European territories in the Caribbean band together
New council of European Caribbean territories formed to drive informal integration.
WILLEMSTAD, Curacao, Monday May 21, 2012 - Curacao is the first chair of the executive body of the recently formed Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories Council, a new body created to foster stronger relations between the several European Union (EU) dependencies in the Caribbean.
The council came into effect following the recent signing in Curacao of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which legally establishes the council, and further outlines how the council will operate, between government representatives from Anguilla, Aruba, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Montserrat and Sint Maarten. Saba and Sint Eustatius were inducted as associate members.
The Cayman Islands will be as vice chair and the BVI will be the secretariat.
The formation of the council comes ahead of the new Agreement of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) that is currently being prepared by the EU and that should come into effect January 1st 2014.
The aim of the council is to work on a joint agenda for sustainable development and a roadmap to establish a Caribbean Agenda to inform the coming EU agreement.
“The Council wishes to enhance their relationship with the European Union and ensure that the needs and interests of the Caribbean OCT are incorporated,” according to a statement issued following the signing of the MOU.
“The Council provides a formal institution to work together among all Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories on areas of common interest. Through this council, knowledge and experiences will be shared and joint initiatives will be taken to ensure project funding from the EU on topics that are of joint interest,” noted the statement.
Premier McKeeva Bush of the Cayman Islands had this to say of the new body: "The formation of this Council is an important step for regional territories, as it is essential for our small territories to coordinate and cooperate if we are to make real progress in our relationship with the European Union, and other supra-national organisations.
BVI Deputy Premier Dr Kedrick Pickering, who signed the MOU on the BVI’s behalf, had this to say after his return home: “We are embarking on a bold new venture by coming together to establish a mechanism by which we can become more integrated with each other and the region on a whole.”
Pickering said regional cooperation, particularly between overseas territories in the Caribbean, was “very important and necessary,” given changing global economic conditions and the small size of the territories individually.
“We share common concerns related to myriad issues, including waste management, maritime management, climate change, renewable energy, transportation and food security,” he said. “As we continue to develop, we also face issues related to infrastructure connectivity and human resources.”