JIS News

K.D. Knight, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is calling on the European Union (EU) to give the voices of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries equal weight to that of their EU counterparts.
“Although we are in different categories economically, as we move to make this partnership work, then the issues which are of importance to the ACP member states must be given due consideration,” he stated.
He was speaking at a press conference held at his Dominica Drive office in Kingston on December 16, where he highlighted a number of issues that he addressed at the joint parliamentary assembly of the ACP/EU held at The Hague, Netherlands recently.
The Minister told journalists, that at the meeting, he had requested that negotiations for funding arrangements and economic partnerships entail a development component, where ACP states could be assisted in capacity building to increase and improve their competitiveness in the wider global economy.
He also called for the establishment of a natural disaster facility to assist with disaster mitigation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. This, Mr. Knight said, was in light of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ivan and the difficulties faced by ACP countries generally in terms of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the recent locust plague in Africa.
“The facility that exists now is not easily accessible and does not deal adequately with the nature of disasters that face countries like ours”, the Minister noted.
Turning to the COTONOU Agreement, which is now being reviewed, Minister Knight said the revised agreement would reflect the worldwide fight against weapons of mass destruction.
The revision will also stipulate essential and fundamental principles and the consequences of breaches of human rights, democracy, good governance and the fight against corruption.
Minister Knight said the ACP countries, at the meeting, expressed solidarity in their opposition to the EU’s plan to cut the price for sugar and signaled that they would continue their lobbying efforts at the level of civil society, through trade unions and the EU decision makers.
The ACP Council of Ministers has mandated the agriculture ministers to meet with the European Agricultural Council in early 2005, “to discuss the issues as to the difficulties we face. We are asking for a lower cut in prices and an implementation period of eight years”. Resolutions were passed on these matters and have been forwarded to the different bodies within the EU integration system.
Giving an update on the ACP’s visit to the troubled African nation of Sudan, Minister Knight said that the group had visited a refugee camp in the Darfur region, which housed 40,000 displaced persons of which 20,000 were children 15 years and younger, 15,000 women and 5,000 men.
“The country needs a political solution, not intervention”, the Minister said, noting that rebel forces, militia and the government would come together to sign a peace accord by the end of December. Then, the implementation of the various agreements and protocols for the sharing of power between the North and South would take effect.
He said the conflict in Sudan was a complex one, but noted that the ACP would continue to ensure dialogue within Sudan and with the African Union for a speedy resolution to the crisis. The EU is being asked to release funds for the development of the country.

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