RT. HON. HUBERT INGRAHAM,
PRIME MINISTER OF THE BAHAMAS
CHAIRMAN OF CARICOM CARIFORUM
AT THE CARIFORUM- EU SUMMIT
LIMA PERU, 17 MAY, 2008
Promoting a Sustainable EU-Caribbean Partnership
I appreciate the opportunity to offer some views on the development of a sustainable relationship between the EU and the CARIFORUM countries at this the third CARIFORUM-EU Summit.
The relationship between the Caribbean and the European Union is of longstanding and historical importance. However, I believe that strong cultural and linguistic ties served over a number of years to disguise diverging interests in our relationship.
The relationship began during colonial times and was hierarchical in nature. Later, as Caribbean colonies came to nationhood, a degree of ‘dependent independence’ came to typify the relationship as expressed through the ACP-EC relationship.
Then the relationship grew beyond the traditional ACP to embrace Cuba and the Dominican Republic in a CARIFORUM context.
I believe that it is fair to say that today many in the Caribbean have come to believe that our region is in constant danger of falling off the radar of the European Union.
Sometimes it appears that there is no consistent European focus on the Caribbean, instead interest ebbs and flows depending on the interest of a particular EU member or group of members in their relationship with the Caribbean. For Europeans we are, happily, a popular vacation destination. We have been and continue to be a familiar and convenient export market. And, more recently, we became a special target for a number of European initiatives related to international financial services.
Now we are looking forward to the development of a new, mature and sustainable relationship, one that is focused and constructive, characterized by strengthened and enhanced cooperation and dialogue.
In truth, however, our relationship remains in transition now as we move (or are moved) away from the era of preferential trading arrangements as expressed by the trade component of the ACP-EC Cotonou Agreement to a more mature arrangement in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which will guide future CARIFORUM-EU relations.
This new relationship of reciprocity in trade, with its inclusion of a focus on trade in services and investments, offers the possibility for cooperation in new and innovative areas.
The details of implementation of new arrangements will require continued focus and discussion to ensure that the EPA and the process of implementing it will be mutually beneficial. I urge sensitivity on all sides, as complications in implementing the new arrangement are certain to arise particularly as the same is a truly new concept for some of our nations in CARIFORUM.
It is important that we recognize that our relationship is not based solely on trading arrangements. Our discussions at the CARIFORUM-EU Summit as reflected in our agreed communiqué cover a broad range of issues affecting both Europe and the Caribbean.
These matters require different levels of cooperation and coordination, including functional cooperation and hence provide a helpful basis upon which to build a more sustainable EU-Caribbean relationship.
Such a relationship will, I believe, need to be based upon CARIFORUM’s ownership of its development policies and strategies and on the convergence between these policies and strategies and the policies for cooperation of the European Union.
Of special importance will be the inclusion in EU cooperation policies, of financial and technical support to assist in the development of capacity (human, physical and institutional) in CARIFORUM states. And this must take account of the social, economic and physical vulnerabilities of CARIFORUM Member States.
As we have discussed within the larger EU-LAC process, and as agreed in our joint Communiqué, there are a number of specific issues/areas in which enhanced cooperation is possible. These issues reflect the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the maturing relationship between the EU and the CARIFORUM.
1. Climate change
Both the Caribbean and EU have roles to play in addressing climate change.
The Global Climate Change Alliance can form a very solid foundation for action in this regard. I welcome the commitment in the communiqué to our working together to mobilize political support for stronger action on climate change and to mobilize resources for the further implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. Indeed, we also look forward to the support of the EU in the launch of the Environmental Trust Fund “Caribbean Challenge” which is to be launched this month in Bonn during the 9th Meeting of the Conference of parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
2. Food security
Rising energy costs and consequentially food prices are causing severe hardship in the developing world, including the Caribbean. We are committed in the Caribbean to addressing the inter-related issues of climate change, energy, food security, and sustainable development within a broad framework. There is much room for dialogue and cooperation between Europe and the Caribbean on this framework. The Joint Task Force to be set up to examine these issues will make a critical contribution to understanding the relationship between these issues and point a way forward to develop concrete measures to address them.
3. Political dialogue
Europe and the Caribbean have been able to engage in constructive dialogue on a number of political issues, and have committed to strengthening this dialogue within the broader EU-CARIFORUM partnership. Issues such as the continued deepening of democracy and economic development in Haiti will require continued constructive cooperation between the two sides.
4. Regional integration
The Caribbean welcomes the EU’s continued support for the process of regional integration, including the further development of regional institutions. Continued support and dialogue will facilitate the ongoing deepening of the various regional integration processes, as well as facilitate the further development of functional cooperation within the region.
5. Addressing vulnerabilities and social issues
The Caribbean welcomes EU support for regional security cooperation mechanisms and structures, particularly with respect to interdiction of illicit drugs and small arms and light weapons. Continued cooperation in the field of crime and security will also enhance cooperation on development issues, particularly given the negative impact of security challenges on the development prospects of Caribbean countries.
It cannot be overstated that focused attention needs to be paid to the EU-Caribbean relationship in all of its aspects and that programmes of cooperation and dialogue should be fully explored and enhanced.
I note that Slovenia as one of the new countries of the EU is a relatively new partner for the Caribbean but is ideally placed to explore ways to enhance existing cooperation so as to ensure that the EU-Caribbean relationship continues on solid, sustainable footing.
I emphasize the importance of EU support for the development of CARIFORUM competitiveness and production capacities. A productive, competitive Caribbean will be far better placed to take advantage of the opportunities which may be derived from the Cotonou and the EPA and hence prove to be a far more reliable partner to the EU.
Finally, a mutually beneficial relationship is clearly the only basis upon which to build and maintain a sustainable EU-Cariforum relationship.
Towards this end, we propose the establishment of a CARIFORUM/EU Political Forum.