Closer Relations Expected Between OECS and EU

 

In light of this, St. Kitts and Nevis and other countries within the OECS are therefore hoping to place before the European parliament, a number of issues of concern to the sub-region.

These include the Schengen visa waiver, the request for extension of the implementation period for Banana Accompanying Measures and budgetization of the European Development Fund (EDF), amongst others.

Ambassador of the Eastern Caribbean States and Permanent Representative to the European Union, St. Kitts-born, Ambassador Shirley Skerritt-Andrew, who recently accompanied OECS Foreign Ministers to the bi-annual inter-sessional ACP and Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly, that was held in Brussels, capital of the European Union, from 19-22 March, 2012.

Representing the OECS at the meeting were St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor, Alva Baptiste of St. Lucia and Dr. Douglas Slater of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly is one of the joint institutions of the ACP-EU development cooperation framework, providing a legal as well as democratic platform where ACP and EU elected representatives could discuss issues of concern to both regions and jointly seek to obtain solutions.

During their stay in Brussels, Ministers Condor, Baptiste and Slater also called on counterparts in the European External Action Service (EEAS), which is the diplomatic arm of the EU and is charged with undertaking all external action, and the European Commission Development Cooperation Directorate General.

During these meetings, the Ministers raised issues of specific concern to the OECS in their relations with their major and most significant development cooperation partner, such as the need for continued EU support on socio-economic aspects of their development.

The Ministers stressed the importance of the model relationship that the OECS sub-region has with the EU and cautioned that “differentiation should not lead to a missed opportunity for this flagship relationship to show its potential and squander the benefits garnered thus far” and that “EU policy hereafter should not be construed as a punishment for good performance”. Ministers expressed hope that their relationship with the EU will continue despite challenges that the Union currently faces in light of its economic crisis and policy reorientations.

Ministers also underscored the “importance of EU assistance that has thus far taken account of the inherent structural vulnerabilities of the micro-states of the OECS that need to be constantly overcome”, such as falling levels of FDI and ODA, changing trade rules and a “tempering of growth in the tourism sector that is exacerbated by the imposition of contrary taxes on travel by some EU countries to Caribbean destinations.”

They supported the EU’s attachment to regional integration through its assistance to the CARIFORUM-EU EPA and its joint work on the Joint Caribbean-EU Partnership Strategy. Ministers raised other pertinent issues to the OECS such as the need for consideration to be given on the flexibility for the implementation of Banana Accompanying Measures, while EU representatives underscored the importance of ensuring mutual political support in multilateral fora such as at the UN.

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