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Daily News 09 / 04 / 2018

Digital Day 2018: EU countries to commit to doing more together on the digital front Tomorrow the Commission will bring ministers, representatives of EU countries, industry, academia and civil society representatives together to encourage cooperat...
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Bank On Nature: Commission and EIB sign first loan agreement backed by Natural Capital Financing Facility to support biodiversity

The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are announcing today the first loan agreement backed by the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), a financing partnership between the Commission and the EIB supporting nature and climate adaptation projects through tailored loans and investments, backed by an EU guarantee. Today's agreement will see Rewilding Europe Capital receive a EUR 6 million loan to provide support for over 30 businesses across Europe, focused on restoring and protecting natural areas. This will support and is in line with the upcoming Action Plan of the Commission to improve the implementation of the EU's Habitats and Birds Directives and is expected to create hundreds of new jobs. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said, "Nature is essential for our lives, and our economy. The recent successful evaluation of the EU nature directives illustrated this. The Rewilding Europe project will be the first of many that the Bank on Nature initiative, building on the NCFF, will assist in our plans to create rural jobs and protect nature". The rewilding areas concerned are: Western Iberia (Portugal), Velebit Mountains (Croatia), Central Apennines (Italy), Southern Carpathians (Romania), Danube Delta (Romania), Rhodope Mountains (Bulgaria), Oder Delta (Germany/Poland) and Lapland (Sweden). A signing ceremony with Vice-President Katainen, Commissioner Vella and EIB Vice-President Taylor will take place today at 15.00 and can be followed liveon EbS+. A press release will be available at the time here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: + 32 229 93321; Enda McNamara – Tel.: +32 229 64976)


EU's Official Development Assistance reaches highest level ever, with €75.5 billion in 2016

New figures confirm that the EU and its Member States have consolidated their place as the world's leading aid donor in 2016. With €75.5 billion in 2016, this constitutes an 11% increase compared to 2015 levels. The EU's assistance has increased for the fourth year in a row and reached its highest level to date. In 2016, EU collective ODA represented 0.51% of EU Gross National Income (GNI), having increased from 0.47% in 2015. Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “I am proud thatthe EU remains the world's leading provider of Official Development Assistance – a clear proof of our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We call on all development actors to re-double their efforts to do likewise. And we do not stop there. Leveraging private sector investments, helping mobilise domestic resources and intensifying joint efforts with EU Member States, we seek to make the most of all financing sources for development." Read the press release and the fact sheet. (For more information: Carlos Martín Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: + 32 229 65322; Christina Wunder – Tel.: + 32 229 92256)


First Vice-President Timmermans announces Commission plans to revise European Citizens' Initiative Regulation

In a speech this morning at the annual European Citizens' Initiative Day, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans announced the Commission's plans to revise the European Citizens' Initiative Regulation and further improve the use of this important tool. The First Vice-President said, "I want to make the ECI more accessible and citizen-friendly. I want the ECI to become a popular and living instrument, one that citizens are familiar with… There are obstacles to a more accessible and citizen-friendly ECI which have their origin in provisions of the ECI Regulation itself. We should take a careful look at those too… This process could culminate in a proposal to revise the ECI Regulation this year." The Commission will make proposals later this year, based on lessons learned in the five years since the Regulation came into force, and drawing on a public consultation to be launched before the summer. European Citizens' Initiatives were introduced by the Lisbon Treaty as a democratic tool in the hands of citizens. If a registered Initiative receives the signatures of one million citizens from at least seven Member States, the Commission must decide whether or not it will take the requested legislative action, and explain the reasons for that choice. In the first five years, the Commission has registered over 40 Initiatives, which have collected over six million signatures. Three Initiatives have reached the College of Commissioners for discussion after passing the one million signature threshold and two of the three have seen concrete policy actions in response, including in the Commission's 2017 Work Programme. More information on European Citizens' Initiatives is available on the dedicated website here. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265; Tim McPhie – Tel.: +32 229 58602)


EU releases humanitarian assistance to Africa as needs grow

With an aid of €47 million, the EU will help support the most vulnerable in the Great Lakes as well as in Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region, who continue to face the consequences of years of conflict and displacement, as well as widespread food insecurity and natural disasters. Of this support, €32 million will go to populations in the Great Lakes region – including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, while €15 million will go to the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region, including Madagascar, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho. "We stand in full solidarity with the people of Africa. The assistance announced today will help the millions affected by forced displacement, food insecurity, and natural disasters in the Great Lakes region and in the Southern part of the continent. The EU remains committed to help people in need wherever they are and to leave no one behind," said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides. Humanitarian partners in Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 2 million people remain displaced by internal conflict and where malnutrition is high, will receive the main bulk (€22.7 million) of the funding allocated for the Great Lakes region. The regional impact of the Burundi crisis will also be covered. In Southern Africa and Indian Ocean, funds will go towards helping those affected by food insecurity caused by prolonged drought, as well as to strengthening capacities to manage recurrent disasters. The largest part (€6.2 million) of the package to this region will go to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in Madagascar, which was hit by the tropical cyclone Enawo last month – one of the most powerful cyclones to have affected the country during the last ten years. (For more information: Carlos Martín Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: + 32 229 65322; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.:+32 229 69140)


