to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, they agreed to continue their work in this area. The EU underlined that Seychelles, due to a strategic positioning in the Indian Ocean, has a crucial role to play in this regard. The EU confirmed its commitment to accompany the Government in its ambition to develop the Blue Economy; in addition, the EU underlined the importance of a regionally-oriented cooperation on sustainable fisheries including the need for increased levels of compliance to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s (IOTC) regulations by all Parties to efficiently manage the fish stocks.
Seychelles and the EU also noted that the African Union-European Union Summit in 2022 will be an important event to reinforce the partnership with Africa. In this context, they announced the organisation of BlueInvest-Africa, a Business-to-Business event, on 15 – 16 March 2022 in Seychelles, a key event for boosting the African Union-EU partnership in the area of the blue economy. They discussed the future of their partnership in the context of the post-Cotonou Agreement. They confirmed their determination to implement the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals as the reference for a safer, cleaner, fairer and more prosperous future. They expressed satisfaction on their constructive discussions, they reiterated their commitment to enhancing their partnership in the framework of the Post Cotonou Agreement and agreed to convene the next Political Dialogue in 2022.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Hon Sylvestre Radegonde, led the Seychelles delegation comprising of the Designated Minister and Minister for Fisheries and the Blue Economy, Mr. Jean-Francois Ferrari; Minister for Finance, Trade and Economic Planning, Mr. Naadir Hassan; Minister for Health, Mrs. Peggy Vidot; Minister for Youth, Sports and Family, Mrs. Marie-Celine Zialor; Minister for Investment, Entrepreneurship and Industry, Mrs. Devika Vidot; Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, Mr. Flavien Joubert; Minister for Education, Dr. Justin Valentin and Minister for Employment and Social Affairs, Mrs. Patricia Francourt; Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission, Ms May de Silva; CEO of the Human Rights Commission, Mr Elvis Julie; and representing Minister Errol Fonseka were, Commissioner for Prison, Mr Raymond St Ange, Director of the National Information Sharing and Coordination Centre, Lt. Colonel Leslie Benoiton, and Director of the Trafficking in Person, Ms Ina Laporte.
The Ambassador of the European Union, H.E. Mr Vincent Degert led the EU Delegation. He was accompanied by ambassadors and representatives from 8 Member States, namely: Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Hungary, Poland and Sweden. A delegation of the EU Naval Force – Somalia Operation ATALANTA led by its Force Commander, Vice Admiral José M. Núñez Torrente, also participated in the Political Dialogue.