23 Oct 2013

EU lays out its expectations of Fiji before full aid resumption

5:23 pm on 23 October 2013

The European Union has this week held its first political dialogue with Fiji in more than six years.

The EU has had limited links with Fiji since the military coup in 2006 but after the new constitution and commitments to elections in September 2014 it has begun rebuilding contacts.

Last week a senior official visited to discuss re-activating the full aid programme and this week a director of EU's External Service, Dr Gerhard Sabathil, was in Suva to hold talks on political matters.

He met with senior members of the government, non-government groups and political parties and he told Don Wiseman the EU has laid out what requirements need to be met for a full resumption of development assistance.

GERHARD SABATHIL: We have made clear what kinds of conditions we expect to be fulfilled in this context to assess finally after the next elections how the democratic government has been re-established.

DW: And those expectations are what?

GS: These expectations are the full implementation of the basic values of the constitution, human rights, democracy, rule of law, detailed issues in the field of gender issues, freedom of expression, freedom of media, and of course the electoral process which should be a generally democratic one, as envisaged in the constitution, and hopefully observed by international observers. We offered that after we had already brought electoral experts to the country helping to prepare the election decree. They will also be ready to send observers here next September when the elections will take place in order to fully assess the democratic outcome of these elections.

DW: What does the European Union think of the constitution? A lot of the people you've met in Fiji, you've been speaking with political groups and NGOs, and a lot of those groups are not very satisfied with many elements of it, so what does the EU think of it?

GS: We have told them that the constitution, in our viewpoint, is sufficient for starting the process for return to democracy. We'd like to see the full implementation of the basic values of the constitution. We made clear that one must stick to these basic values and not look into the detailed limitations and restrictions, which this constitution also allows. It's important that these limitations and restrictions remain completely exceptional and we would like to see the spirit of the constitution be fully applied.

DW: With the people you've met within the regime, what sort of response have you got from them?

GS: I have explained, as to you now, our overall approach. I have some confidence that this process to return to democracy is really well based in the goodwill of the government, and of course there were many questions and answers exchanged. So we learnt a lot from each other in these discussions, which were overall very open and constructive. Now we look forward to the next decisions of the government in this pre-election process.