Capital Markets Union: Commission holds public hearing ahead of Mid-term Review 

The Commission is today hosting a public hearing on the progress of the Capital Market Union (CMU) Action Plan and to gather views on the next steps for this flagship project. Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, opened the event in Brussels and Vice-President Jyrki Katainen will give a keynote speech. Panellists will include Members of the European Parliament, representatives from national governments, industry and supervisory authorities, as well as consumer and investor associations. Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said: "The CMU involves a deep rebalancing of our financial system so we can offer more funding opportunities to our businesses and more investment choices for citizens. We have already delivered more than half of the first batch of 33 actions. We must now build on this solid start and tackle other barriers to cross-border investment. Today's public hearing is a welcome chance to hear views on how best way to achieve our policy goals". Building on the recent public consultation, today's hearing will inform the preparation of the CMU Mid-term Review, scheduled for June 2017. The programme of the conference is available here. The event is web streamed here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel: +32 229 56153; Letizia Lupini– Tel: +32 229 51958)


Un rapport de la Commission montre comment la politique de Cohésion de l'UE peut aider les régions à faible revenu et à faible croissance

Dans ce rapport sur les régions de l'UE qui accusent un retard en matière de croissance ou de richesse, la Commission définit clairement les voies à suivre afin de soutenir des stratégies de croissance régionale avec l'aide des fonds européens. Le rapport évalue ce qui favorise ou entrave la compétitivité de ces régions et les raisons pour lesquelles elles n'ont pas encore atteint les niveaux de croissance et de revenus escomptés. Il identifie également leurs besoins en matière d'investissement - le capital humain, l'innovation, la qualité des institutions ou encore l'accessibilité - ainsi que les instruments de la politique de cohésion de l'UE susceptibles d'aider ces régions à construire leur avenir. La Commissaire européenne chargée de la politique régionale, Corina Crețu, a déclaré: «Pour chaque obstacle au développement, la politique de cohésion propose une solution. Des stratégies de développement régional sur mesure peuvent rendre ces régions plus attrayantes pour les habitants, les travailleurs et les entreprises. Voilà ce que nous faisons: nous aidons les régions à cerner leurs besoins et leurs atouts concurrentiels et nous leur fournissons les outils qui leur permettront de mettre en place de meilleures politiques». Un communiqué de presse et un mémo sont disponibles en ligne. (Pour plus d'informations: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr - Tél.: +32 229 56169)


Concentrations: la Commission européenne autorise l'acquisition du Groupe Prosol par Ardian

La Commission européenne a approuvé, en vertu du règlement européen sur les concentrations, l'acquisition de Groupe Prosol par Ardian, les deux basées en France. Le Groupe Prosol est un distributeur au détail en France de fruits et légumes frais, de produits de la mer et de produits laitiers. Ardian est une société de capital-investissement. La Commission a conclu que l'opération envisagée ne soulèverait pas de problème de concurrence dans la mesure où les deux entreprises ne sont pas actives sur le même marché ou sur des marchés liés ou complémentaires. La transaction a été examinée dans le cadre de la procédure simplifiée du contrôle des concentrations. De plus amples informations sont disponibles sur le site internet concurrence de la Commission, dans le registre public des affaires sous le numéro d'affaire M.8442. (Pour plus d'informations: Ricardo Cardoso  – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni - Tel.: +32 229 90526)


Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Hamburg Süd by Maersk Line, subject to conditions

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of container liner shipping company Hamburg Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft KG (HSDG) of Germany by Maersk Line A/S of Denmark, subject to conditions. Both Maersk Line and HSDG are active worldwide in container liner shipping. The proposed transaction would lead to the combination of two leading container liner shipping companies. Maersk Line is the largest container shipping company, while HSDG is number nine worldwide. The clearance is conditional upon the withdrawal of HSDG from five consortia (Eurosal 1/SAWC, Eurosal 2/SAWC, EPIC 2, CCWM/MEDANDES and MESA) on trade routes connecting (i) Northern Europe and Central America/Caribbean, (ii) Northern Europe and West Coast South America, (iii) Northern Europe and Middle East, (iv) the Mediterranean and West Coast South America and (v) the Mediterranean and East Coast South America. On these routes, the merged entity would have faced insufficient competition after the transaction. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Competitive shipping services are essential for European companies and for the EU's economy as a whole. The commitments offered by Maersk Line and HSDG will maintain a healthy level of competition to the benefit of the very many EU companies that depend on these container shipping services." A full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and DA(For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni - Tel.: +32 229 90526)


Concentrations: La Commission autorise l'acquisition du contrôle conjoint de trois parcs photovoltaïques par Engie, Omnes Capital et Prédica

