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Premier Meade’s opening remarks to the OCTA Ministerial Conference

January 24, 2012

Premier Reuben Meade

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Fellow Heads of Government, Ministerial Colleagues, OCTA Executive Committee Members, Delegates, it is my pleasure to be the Chairman and host of this our 10th EU/OCT Forum here in Brussels in 2012. I bring greetings from Montserrat the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. I wish, on behalf of the Montserrat team, to thank the Conference organizers for the arrangements which have been made on our behalf.

For us in the Caribbean region, this 10th EU/OCT Forum is an important milestone since we recognized very early in the game that a common approach to the EU/OCT relationship would be only way we could hope to enhance our dialogue with the European Commission in a changing global environment. I am referring to the 1990’s when the move towards the erosion of trade preferences and the dynamics of globalisation were in the embryonic stages. It was very clear then that as OCT’s we would have to work very hard to maintain the very tangible historical relationship we had with Europe.

The journey for us in the Caribbean started in 1993 in the British Virgin Islands when we had our first regional “Partnership” Meeting, followed by meetings in Aruba and Montserrat. However, the formalization of the “partnership” started when we met in Bonaire in 2000 to discuss the advent of the new OCT Decision. We were very much at a crossroads then as we are now. But we were able to very quickly band together and provide an input into the final OCT Decision which came into force on 27th November 2001. Whilst we recognise that the final output did not contain all the elements we asked for, the dialogue and the input showed the European Commission that we were a force to be reckoned with and that we needed to have that continuous dialogue, because as OCT’s, we are a part of the European family. The formalization of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) in 2003 was a significant milestone that has cemented the working relationship that we have developed with the objective of enabling all our members to realise the benefits of the partnership between our Member States, the European Commission and ourselves. That is the reason why we are here today for this very important Ministerial Meeting, because at the end of today, we will meet the Commission with one voice, combining all our objectives for the mutual benefit of us all.

So here we are, a decade on from the passage of that OCT Decision 2001 and we are once again at a crossroads, on the cusp of another new OCT Decision. It is important to note that our involvement in the development of this new Decision has been greater than the last time, since there is clear evidence that the Commission has taken note of the Political Resolutions we put forward each year, and more significantly the Joint Position Paper that we and our Member States submitted to the Commission at our meeting in New Caledonia in February last year. We may still be of the opinion that there should have been greater consultation, but we need to pause a brief moment and set the development of this new OAD in a global context.

Last year when we met in New Caledonia we were aware that the economic and fiscal environment was difficult but there was some hope that the global environment was on a path to recovery. Unfortunately those of us that follow the international news will know that the difficulties have expanded and that countries in the Eurozone like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal are undergoing extreme fiscal distress. As we discuss the many issues that face our territories, we must be mindful of the situation in the Eurozone so that we can be prudent in our discussions and carefully consider what we can expect from the Commission given the circumstances in the current environment. In my message to this gathering last year I commented on the targets that the European Union countries had set for themselves to be achieved by the year 2020 and I linked this to the OCTA Strategy which has as its first objective the consolidation and reinforcing of solidarity between OCT’s and EU Member States. We agree that these are noble targets to commit to since we can only hope to benefit from this agenda. But whilst there was that hope last year, clearly we need to get a better understanding of the changing dynamics in the euro zone. We also need to assess our own vulnerabilities having regard for the current environment. And we have to devise strategies relating to how we will sustain our economies if the worse case scenario was to occur.

For those of us who rely on Europe we must begin to appreciate that, if that support was to dwindle significantly we will need to find mechanisms to cope. This will not be easy because we have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. The problems are real and we have to be realistic in our expectations of what Europe can do for us given the current economic and fiscal environment.

Having said this, by 2013, we will have a new OAD which will redefine the relationship. We have to be cognizant that the new OAD has been designed within this current global environment, but we have to be in a position to seize the opportunities as they present themselves.

Let us remember the vision statement of OCTA which states that: “all Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) of the European Union (EU) should be on a path of sustainable development, whilst protecting our natural environment, by promoting economic and human development through cooperation with the EU as well as with regional and global partners”.

Therefore, we will continue to promote partnerships with countries that are in support of our development on principles of respect for sovereignty, equality and a genuine desire to effect social and economic development of all. This must also be seen in the context of the preservation of our fundamental right to self-determination.

These are issues that we have set out in our Political Resolutions. It is very important for us all to sign up to these Resolutions. At the forefront is the call for the Commission to consider the proposals that we have enunciated in the JPP, since it will be important for the dialogue on the development of the new OAD to continue. The other areas are no less important; improving the management of OCT affairs within the Commission, the reiteration of the need for the technical assistance to OCTA, the need to continue with the mechanism of using Partnership Working Groups (PWP’s) for strategic sectors, focus on the Territorial Strategies for Innovation and Regional projects, facilitating involvement on environment and climate change and the need to take account of the OCT interests when negotiating bilateral and multilateral trading agreements.
Therefore my colleagues, as we move forward today with our Ministerial Agenda, I want to reiterate the need for us to work together to integrate and harness the resources and potential of the OCTs for the mutual benefit of the EU/OCT family. It is the only way that we can use our combined economic potential to achieve long term sustainability for all of our peoples.

I look forward to the lively discussions today and in the days ahead, when we will meet with our Member States and European Commission colleagues.

