OECS union, CSME get multi-million dollar boost from EU

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday April 10, 2012 – The European Commission (EC) on Wednesday signed three financial agreements with the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) aimed at boosting the region’s ability to deliver tangible results in its CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and economic union within the eastern Caribbean.

With a total value of Euro $82.6 million (US$110 million), the financing agreements provide EC support for, among other things, the economic integration and trade of the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); the further development of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, with special allocations for Belize and Haiti; and CARIFORUM’s implementation commitments under the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Euro 8.6 million will be used by the OECS Secretariat  to advancing the OECS Economic Union, particularly in the areas of harmonized policies in tourism and agriculture; strengthening its capacity to integrate into the wider CARICOM arrangements and boosting competitiveness and export capacity of the private sector.

The CSME-related Programme, worth Euro 28 million, will lend support to develop areas of government procurement, labour market information systems and e-commerce. It will also place emphasis on transferring social security benefits, and building capacity in statistics, among other areas. Funds have been set aside under this agreement to support Belize and Haiti to be better placed to take advantage of the CSME, as well as to assist other CARICOM Member states to bridge the implementation gap.

The third agreement provides Euro 46.5 million to boost CARIFORUM’s capacity to take full advantage of the provisions of the EPA and to honour its commitments therein. The programme provides support for fiscal reform and adjustment; sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures; services; the rum sector and removing technical barriers to trade.

During the signing ceremony at the headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat, Secretary-General of CARIFORUM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, said that the EU support to the Region came at a time when heads of government had declared their determination to ensure that the benefits of integration were felt by the people.

 “Impact, results and benefits must be the watchwords at the level of implementation. We must satisfy regional stakeholders that our actions bring them added value to their lives. That is the bottom line,” he reiterated.

In his remarks at the ceremony, European Union (EU) representative to CARICOM, and Head of the EU delegation in Guyana, Robert Kopechy, noted that: “The path to full integration is a long and dynamic process, not deprived of obstacles. The European Union was not made all at once, or according to a single plan but rather it has been built through concrete achievements which created solidarity. As such The EU has been supporting the integration steps of CARICOM along this process.”

He added that the funds for three programmes will be drawn from the € 165 Million Regional Programme of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).

The funds, he said were “a testimony of the EU’s continued commitments to support the Caribbean Region in the dynamic process of regional integration and signal another milestone in the longstanding relation between the Caribbean Forum of ACP States and the European Union”. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)