La Commission européenne a approuvé, en vertu du règlement européen sur les concentrations, l'acquisition des sociétés françaises PV Besse et PV Sanguinet par la société française Futures Energies Investissements Holdings contrôlée conjointement par les sociétés françaises Engie, Omnes Capital et Prédica Prévoyance Dialogue du Crédit Agricole ("Prédica"). PV Besse exploite un parc photovoltaïque à Besse-sur-Isole dans la région du Var et PV Sanguinet possède deux parcs photovoltaïques à Sanguinet dans la région des Landes. PV Besse et PV Sanguinet sont actuellement contrôlées par Engie. Engie est active dans les secteurs du gaz, de l'électricité et des services énergétiques. Omnes Capital est une société de gestion d'actifs indépendante. Prédica est active dans le secteur de l'assurance et fait partie du Groupe Crédit Agricole. La Commission a conclu que l'acquisition envisagée ne soulèverait pas de problèmes de concurrence en raison des chevauchements limités entre les activités des entreprises concernées au niveau de la production, de la vente en gros et de la fourniture d'électricité, ainsi que du développement de parcs photovoltaïques. La transaction a été examinée en vertu de la procédure simplifiée du contrôle des concentrations. De plus amples informations sont disponibles sur le site internet concurrence de la Commission, dans le registre public des affaires sous le numéro d'affaire M.8413. (Pour plus d'informations: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni - Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Mergers: Commission approves energy consulting joint venture between Siemens and Allgäuer Überlandwerk

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture between Siemens AG and Allgäuer Überlandwerk GmbH (AÜW), both of Germany. The joint venture is based in Kempten, Germany and operates under the name of egrid applications & consulting GmbH (egrid). egrid is currently solely controlled by AÜW. It will provide energy consulting services on decentralised electricity networks, primarily in Germany. Siemens has worldwide activities in several areas, in particular digitalisation, automatisation and electrification. AÜW is a local energy supplier and operator of a distribution network in Allgäu. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns due to the limited activities of the joint venture. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8430.(For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni - Tel.: +32 229 90526)


Eurostat: La production industrielle en baisse de 0,3% dans la zone euro - En baisse de 0,2% dans l'UE28

En février 2017 par rapport à janvier 2017, la production industrielle corrigée des variations saisonnières a diminué de 0,3% dans la zone euro (ZE19) et de 0,2% dans l'UE28, selon les estimations d'Eurostat, l'office statistique de l'Union européenne. En janvier 2016, la production industrielle avait augmenté de 0,3% dans les deux zones. En février 2017 par rapport à février 2016, la production industrielle a progressé de 1,2% dans la zone euro et de 2,1% dans l'UE28. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d'informations:Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Mirna Talko – Tel.: +32 229 87278; Maud Noyon – Tel.: +32 229 80379)



Stakeholder Forum concludes the Commission's consultation on the future shape of the European Solidarity Corps *modified on 11/04/2017 at 19:30

Tomorrow in Brussels, a major Stakeholder Forum will bring together around 500 representatives of volunteering and youth organisations, other civil society actors, public employment services, national authorities and young people, to discuss how to further shape and consolidate the European Solidarity Corps. European Commission President Juncker said: "Every gesture of solidarity makes a positive difference to someone. Yet, if we bring individual acts together in a common European effort, a whole society benefits. This is what the European Solidarity Corps is all about. We have to cater for the different needs of our young people, organisations and communities across Europe. We have to ensure that everyone who wants to can take part. And we have to respect and make the most of the diverse cultures and traditions that make our Union what it is.” The Stakeholder Forum will focus on how to make attractive offers to both young people and organisations, how to ensure the Solidarity Corps functions effectively, supports participants' transition into the labour market and participation in society, and is open to young people with fewer opportunities. The Stakeholder Forum wraps up a broad consultation process involving a public consultation and a series of meetings with key interested parties. The input received will feed into the Commission's legislative proposal on the future of the initiative, to be presented in late spring. Already now the European Solidarity Corps offers volunteering opportunities, traineeships and job placements in solidarity projects across Europe. Since the launch in December more than 27,000 young people have registered. The database opened to organisations in March and the first participants already started their placements. The closing session of the Stakeholder Forum with President Juncker, the President of the European Parliament, Tajani and the President of the European Economic and Social Committee, George Dassis, as well as the opening session with Commissioners Oettinger and Navracsics and the President of the Committee of the Regions, Markkula, can be followed live via web-streaming. (For more information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)

Johannes Hahn in Warsaw tomorrow for the Visegrad group Ministerial meeting on Eastern Partnership

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, will be in Warsaw, Poland, tomorrow 12 April to participate at the Ministerial Meeting on Eastern Partnership organised by the Visegrad Group (V4). The meeting will bring together Commissioner Hahn, Ministers of Foreign Affairs from EU and from Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). The participants will take stock of the progress on deliverables and will focus their discussions on priority projects, such as connectivity and economic developments.  Ahead of the mission, Commissioner Hahn said: "The success of the Eastern Partnership is based on our shared values. Our partnership aims to deliver tangible and visible results for our citizens; results that contribute to greater stability and resilience of the region. I am looking forward to participate at the Visegrad group Ministerial. In the last year, we have been advancing in priority areas - economic development, strengthening institutions and good governance, mobility and people-to-people contacts, and notably connectivity, but still more needs to be done. In Warsaw, I will stress that Eastern Partnership is and will remain our priority for the future." Videos and photos of the visit will be available on EbS. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: +32 229 64887)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

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At Second Committee Meeting, Delegates Underline Structural Obstacles for Countries in Special Situations

Buffeted by a global economic slowdown, the impacts of climate change and falling commodity prices, least developed and landlocked developing States needed sustained international support, Member States said today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) discussed groups of countries in special situations.

