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Caribbean and European officials discussed issues germane to both regions, as well as the future of their relationship, at the European Union-Cariforum Political Dialogue at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston on Tuesday (March 23).
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, highlighted that discussions will focus on the development of the first outline of a joint Caribbean-European Union political strategy, which will inform the EU-Cariforum and EU-Latin American and Caribbean Heads of Government meeting due for Madrid, Spain, May 17 to 18.
He also said that the meeting will centre on an exchange of information, fostering of mutual understanding, facilitated agreed priorities and shared agendas.
“Let us also bear in mind that we are meeting today against the background of a recently convened Stakeholder Seminar, where both Cariforum and the EU have already begun to define the parameters of our joint strategy,” Dr. Baugh told the political and diplomatic officials attending the opening ceremony.
“Therefore any approach we take today will be more worthwhile, if we make the linkages to those discussions,” he went on.
He also pointed out that the parties were meeting in advance of the EU/Cariforum Summit which will take place in the margins of the EU-LAC Summit in Madrid. “Let us be clear that the work we do here today, will serve to prepare us for engagement at that Summit and we must, therefore, develop the context for that encounter in this dialogue today,” he stated.
Dr. Baugh said that there would also be focus on reconstruction and institutional support for Haiti.
“You would also be aware of the tangible assistance that is still necessary, in the short, medium and long term, to shore up the courageous attempts being made by this proud state to cope with the devastation caused by a natural disaster,” he said.
“It would be useful if we could leave this meeting with a clear, coordinated statement of the kinds of action that we will take, jointly, to move to the next phase of assistance, given that the needs of the country continue to be urgent and pressing,” he added.
Minister of Economic Affairs, Empowerment, Innovation, Trade, Industry and Commerce of Barbados, Dr. the Hon. David Estwick, challenged his colleagues to evaluate the achievement of the last Summit, in order to effectively and accurately pave the way forward.
“Clearly we must conclude that sufficient progress has not been made in any of the areas highlighted in the conclusions of the last Summit, except in respect of Haiti,” he argued.
Dr. Estwick said for the upcoming Summit Government Heads should attempt to assure that they can implement decisions reached, and honour commitments made.
“In that context we will need to seriously address the political management of Cariforum-EU cooperation. We will need to make arrangements for continuous political management and for a plan of action for the follow up, which must be undertaken,” he said.
Also speaking at the opening ceremony was Spanish Secretary of State for Latin America and the Caribbean, Juan Pablo de Laiglesia and CARICOM Secretary General, Edwin Carrington.