Speaker Esmon Saimon (c) with 3 of his deputy speakers and the Parliamentary Envoy for Trade, MP Francois Chani (l) preparing for the Pacific Regional meeting of the ACP/EU Joint Assembly.

Delegates have started arriving in Port Vila for the 14th regional meeting of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific/European Union (ACP/EU) Parliamentary Assembly being hosted by Vanuatu that will open at the National Convention Centre tomorrow morning.

The Chairman of the local Taskforce Committee organizing the program for the meeting, the Acting Clerk of Parliament, Leon Teter, says they expect around 66 delegates at the meeting and so far 44 participants have confirmed their presence.

They include the co-president of ACP, Ibrahim Rassin Bundu who arrived on Sunday and the acting co-president of the EU, Cecil Kashetu Kyenge and the co-secretary of ACP, Mr. Leonard Emile Ognimba, and the co-secretary of the EU Parliament, Mrs. Donatella Pribaz.

Also expected for the meeting are the Speaker of the Parliament of Tuvalu, Otineilu Tausi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cook Islands, Tutai Tura and the Minister of Commerce of Kiribati, Atarake Nataara.

They make up the list of VIPs of the meeting.

Those already confirmed to be here at the meeting are 21 members from the European Parliament and 23 from the ACP’s Parliaments of Pacific Island countries.

A total of five participants arrived on Sunday, 10 on Monday, 17 on Tuesday and eight on Wednesday with unconfirmed participants also expected during those days.

The Speaker of Parliament, Esmon Saimon, and his four deputy speakers and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Leingkone will represent Vanuatu.

In March, this year, Vanuatu through MP Marco Mahe, the country’s special envoy for ACP and Vanuatu’s Ambassador in Brussels, Roy Mickey Roy, submitted an offer for Vanuatu to host the meeting and the request from the ACP/EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly came soon after, following which Vanuatu accepted to host.

Chairman of the Taskforce Committee, Teter, says that when they made a submission to the Government for funding assistance, a supplementary budget of Vt20 million was submitted and approved by Parliament in June allowing the organizing of the meeting to move on in earnest.

“Although it has been a rather short notice for us to organize the hosting of the meeting, I believe in the capacity of the committee members for us to host a successful meeting of the ACP/EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly that we can all be proud of,” he added.

The deputy chairman of the taskforce committee is Gaetan Ruru, the coordinator, Victor Rory, and members come from government departments including health, foreign affairs in-charge of protocol and transport, police in-charge of security, Vanuatu Tourism Office in-charge of accommodation, the National Museum is in-charge of cultural activities, and the Vanuatu National of Council of Women (VNCW) is in-charge of the program of the spouses of the dignitaries.

On Wednesday morning, at 8.30 to 10.30, a meeting of the members of the EU group will take place and at 11 o’clock the 14th Regional Meeting of the Pacific Region of the ACP/EU General Assembly will be officially opened by the Speaker of the Vanuatu Parliament.

On Friday, the delegates will go on a field trip to the Wind Farm project funded by the European Investment Bank and then to the King Roimata Compound at Mangalilu, part of the location of the only World Heritage Site in Vanuatu.

The ACP Group of States is a group of countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific that was created by the Georgetown Agreement in 1975.

The group’s main objectives are sustainable development and poverty reduction, within its member states, as well as their greater integration into the world’s economy.

All of the member states, except Cuba, are signatories to the Cotonou Agreement with the European Union.

All the developing member states of the Pacific Island Forum group (excluding Australia and New Zealand) and Timor Leste negotiated the Pacific EPA with the European Union.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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