Opening the meeting, Thailand’s representative, on behalf of the “Group of  77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution entitled “ICT [information communications technology] for Sustainable Development” (document A/C.2/71/L.15).

Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, then introduced three reports:  “Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011—2020” (A/71/66-E/2016/11); “Charter of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries” (document A/71/363); and “Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024” (document A/71/313).

In the ensuing discussion, Bangladesh’s representative, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, said there remained significant structural obstacles to improvement in the least developed States.  Almost all were food-deficit countries, and lagged behind in science and innovation.  Despite many discouraging facts, however, least developed countries were gradually meeting graduation criteria, with 10 additional States reaching the threshold in March 2015.

Zambia’s representative, speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said land degradation, desertification and deforestation were hindering them from achieving sustainable development.  The countries could not attain development goals without realizing the Vienna Programme of Action.  He pointed to the vulnerability of landlocked developing countries to the volatility of commodity prices, also noting their high transport and transaction costs.

Niger’s representative, continuing the theme of landlocked countries, said that the challenges to be met for those States were beyond the simple difficulties linked to delivering goods in a timely way to major markets.  They were also related to the lack of productive capacities, low levels of investment and the informal nature of the private sector.  Landlocked developing countries would need a more comprehensive development programme in the future.

The representative of the Maldives, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said eight of its members were least developed States and “sea-locked”.  Targeted approaches were necessary to support the efforts of countries in special situations to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.  That also included nations that were both small island developing States and least developed countries, as they faced structural challenges on two fronts.

Also speaking today were representatives from Thailand (for the Group of 77), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Haiti (for the Caribbean Community), Paraguay, India, Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Mexico, Viet Nam, Tajikistan, Botswana, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, Turkey, Morocco, Myanmar, Tuvalu, Ethiopia, China and Bhutan.

The Second Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 20 October on the agenda item 17, “Macroeconomic Policy Questions”, and agenda item 18, “Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development.”

Introduction of Draft Resolution

PITCHAPORN LIWJAROEN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution entitled “ICT for Sustainable Development” (A/C.2/71/L.15).  Recognizing the complex nature of the digital divides between and within countries, and between women and men, the draft considered the matter of access in all its dimensions for the world’s next 1.5 billion citizens.  It encouraged international cooperation, technology transfer and dissemination between Governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community and all other relevant stakeholders.

Presentation of Reports

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report “Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011—2020” (document A/71/66-E/2016/11).  He noted that the international community’s high participation in the least developed country decade showed its willingness to stand by those countries and assist with development.  The private sector and parliamentarians had also demonstrated their support.  The midterm review of implementation found least developed countries had made considerable progress in several areas, including economic growth, benefits from interregional trade, humanitarian and social development, access to education, women’s empowerment and rule of law.  Progress had also been made towards graduation from the least developed status, which some would accomplish within the next couple of years.

However, progress in development was uneven both within and between least developed countries, he said.  Many suffered from high unemployment, public health emergencies and the negative effects of climate change.  Due to the global economic crisis, they were also experiencing a slowdown, with growth rates falling to a level considerably lower than during the period 2001—2010.  The Millennium Development Goal to eradicate poverty was being achieved generally but at a slower pace in least developed countries.  Progress to increase productive capacity was mixed, with many still lacking access to the Internet and mobile phones.  There had been modest improvements in transport and access to electricity but road and rail transport remained underdeveloped.  Total official development assistance (ODA) flows had fallen below pre-2008 levels, prior to the economic crisis.

He then introduced the Secretary-General’s note “Charter of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries” (document A/71/363), and the Secretary-General’s report “Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014—2024” (document A/71/313).

Speaking on the latter, he highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The report stressed the linkage between the Vienna Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, as well as other processes including the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and others.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had slowed in recent years, which was a matter of great concern, and many landlocked developing countries had faced trade slowdowns.  A large number of landlocked developing countries were still marginalized in the international system, particularly given the decline in commodity prices.

Landlocked developing countries had nonetheless seen positive development results in recent years, including a decline in the proportion of their citizens living below the poverty line, he continued.  It was important to mobilize elements for infrastructure between landlocked developing countries and transit countries.  Landlocked developing countries still faced the high costs of trade, and trade facilitation initiatives needed to be scaled up, as did ODA, which remained the main form of finance for many of these countries.


PITCHAPORN LIWJAROEN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said it welcomed the political declaration of the recent Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action.  It would give more strength to the global partnership for development for the least developed countries in all priority areas.  It also would ensure the timely, effective and full implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action during the remaining decade.

