21 Jul 2008

EU will wait on Forum outcome before deciding on suspended Fiji sugar aid

2:09 pm on 21 July 2008

The European Union says it will make a decision in September or October on what to do with suspended aid support for the Fiji sugar industry..

Millions of dollars of aid aimed at helping a modernization of the troubled industry was put on hold following the military coup 19 months ago, with the EU requiring Fiji to return to democracy by March next year.

The interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, announced last week that the March 2009 election timeline is unachievable, because electoral reforms cannot be implemented in time.

But George Cunningham, the charge d'affaire for the European Commission in New Zealand says there still time, and Fiji must press ahead with elections.

"I think we have to stick with the timetable, or else we might find ourselves having extensions which lead to nowhere so, we feel that the commitment has been made, and we think also in line with what Foreign Minister Winston Peters said, that certainly it is possible to have the elections on schedule."

George Cunningham says the EU will be listening to what happens at the Pacific Islands forum summit in Niue next month, and make a decision about the sugar funding after that.