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

January 24, 2012

Premier Reuben Meade

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Fellow Heads of Government, Ministerial Colleagues, OCTA Executive Committee Members, Delegates, it is my pleasure to be the Chairman and host of this our 10th EU/OCT Forum here in Brussels in 2012. I bring greetings from Montserrat the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. I wish, on behalf of the Montserrat team, to thank the Conference organizers for the arrangements which have been made on our behalf.

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For us in the Caribbean region, this 10th EU/OCT Forum is an important milestone since we recognized very early in the game that a common approach to the EU/OCT relationship would be only way we could hope to enhance our dialogue with the European Commission in a changing global environment. I am referring to the 1990’s when the move towards the erosion of trade preferences and the dynamics of globalisation were in the embryonic stages. It was very clear then that as OCT’s we would have to work very hard to maintain the very tangible historical relationship we had with Europe.

The journey for us in the Caribbean started in 1993 in the British Virgin Islands when we had our first regional “Partnership” Meeting, followed by meetings in Aruba and Montserrat. However, the formalization of the “partnership” started when we met in Bonaire in 2000 to discuss the advent of the new OCT Decision. We were very much at a crossroads then as we are now. But we were able to very quickly band together and provide an input into the final OCT Decision which came into force on 27th November 2001. Whilst we recognise that the final output did not contain all the elements we asked for, the dialogue and the input showed the European Commission that we were a force to be reckoned with and that we needed to have that continuous dialogue, because as OCT’s, we are a part of the European family. The formalization of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) in 2003 was a significant milestone that has cemented the working relationship that we have developed with the objective of enabling all our members to realise the benefits of the partnership between our Member States, the European Commission and ourselves. That is the reason why we are here today for this very important Ministerial Meeting, because at the end of today, we will meet the Commission with one voice, combining all our objectives for the mutual benefit of us all.

So here we are, a decade on from the passage of that OCT Decision 2001 and we are once again at a crossroads, on the cusp of another new OCT Decision. It is important to note that our involvement in the development of this new Decision has been greater than the last time, since there is clear evidence that the Commission has taken note of the Political Resolutions we put forward each year, and more significantly the Joint Position Paper that we and our Member States submitted to the Commission at our meeting in New Caledonia in February last year. We may still be of the opinion that there should have been greater consultation, but we need to pause a brief moment and set the development of this new OAD in a global context.

Last year when we met in New Caledonia we were aware that the economic and fiscal environment was difficult but there was some hope that the global environment was on a path to recovery. Unfortunately those of us that follow the international news will know that the difficulties have expanded and that countries in the Eurozone like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal are undergoing extreme fiscal distress. As we discuss the many issues that face our territories, we must be mindful of the situation in the Eurozone so that we can be prudent in our discussions and carefully consider what we can expect from the Commission given the circumstances in the current environment. In my message to this gathering last year I commented on the targets that the European Union countries had set for themselves to be achieved by the year 2020 and I linked this to the OCTA Strategy which has as its first objective the consolidation and reinforcing of solidarity between OCT’s and EU Member States. We agree that these are noble targets to commit to since we can only hope to benefit from this agenda. But whilst there was that hope last year, clearly we need to get a better understanding of the changing dynamics in the euro zone. We also need to assess our own vulnerabilities having regard for the current environment. And we have to devise strategies relating to how we will sustain our economies if the worse case scenario was to occur.

For those of us who rely on Europe we must begin to appreciate that, if that support was to dwindle significantly we will need to find mechanisms to cope. This will not be easy because we have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. The problems are real and we have to be realistic in our expectations of what Europe can do for us given the current economic and fiscal environment.

Having said this, by 2013, we will have a new OAD which will redefine the relationship. We have to be cognizant that the new OAD has been designed within this current global environment, but we have to be in a position to seize the opportunities as they present themselves.

Let us remember the vision statement of OCTA which states that: “all Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) of the European Union (EU) should be on a path of sustainable development, whilst protecting our natural environment, by promoting economic and human development through cooperation with the EU as well as with regional and global partners”.

Therefore, we will continue to promote partnerships with countries that are in support of our development on principles of respect for sovereignty, equality and a genuine desire to effect social and economic development of all. This must also be seen in the context of the preservation of our fundamental right to self-determination.

These are issues that we have set out in our Political Resolutions. It is very important for us all to sign up to these Resolutions. At the forefront is the call for the Commission to consider the proposals that we have enunciated in the JPP, since it will be important for the dialogue on the development of the new OAD to continue. The other areas are no less important; improving the management of OCT affairs within the Commission, the reiteration of the need for the technical assistance to OCTA, the need to continue with the mechanism of using Partnership Working Groups (PWP’s) for strategic sectors, focus on the Territorial Strategies for Innovation and Regional projects, facilitating involvement on environment and climate change and the need to take account of the OCT interests when negotiating bilateral and multilateral trading agreements.
Therefore my colleagues, as we move forward today with our Ministerial Agenda, I want to reiterate the need for us to work together to integrate and harness the resources and potential of the OCTs for the mutual benefit of the EU/OCT family. It is the only way that we can use our combined economic potential to achieve long term sustainability for all of our peoples.

I look forward to the lively discussions today and in the days ahead, when we will meet with our Member States and European Commission colleagues.