She emphasized that international cooperation was crucial to ensure effective development and meet agreed commitments, such as ODA commitments and the timely implementation of duty-free and quota-free market access on a lasting basis.  Furthermore, foreign direct investment (FDI) was important to helping the Group’s countries build a strong economic base.  Yet less than 2 per cent of global FDI had been directed to its countries and most of those funds went to the extractive industry.

Any unilateral economic measures imposed on least developed countries had to be lifted and totally eliminated, she said.  Those measures negatively impacted the countries’ development and prosperity.  She also reiterated the Group’s appreciation to the Government of Turkey for hosting the Technology Bank.  In order to drive the socioeconomic progress of the landlocked developing countries, it was necessary for States to mainstream the Vienna Programme of Action into national development strategies.  The Group reaffirmed that infrastructure development played a key role in reducing the development costs of the landlocked developing countries.  It welcomed the launch of the Global Infrastructure Forum in April 2016.  It was an important follow-up to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  The Forum aimed to enhance coordination among multilateral development banks and their development partners to better develop sustainable, accessible and resilient infrastructure for developing States, including the landlocked least developed countries.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that least developed countries and landlocked developing countries continued to face various challenges such as poverty.  They were highly vulnerable to external shocks and the adverse impact of climate change, and needed to be given special priority by the international community.

He said ASEAN believed that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review would need to take into account the special needs and unique challenges of those countries by having a strategic guidance for the United Nations agencies to support them.  The Association needed to narrow the development gap among its members and had adopted various frameworks and declarations to do so.  Countries in special situations needed adequate and predictable financial support from development partners as reflected in the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

MARIYAM MIDHFA NAEEM (Maldives), speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said that eight of its members were least developed countries and “sea-locked”.  The Alliance reiterated the importance of fully integrating the Istanbul Programme of Action and the Vienna Programme of Action into the 2030 Agenda.  Targeted approaches were necessary to support the efforts of countries in special situations to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.  That also included small island developing States that were also least developed countries as they faced structural challenges on two fronts.

It was important for international organizations and financial institutions to align their support programmes with the 2030 Agenda as the absence of such an alignment would mean that the Agenda could not be successfully implemented, she continued.  Furthermore, income-based indicators did not reflect the advancement or the vulnerabilities of a society as many least developed countries on track for graduation were extremely vulnerable to shocks, she said, adding that “it takes a big storm to wipe out years of hard-earned development gains”.  Sustaining those gains must be a priority.

DENIS REGIS (Haiti), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his group had paid special attention to the Midterm Review for Least Developed Countries.  The Istanbul Programme of Action must remain a central element for least developed countries.  It was important to ensure that the architecture of global development reinforced coherence at the international, regional and local levels.  Noting that only two least developed countries had graduated from their status since 2011, he said progress was clearly insufficient.  All stakeholders should redouble their efforts to enable graduation.

He expressed regret that many least developed countries had failed to achieve structural change.  More than two-thirds of their population worked in the agricultural sector, which had remained stagnant since 2013.  Also, the integration of those nations into global and regional value chains had remained low.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) had dropped slightly and exports had a strong sectoral concentration, which made them sensitive to external shocks.  All such trends were hindering poverty eradication.  Those countries should make greater use of domestic resource mobilization using public, private, South-South and triangular cooperation.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the reports provided a comprehensive picture of the challenges faced by the least developed countries.  The 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement recognized the vulnerability of the least developed countries.  There had been efforts to strengthen transit networks and trade through air travel and creating an enabling environment for the private sector.  However, the pace of development was slow and uneven, and many least developed countries failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

There remained significant structural obstacles to improvement in the least developed countries, he continued.  Almost all least developed nations were food-deficit countries, and lagged behind in science and innovation.  Despite many discouraging facts, however, those States were gradually meeting graduation criteria, with 10 additional least developed countries reaching the threshold in March 2015.  There was no alternative to strengthening partnerships at the global level to enhance capacity-building in the least developed countries.  Development partners needed to fulfil their ODA commitments.  Least developed countries also had limited capacity to respond to hazards or shocks, and needed international support.

MR. MUNDANDA (Zambia), speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said land degradation, desertification and deforestation was hindering landlocked countries in achieving sustainable development.  Those countries could not attain the development goals without realizing the Vienna Programme of Action.  He stressed the need for synergy and coherence, which was critical for transforming landlocked countries.  He pointed to the vulnerability of those States to the volatility of commodity prices, also noting their high transport and transaction costs.

The international community must address mainstreaming of the Vienna Programme into development goals to ensure its implementation, he continued.  It was necessary to establish secure and efficient transport systems to reduce costs and enhance competitiveness and full integration into global markets.  As funding for transport infrastructure remained a challenge, he called on the international community to establish infrastructure funding or special windows to meet transport needs.  Also, trade facilitation would lead to lower trade transaction and transport costs.

