EU re-assures Caribbean of its continued friendshipMonday, May 10, 2021
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The European Union Monday said it would always be a “friend” of the Caribbean and that the 27 member grouping, which is observing European Day 2021, will move to assist the region deal with the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We will continue to work together with our partner countries and regional organisations both in the good and in challenging times. We will continue to learn from each other and to support each other, as we are bound by shared goals and common values,” said Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, the European Union Ambassador to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) / the Caribbean Forum.
In a message delivered virtually marking the occasion, the EU diplomat said that after 45 years in the region, “we understand each other better, and our determination to confront our common challenges will continue to unite us”.
She said that 45 years after the EU opened an office here to cater for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, the “cooperation, which we have developed in the decades since then, has been one of mutual benefit, with the EU and the countries of the region working hand-in-hand along the path of development, and supporting each other in multilateral fora”.
She said Europe Day comes at a time when Europe and the Caribbean are experiencing the fragility and fury of being part of the global community.
“Our world continues to grapple with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that continues to reshape what we know to be normal.
“Here in the Caribbean, as elsewhere in the world, COVID-19 has not only affected us health-wise but it has severely impacted the economies and societies, as most of the countries in the region rely heavily on tourism and related services,” she said, adding that in many ways, the Caribbean's response and sense of resilience have provided lessons that the region can impart to some developed countries in managing the pandemic.
She said that as part of the global response to COVID-19, the EU has provided the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) with vital assistance to support the provision of protective personal equipment along with testing of COVID-19 samples for those countries that do not have the capacity to do so.
In addition, the EU has made a significant contribution to the COVAX facility that enabled all regional countries to benefit from the global distribution of vaccines, she added.
“Looking beyond our current COVID reality, we are considering ways in which the EU can assist Barbados and the OECS partners to strengthen social protection while building economic resilience once they have overcome the worse of the pandemic…”
She said that even as the EU and the region continue to deal with the impact of COVID, the April 9 eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines resulted in the immediate disruption of so many lives and in particular those people in areas such as Sandy Bank, Red Banks and others in the red zone of the country.
“From early the EU made available its Copernicus satellite which provided images to assist in monitoring the activity of the volcano,” she said, adding that following the eruption, the EU also mobilised emergency response to help bring immediate relief to those who were evacuated and placed in shelters.
“Subsequently we have been working with the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines to assist with the clean-up of ash and making life in the shelters more habitable. It is interventions such as these, which continue to make me proud to be part of the European Union. We are happy to be there to make a difference in the lives of people when it matters the most.”
The EU diplomat said that apart from the COVID-19 pandemic and the volcano, the EU on April 15 initialled a new agreement with the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) that will succeed the previous Cotonou Agreement, which was the legal framework governing relations for the past 20 years.
“The world has greatly changed in the last 20 years and so has the EU and its partners. This meant redefining our objectives, while setting new ambitions to respond to the emerging needs and challenges.
“The new ACP-EU Agreement will serve as a framework of dialogue and cooperation at all levels for the next 20 years. An agreement between more than 100 countries and over 1.5 billion people, geared towards achieving greater ambitions at local, regional and international level.
“It is aimed at strengthening the existing political partnership, further contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and poverty alleviation, facilitating economic transformation and private sector development, and assisting the region in its fight against climate change.”
She said that while at the end of 2020, the United Kingdom ceased to be an EU member, “I am well aware of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.
“It is in this context I want to reassure you that the 27 member states of the European Union are committed to strengthening their relations with the Caribbean partners. The European Union is here to stay and will continue to be the region's devoted development partner.
“For apart from our partnership with each of the national governments we cover, the EU also has a great working relationship with the Caricom, the OECS, and the various regional agencies, that work tirelessly to identify and implement regional solutions to shared regional challenges.
“We look forward to strengthening this regional relationship in the future, as nations and international organisations have already started to rebuild the multi-lateral system, which in recent times has come under pressure. Indeed, it is through multilateralism that Small Island Developing States, such as those in the Caribbean can have a tangible voice on the world state.”
The EU diplomat said that Europe “will always be a friend of the Caribbean”.
Europe Day 2021, official recognised annually on May 9 following the declaration by French statesman Robert Schuman in 1950 of the proposition to create a pooling of European coal and steel production.
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