REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM) AMBASSADOR IRWIN LAROCQUE AT THE OPENING OF THE thirtieth INTER-SESSIONAL MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY 26 February 2019 St kitts and nevis
Posted in: Speeches by volderine | 26 February 2019 | 368
- Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
- Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica and Out-going Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
- Other Heads of Government;
- Honourable Ministers of the Caribbean Community;
- Heads of Regional Institutions;
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
- Representatives of the Media;
- People of the Caribbean Community.
In welcoming you all to this Thirtieth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, I do so acutely aware of the need more than ever for us as a Community to define, pursue and secure our interests in a regional and international environment increasingly in flux and in complexity.
The Government and People of St. Kitts and Nevis have provided us with an atmosphere that is conducive for such discussions allied with excellent arrangements to conduct our affairs. I am sure everyone will join me in thanking Prime Minister Harris, for the generous hospitality.
Thanks and gratitude must also be extended to the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica for his leadership of the Community during his tenure as Chairman. Significant progress was made on some long-standing regional issues and our voice was heard in prominent global fora. Thank you, Prime Minister.
That leadership role has been passed seamlessly to the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, who has taken in stride a hectic and challenging schedule that has been thrust upon him due primarily to events in our wider region over these past two months.
Principal among those has been the efforts to secure a peaceful resolution to the crisis that has engulfed our neighbouring country, Venezuela. Our Heads of Government have had two Emergency Meetings earlier this year to find a way forward in that regard. We are acutely aware of the consequences of any alternative solution, and with our like-minded partners have stressed the need for an internal and meaningful dialogue without which the situation could become disastrous.
The Community maintains that the solution must come from among the Venezuelan people and abides by the internationally recognised and accepted principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy.
And that principle of non-interference also applies as we confront a persistent threat to our efforts at development.
I refer to the labelling of our countries by the European Union, (EU) as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions that refuse to comply with what they determine to be tax good governance standards. Their requirements for compliance are encroaching on our sovereignty and reek of a by-gone era which came to an end with our political independence.
The onerous requirements being imposed are constantly shifting and go beyond those established by the OECD.
Financial services provide significant revenue for many of our Member States and therefore are an important source of domestic resources. The mobilisation of domestic resources was recommended by the United Nations Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), as a major part of the finances needed to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Our Member States are committed to accomplishing those goals which would help us build resilience against our inherent vulnerabilities.
One may ask, is the aim of the EU is to destroy the international financial services in our Region?
If that is so it would be a frontal attack on the economies of the affected Member States.
Ironically, a recent study by a tax specialist group pointed out that countries like ours, currently blacklisted by the EU, are responsible for just one per cent of the financial services affecting EU Member States.
Last week, the Honourable Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, led a CARICOM delegation to engage the EU on this issue. I would like to thank the Government of Romania, the current Chair of the EU, for giving us the opportunity to speak for the first time, to the Chairman of the Council that determines compliance. This was denied to us previously. It demonstrates Romania’s openness to dialogue to get an understanding of the position of our Member States. I want thank Prime Minister Chastanet for his leadership in the difficult negotiations undertaken.
The situation in our Member State, Haiti, is also a cause for concern. The deaths and violent confrontations that have marred protest action are highly regrettable.
The Community reiterates its call for calm and a cessation of the violence, and appeals to all involved to engage in constructive dialogue, to respect the Constitution, the rule of law and democratic processes so that issues can be resolved in a peaceful atmosphere and allow for the return to a state of normalcy. CARICOM stands ready to assist in any way possible to end the disturbances which are destabilising the country.
The shadows cast by those issues cannot detract us from a path that will advance the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), improve regional transportation, and maintain our security architecture. Progress in all three issues is critical to strengthening our integration movement, and importantly, to improving the lives of the citizens of our Community.
Since the Heads of Government met in Special Session on the CSME last December, the Councils of the Community have been engaged in seeking to ensure that the mandates set out are fulfilled. There have been three meetings of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), two by the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), one of the Community Council and one of the Legal Affairs Committee (LAC).
The culmination of those activities has resulted among other things in the finalisation of an Agreement on Public Procurement that would open the regional market for goods and services procured by public entities. We have also finalised an Agreement on the Return or Sharing of Recovered Assets from criminal activity. These two legal instruments are ready for adoption by the Conference.
The momentum which started last year must be maintained to continue to give ourselves every chance of making integration a lived reality for the people of CARICOM.
We have shown time and again that CARICOM can accomplish great things when we work as a unit, whether it is regionally or internationally. The leverage of our 14 votes in international fora must continue to be used to our advantage. That unified force must be the vehicle to propel us to build a Community that is prosperous and caters to the needs of its people. It should guide us in our deliberations here in St. Kitts and Nevis.
I thank you.
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