June set as date for full free movement in OECS
Real progress being made on meeting free movement deadline says OECS Secretariat head.
ROSEAU, Dominica, Thursday March 22, 2012 - By June this year all the legislative amendments that are required to ensure facilitation of travel throughout the Eastern Caribbean will be discharged and in place.
This was the assurance given by Dr Len Ishmael director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) as she recently addressed the Dominica media during a brief visit to the island.
Dr Ishmael told reporters she had been discussing the status of the implementation of the sub-region’s economic union with Dominica’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.
She said she gave Prime Minister Skerrit “a little bit of a status update in terms of where we are with implementation of the OECS Economic Union across the board, in terms of across the single space”.
The OECS director general said the talks also focused on “the legislative agenda and administrative agenda that still requires that we make progress on them”.
“It’s not unique to Dominica. All of our OECS member states are in the same position of working through the legislative amendments that are required even while they have put administrative processes in place,” said the OECS Secretariat head.
Ishmael added that good progress was being made on the process of free movement of all OECS people through the sub-region. “It’s actually being implemented,” she said, while admitting that there were hurdles still to be overcome.
“When we cross borders in the OECS, even though legislatively this is a right for OECS people in terms of the revised treaty of Basseterre, we are not on the same page,” Ishmael acknowledged.
She indicated that while the spirit and integrity with which these arrangements had been approached remained sound and intact, “we all need to make sure that everybody is on the same page in terms of what the treaty requires and that the processes and mechanisms are in place”.
Her office has had complaints she said, from people who have tried to enter member states who have had difficulty accessing the “free movement” promised under the revised treaty of Basseterre.
According to Ishmael, the problem has to do with administrative and legal requirements that are yet to be concluded.
“Sometimes even though we have the administrative requirement already described on the table, immigration officials will sometimes also rightfully so go to the law, and if the appropriate law has not been sufficiently well amended – they will stick to the law,” she explained.
The OECS director general added that making sure there was a harmonised approach across the OECS to the implementation of treaty provisions was a priority.
“It is important for us, now, within our space to make full use of that single space not as a St Lucian businessman, but an OECS businessman with a right to establish Pan OECS businesses across the OECS, and also to integrate production lines across the OECS so that different components can in fact be built across the OECS the way it is in different parts of the world,” she stated.