JUAN MANUEL PEÑA (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of 77 and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said while consideration of the latter group of States had increased in recent years, major challenges persisted.  The Almaty Programme of Action of 2004 and the Vienna Programme of Action of 2014 strengthened international commitment to solve the particular challenges of landlocked developing countries.  Paraguay urged the rapid ratification and implemented trade agreements and called on developed countries to offer trade technology and assistance for developing countries.  The 2030 Agenda must effectively recognize the specific challenges of landlocked countries and cooperate in offering solutions and continuous support.  His country recognized the importance of transport as a method of development.  Regarding the work of the Second Committee, efforts must be doubled to implement the Vienna Programme.  He also urged delegations to strengthen support for landlocked developing countries.

ASHISH SINHA (India) said his nation was fully committed to helping the least developed countries grow and develop rapidly and its partnerships with those States focused on capacity-building, sharing of technological expertise and financial assistance.  In 2008, India was the first emerging market economy to offer a duty-free trade preference scheme for those countries.  There were now 31 beneficiaries of that scheme, by which India provided duty-free and preferential market access on 98.2 per cent of its tariff lines.  His Government was proud of its relationship with countries in special situations and three India-Africa Forum summits and the Forum for India-Pacific Island Cooperation had crystallized that special relationship.  In addition to its ongoing credit programme, India had extended a grant assistance of $600 million, including an India-Africa Development Fund of $100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of $10 million.  As commodity-exporting countries, the landlocked developing countries faced challenges as they tried to build links to the international economy.  The international community needed to help build the productive capacities of those countries and mobilize resources to fill their huge financing gap for development.  Donor countries needed to fill their ODA commitments.

AHMED SARER (Maldives) said that his country had been the third to graduate from least developed country status.  Noting that transition had taken place in 2011, she pointed out that it had been paramount to diversify the domestic economy as development challenges would be exacerbated by the loss of least developing countries benefits.  The Maldives had invested heavily in the tourism and fishing industries, but access to large scale financing for the building of ports, hospitals and harbours had become difficult due to the loss of preferential and concessional arrangements for financing.  Those limitations had placed at risk the development gains which had enabled the country’s graduation from the status of least developing country in the first place.  International cooperation would be essential for a smooth transition out of such a status.  Equally important was the recognition that vulnerabilities experienced by least developing countries that were also small island developing States would not go away after those countries had graduated.  Furthermore, the existing assessment for graduation, GDP per capita, was an inadequate measurement as it failed to fully reflect a country’s vulnerabilities.  It was therefore necessary to integrate the concept of economic vulnerability into the measurement of development.

IRINA MEDVEDEVA (Russian Federation) said that the 2030 Agenda noted that least developed countries and countries in special situations required priority in international affairs.  Those countries, particularly landlocked ones, faced major challenges.  Their development achievements were often slow, unsustainable and threatened by their economic situation and geography.  Hence, it was critical to step up cooperation to improve the quality of technology assistance and also stimulate industrial production.  The Russian Federation had proposed a special programme that would promote and provide much-needed technology assistance to landlocked developing countries.  The Russian Federation also welcomed the streamlining of trade agreements.  The average duration of going through customs had declined significantly through such programmes. In April 2017, the Russian Federation and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) would sponsor a conference aimed at boosting regional trade.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said the main challenge facing landlocked developing countries was achieving sustainable economic growth.  She emphasized the role of multilateral trade and the need to set up a working programme for landlocked countries that tackled the issues of trade and trade assistance, services and market access.  Kyrgyzstan had developed regional and international trade links and was also establishing a road network in the country.  Moreover, it was constructing a high voltage electrical line link that would connect with Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Challenges remained, however, and Kyrgyzstan needed enhanced cooperation at the regional and global levels.  As there were still transit tariffs between States, she called on international community to resolve and remove factors which had a negative impact on trade.

PRASAD SHARMA POKHAREL (Nepal), associating himself with Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said special needs and challenges of those countries deserved special attention.  The United Nations must continue to recognize their uniqueness, he said, emphasizing that those countries needed collective international support to meet development goals.  Resources must be predictable and sustainable.  The role of technology was vital, he added, welcoming the Technology Bank and calling on relevant stakeholders to ensure its successful implementation.  In its own experience, Nepal faced major challenges in relation to poor connectivity and trade facilitation.  The overarching goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 would not be achieved without fully taking least developed countries and landlocked developing countries on board.  Without the full and timely implementation of those commitments, sustainable development would not be achievable.

SUKHCOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developed Countries, said the latter group of countries continued to face considerable challenges linked to their geographic handicap.  Landlocked nations were among the hardest hit by the global economic slowdown, failing commodity prices, and food and energy shortages.  They also remained largely marginalized in the global economy, with a 0.96 per cent share of global exports in 2015.  Increased international assistance for export diversification and better market access were essential for the development and growth of those countries.  Mongolia had been utilizing its regional partners to establish economic trade corridors with its neighbours.  At the national level, Mongolia was committed to implementing relevant goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda.  It was particularly focusing on development plans in the areas of transit, infrastructure development, trade and trade facilitation, structural transformation and commodity value chains.

