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A range of matters relating to the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), progress towards a CARICOM Single Market and Economy, and external negotiations were essential focal points during a press conference hosted by the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown on Tuesday.

CARICOM Secretary-General Mr Edwin Carrington told journalists that a number of educational and public awareness activities have been planned to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the Community. He highlighted the two main aspects as a regional cultural presentation on July 4, the date the Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed in 1973, and a model Youth Assembly of Caribbean Community Parliamentarians to be held in The Bahamas during the week of September 30th.

In keeping with the theme of the celebrations, CARICOM Secretariat staff as well as officials from Member States will participate in an outreach programme by interacting with people in their communities to emphasise the importance of integration to their daily lives.

Guyanese artist, Mr. Alexis Joseph, winner of a logo competition, which was organised to select a symbol for the celebrations was presented with his prize of $2,500 (EC) by the Secretary General.

In updating the media on the move to establish the CARICOM Single Market and Economy the Secretary-General noted that Protocol II dealing with the movement of capital, provision of services and the rights of establishment, had been signed by all Member States with the exception of Montserrat, and The Bahamas.

It is further anticipated that another four Protocols relating to Industrial Policy, Agricultural Policy, Trade Policy, and Disadvantaged Countries, Regions and Sectors will be ready for signature at the XIX Meeting of the Conference of Heads in St. Lucia in July. The other three dealing with Transportation Policy, Competition Policy, and Disputes Settlement will be ready for signature at the 10th Inter-Sessional meeting in the first quarter of 1999. Noting the importance of these changes, Mr. Carrington said “it is critical that we ( CARICOM) enter the 21st Century ready, as we say, to hit the ground running”.

The Secretary-General said a number of major meetings would be held in the first half of the year. The Fifth CARICOM/Canada Summit takes place in The Bahamas on April 16 just prior to the Second Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile on April 18-19 which regional Heads of Government will be attending. The XIX Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government will be held in St Lucia from June 30-July 4 1998.

Among the items which may be discussed at the Fifth CARICOM/Canada Summit are issues related to the Summit of the Americas, and matters relevant to both sides such as membership of the UN Security Council, and continuing assistance for Haiti. Both Jamaica and Canada are candidates for upcoming positions on the Security Council.

Two Ministerial meetings will be held in Barbados with respect to the successor agreement to the Lome Convention which governs trade and other relations between the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries and the European Union. The first of these, the ACP Council of Ministers will be held on May 4-5 and the other on May 7-8 will bring together the ACP Council and their European counterparts. On May 6, there is expected to be a European Union sponsored symposium for journalists on issues surrounding the negotiations for the successor arrangement to the Lomé Convention.

Ministers of Caribbean States which are signatories to the LOMÉ IV Convention (CARIFORUM) will meet in Trinidad and Tobago next Monday and Tuesday to focus on the allocation of resources provided under the second financial protocol under Lomé IV. Under the arrangement some 90 million ECUs which is about 100 million US dollars have been made available to the Region for a number of developmental programmes which have been costed at 300 million US dollars. The Meeting, to be presided over by Guyana’s Foreign Minister Clement Rohee, will therefore determine priority areas and how the funds will be allocated.

In response to a question on the possible accession of Cuba to the ACP, the Secretary-General said that the application by the Spanish-speaking Republic must be approved by the ACP Council and the European Union. The CARIFORUM Ministerial Meeting will also address this matter when they meet in Trinidad and Tobago next week. Mr Carrington is also Secretary-General of CARIFORUM.

Commenting on the movement towards a Barbados/OECS union, Mr. Carrington feels that “the ever closer union of Member States is always good provided, it observes certain principles” one of which is its membership policy. He said the initiative “is an advancement of the process of political cooperation among the States of the Community.”

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