Friday, March 14, 2008

Indian Ocean Countries Signal Closer Ties

The Courier Magazine (, a magazine of the Africa, Caribbean, Pacific and EU Co-operation and Relations, has carried an article on the recent Colloquium of the Indian Ocean Commission which took place in Seychelles between 4th and 6th March 2008. Below we carry the full story courtesy of The Courier Magazine.

"Indian Ocean countries signal closer ties

05/03/2008 - Debra Percival

Meeting to look at IOC shipping links © M Percival

Closer links between Indian Ocean countries have been signalled by a high level meeting in the Seychelles, March 4-6.

A colloquium “Globalisation and regional integration: the future of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)”, is looking at how opening of world makets harbours both challenges and opportunities for the region. It is organised by President of Seychelles, James Michel who is current IOC President.

Founded in 1984, the IOC includes ACP nations Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles and French islands of Reunion and Mayotte.

Experts, donors, regional and international bodies and the private sector are studying how to make regional ties stronger among IOC, in particular shipping and airlinks.

“Developing our shipping and air links between the countries of the sub-region and beyond is of fundamental importance to us, as without this basic infrastructure and networks, the objective of deepening regional integration will remain elusive,” Barry Faure, Ambassador of Seychelles in Brussels told ‘the Courier.’

He added: “For the moment our sub-region only has a few airlines serving regular schedules but these are rare and flying from one island to the other can take days in certain cases.Also, global developments are happening that affect the development and viability of the airlines in the region, which depend primarily on tourism traffic from Europe as their revenue mainstay.”

Shipping is in the same boat: “Whilst there is regular traffic, mostly by foreign operated vessels, some of the ports of the region (unlike Seychelles) suffer from a lack of capacity where congestion is quite severe, and costs can be much higher to certain destinations (like to Seychelles) because certain shipping lines monopolise the traffic,” said Ambassador Faure.

This week’s event is ahead of a meeting of IOC Council of Ministers March 27-28, which is expected to take on board recommendations made.

The EU has recently concluded “goods only” European Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the four ACP states in the IOC. Negotiations with the EU are expected to continue in 2008 to conclude fully-fledged EPAs to broaden trade cooperation.

The EPA negotiations, explained Ambassador Faure, had heightened interest in the role and status of the IOC in building regional and trade cooperation in the East and Southern Africa sub-region which had, “hitherto been on the back-burner.”

When it became clear in October 2007 that the East and Southern Africa region would not be able to conclude an EPA with the EC by the end of 2007, President Michel called for a extraordinary meeting in the Seychelles of all four ACP Member States of the IOC with France Reunion as an observer to form a sub-group in the ESA region to to defend the interests of the island states and avoid trade disruption with the non-Least developed Countries (LDCs) in the IOC, Mauritius and Seychelles. This led the way to the initialling of the “goods only” interim agreements with the IOC four.

Ambassador Faure said there was also increased scope for the IOC four to step up cooperation with the French island of Reunion. Reunion already has cooperation agreements with individual IOC states in the fields of tourism, fisheries, the environment, land use management, education and martime surveillance and control."

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