CARIFORUM countries express concerns over EU policies

Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) countries say Europe’s decision for a ‘considerable reduction” of funds under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) must take into consideration the implications for the economic development of the region.

A joint communique issued at the end of the Second Meeting of the CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee held in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week, noted that the parliamentarians have emphasised that the development component is an integral part of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that CARIFORUM signed with the EU in 2008.

They said that the EPA “should contribute to the achievement of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) as well as to regional cooperation and integration.

“The considerable reduction of funds available under the 11th EDF, as well as EU policy on differentiation in future development aid, must carefully take into consideration the implications for the economic development of the Caribbean and should not jeopardize its capacity to implement the EPA.

“While the EU has signalled that it will take into account the concept of vulnerability and the status of CARIFORUM States in the application of differentiation, it must indicate how it proposes to do so,” the statement said, adding that the parties have also acknowledged that graduating countries solely on the basis of gross domestic product (GDP) “can negatively impact on the issues of poverty, good governance and democracy”.

The CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee’s role is to monitor and review the implementation of the EPA as well as being a forum for members of the European Parliament and the CARIFORUM States Legislatures to meet and exchange views.

The statement said that the Port of Spain meeting “stressed the importance of having all the institutions in place for the proper functioning and monitoring of this Agreement” and that particular reference was made to the Consultative Committee, the only Joint Institution for which membership is yet to be established.

It said the meeting also welcomed the outcomes of the Second Trade and Development Committee, held in Trinidad last year as well as the Second Meeting of the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council in Brussels.

“Among the decisions taken was the amendment of the EPA in order to allow for incorporation of the commitments of The Bahamas into Annex IV of the EPA, which addresses Investment, Trade in Services and E-commerce.

“The Parliamentary Committee also took note of issues related to the treatment of certain goods of importance to CARIFORUM, urging both sides to continue to work to bridge differences.

The joint statement said that the EPA was recognized “as a very important tool to promote export-led development and economic growth, in light of the opportunities to be had in the EU market” and that the “upcoming planned review of the EPA was seen as an important opportunity to assess the gains and challenges from the Agreement’s implementation to date”.

The statement said that both sides expressed their commitment to the effective implementation of the EPA, a partnership for sustainable development, regional integration and the creation of new commercial opportunities between CARIFORUM and the EU.

“In that regard they called attention to the considerable importance of the CARIFORUM Region’s cultural industries, including education, sport, national heritage activities, training and exchanges, which are an asset of the Region and of the EU.

“This is one of the single largest growth areas with respect to export earnings, especially at a time when there has been significant reduction in traditional revenue streams.”

But the Committee also noted that while the EPA “opens up new possibilities as regards the movement of persons, especially for qualified professionals, through possibilities of temporary presence of natural persons for business purpose and mutual recognition of professions…in practice regulatory barriers impinge on the realization of the Agreement’s stated aims.

“However, members strongly welcomed and supported the proposal to lift the visa requirements for nationals of CARIFORUM States visiting the EU including the Outermost regions as an important measure to facilitate exchanges,” the statement added.