Ms. OCAMPO (Mexico) said landlocked developing countries were exposed and vulnerable to financial and economic crisis as well as climate change and natural hazards.  The international community must increase and maintain its support for their sustainable development.  Expressing regret over the loss of life and material damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, she said Mexico was providing the country with drinking water and purification tablets.  She stressed that all types of financing in addition to ODA were needed for landlocked countries to facilitate their access to technology and capacity-building.

PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that effective cooperation between landlocked developing countries and transit countries remained crucial to enable the former countries’ participation in international and regional trade.  The 2030 Agenda recognized that landlocked developing countries faced specific challenges and deserved special attention. Measures must be taken to deepen cooperation between landlocked developing countries and transit countries to improve infrastructure, trade and economic growth. In the Euro-Asia region, investments had been made to build and improve roads, railways, ports and transport logistics systems.  Such transit projects were examples of the efforts to better facilitate cooperation and trade and connect landlocked developing countries with major Asian and European markets.  He also looked forward to the high-level meeting on improving cooperation in regional transit, to take place in Hanoi in March 2017.

JONIBEK HIKMATOV(Tajikistan), associating himself with Group of 77 and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said it was time to move forward from commitment to action.  He expressed hope that upcoming discussions would bring fresh and innovative ideas that would strengthen cooperation.  Tajikistan was committed to the recommendations of the Vienna Programme of Action and attached particular importance to expanding sub-regional and regional trade.  Efforts had been made to simplify custom rules and regulations.  Transport and energy sectors were considered priorities for Tajikistan, he said, outlining plans and programmes focusing on renewable energy to promote sustainability and reduce emissions.  More than 50 per cent of the world would face water scarcity in the near future.  Collective international action was needed to address those challenges.  He also looked forward to cooperating with Member States to tackle challenges faced by countries in special situations.

TLHALEFO MADISA (Botswana) said landlocked developing countries’ trade costs and risks were high in comparison to coastal economies.  Those countries were also heavily dependent on single commodity markets, especially in the mineral and agricultural sectors, which exposed them to the fluctuations in global demand and commodity prices.  The implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action remained central to implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the mainstreaming of both those instruments was critical to Botswana’s national development.  To that end, Botswana needed the support of transit countries, development partners and regional and sub-regional partners.  Additionally, his Government continued to emphasize the role of the World Trade Organization in integrating landlocked developing countries in the global trade and sought increasing participation of those countries in the multilateral trading system.

PHILIP FOX-DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the recent Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action was an important opportunity to renew and strengthen the international community’s resolve to support the least developed countries’ development.  That was especially true in light of the Programme’s goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.  As for the landlocked developing countries, the forward-looking Vienna Programme of Action, adopted in 2014, also showed international support by setting a new level of commitment and a new standard of follow-up to their implementation.  It aimed to align its structure and content with the achievements of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.  The Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action renewed the collective impetus to achieve the goals in the eight priority areas.  Brazil particularly welcomed the steps taken to put the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries into operation by 2017.  His country was also encouraged by the progress reached towards the adoption of investment promotion regimes for the least developed countries.

KUMBIRAYI TAREMBA (Zimbabwe) said her country joined other landlocked developing countries in calling for the full implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and support from the United Nations development system to mainstream the Programme into national development strategies.  She also urged multilateral development agencies and banks to put in place frameworks that would help landlocked developing countries diversify their economies and partake in global value chains.  Inadequate logistics infrastructure continued to limit those countries’ participation in international trade.  Her delegation therefore urged the Global Infrastructure Forum to establish action-oriented programmes that would address the infrastructure needs of landlocked developing countries.  In an effort to facilitate trade, Zimbabwe had introduced the One-Stop Border Post initiative at the country’s border with Zambia.  The initiative had resulted in reduced transaction costs and waiting times, in addition to strengthening political ties between the two countries, she said, concluding measures like that would help transform her country from landlocked to land-linked.

Ms. NAEEM (Kuwait), associating with the Group of 77, said that without innovative international partnerships, vulnerable countries could not succeed on their own.  Least developed countries needed developed countries to fulfil their ODA commitments.  The principles of peace and security must be fostered to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Kuwait continued to extend extensive development assistance throughout the world to achieve the aspirations of developing countries, particularly those States facing special situations.

BARIS CEYHUN ERCIYES (Turkey) said that development cooperation was an integral part of Turkey’s foreign policy and that it would remain committed to continuing its contributions in support of countries in special situations.  Turkey’s assistance to the least developed countries had exceeded $1.5 billion over the last five years.  Excluding humanitarian aid, approximately 20 per cent of Turkish ODA had been delivered to least developed countries.  It was vital to pay greater attention to the Technology Bank and science, technology and innovation-supporting mechanism dedicated to help the poorest countries address technology gaps.  Turkish authorities were in the process of considering a financial pledge to the Technology Bank, in particular at its start-up base.  He called on Member States and other stakeholders, including the private sector, to contribute to the trust fund and the Secretariat to take necessary steps to mobilize financial and human resources.

Ms. MANALE(Morocco), associating herself with the Group of 77, said concrete measures were needed to assist landlocked developing and least developed countries with sustainable development, which they could not achieve without the international community.  She welcomed the creation of the Technology Bank and stressed the need to increase ODA, and bilateral and multilateral funding as well to help developing countries overcome constraints to their development.  Morocco had worked for multi-sectoral strengthening in its framework vision for trade policies.  It favoured South-South and triangular cooperation, which had helped improve living standards in many least developed and landlocked developing countries.  The international community must help create an environment conducive to trade, especially for importers of food products.  Morocco had signed several agreements providing for preferential tariffs and the abolition of customs duties.

SANN THIT YEE (Myanmar), associating himself with the Group of 77, ASEAN and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said technology was a key enabler of development, emphasizing the vital role of science, technology and innovation in eradicating poverty and attaining the sustainable development of least developed countries.  He anticipated the support of the Technology Bank in those areas and looked forward to its full operationalization by 2017.  Financial inclusion was also important in reducing extreme poverty.  In Myanmar, it was estimated that only 30 per cent of adults had formal access to financial services and only 6 per cent were using more than one financial service.  The majority of citizens still relied on unregulated providers, often at substantially higher costs.  Myanmar also faced substantive infrastructure and human resources deficits, which constrained social and economic development.  It had considerable challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda and other development goals in a timely and effective manner.

MOUNKAILA YACOUBA (Niger), associating with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries, and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the lack of access to the sea and the distance from major markets meant that landlocked countries depended on transit States.  There were fundamental problems related to transit policies, the development of infrastructure and trade and trade facilitation.  Since the adoption of the Almaty Declaration and Programme of Action, landlocked developing countries had shown higher growth rates, though they had experienced a decrease in terms of industrial value added and agricultural productivity.  Ports and roads were being built through the African region for landlocked countries.  Exports had grown dramatically for landlocked countries, and that showed that the challenges to be met were beyond the simple difficulties linked to delivering goods in a timely way to major markets.  It was also related to the lack of productive capacities, low levels of investment, and the informal nature of the private sector.  Landlocked developing countries would need a more comprehensive development programme in the future.

SUNEMA PIE SIMATI (Tuvalu) said landlocked developing countries needed genuine partnerships in the transfer of information and communications technology (ICT).  She noted that they continued to rely heavily on ODA, soft loans, private investment and remittances, but were increasingly leveraging their own domestic resources for complementarities.  She urged partners to honour and mobilize all financial pledges of ODA and collaborate for easy access to climate appropriations for landlocked countries and small-island developing States.  Landlocked developing countries must have stable and democratically elected administrations, strong institutions and legal underpinnings to ensure investments.  Social inclusive infrastructure and services must be efficiently provided.  As many landlocked developing countries were caught up in conflicts and desperately seeking peace, the root causes of violence and extremist behaviour should be examined.  She also noted that the inundation of sea water and loss of coastal territories for small island developing States created social and economic stress beyond the coping capacity of nations and individuals.

BELACHEW GUJUBO GUTULO (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, Group of Landlocked Developing Countries and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the overarching goal of the Istanbul Program of Action was to overcome structural challenges faced by least developed nations to eradicate poverty, enhance productive capacity and achieve structural transformation.  Those countries had made positive progress but still faced significant development challenges.  The sharp drop in ODA to least developed countries in 2014 was a source of concern, though there was a trend to address that decline.  That assistance remained critical to fill the financial gaps least developed countries continued to face.  Access to climate finance and technology development and transfer and capacity-building were all essential, and it was time to fully operationalize the Technology Bank.  Ethiopia had rapid and sustained double-digit economic growth, and the recently opened Ethio-Djibouti train line could be highlighted as a major regional initiative.

ZHANG YANHUA (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said landlocked developing and least developed countries faced a daunting task in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.  The international community must urgently assist those countries in graduating from their least developed status and continue to support them after their graduation.  The global community should also step up support for landlocked developing countries in addressing their geographical constraints, inadequate infrastructures and transit problems.

PEMA TOBGAY (Bhutan) associated himself with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries.  He said least developed countries continued to face low levels of productivity, compounded by natural hazards and the impacts of climate change.  Structural transformation of their economies could contribute to building productive capacity in least developed countries, which could assist with sustainable and inclusive growth.  He noted that the vast human resource potential in those nations remained to be tapped.  A long-term development strategy based on delivery of quality education, including vocational skills and providing women and young people with avenues for entrepreneurship, could unlock the economic potential in least developed countries.  Given the structural constraints those countries faced, global support in terms of resources, capacity and technical assistance, would be critical in full realization of the Istanbul Programme of Action in the years ahead.

AIGERIM BOZZHIGITOVA (Kazakhstan), associating herself with the group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the Almaty Programme of Action had strengthened partnerships between landlocked developing nations and transit countries.  As the furthest country from any seaport, Kazakhstan understood the necessity of transit infrastructure, and was actively building and renovating rail lines and highways.  The Vienna Programme of Action called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy for all by 2030, but the most vulnerable countries still faced challenges in meeting their energy needs.

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