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Remarks by CARICOM Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett at the Presentation of Credentials by H.E. Gerhard Doujak, Ambassador of the Republic of Austria to CARICOM, 30 May 2022

  • Your Excellency Gerhard Doujak, Plenipotentiary Representative of the Republic of Austria to CARICOM;
  • Mr. Ralf Hemsing, Honorary Consul of Austria to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana;
  • Ambassador Donna Forde, Assistant Secretary-General for Foreign and Community Relations, and other Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat.

Good afternoon

Your Excellency, I am honoured to accept your Letters of Credence, and to extend congratulations to you on your appointment as the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Republic of Austria to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

I am pleased to welcome you to the Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat, and look forward to our working together to strengthen relations between Austria and CARICOM. Your appointment represents a new chapter in the meaningful and productive relationship our countries have fostered over 22 years.

Excellency, our relations are characterised by a friendship built on mutual respect, bilateral relationships with the Member States of the Community, and bi-regional dialogue and cooperation between CARICOM and the countries of the European Union. 

On 27 September 2008, CARICOM and Austria consolidated relations with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding covering such important areas as disaster management and the promotion of the use of sustainable energy, both critical priority areas for our Community. CARICOM has serious concerns about the existential threat that climate change poses to our Region and cooperation in that area is most welcome.

Indeed, CARICOM is preparing for an extremely active hurricane season, even as instances of heavy flooding are being addressed in one of our Member States, Suriname.  Our history shows that natural disasters have devastated a number of our Member States leaving a toll of death and destruction.

Our economies continue to be challenged by increasingly burdensome debt, brought on, in large measure, by the regular demands for reconstruction after frequent climate-related events.

There is a sense of urgency for a stronger global approach to combating climate change, as well as for meaningful assistance to help our countries to build resilience to address the effects of this phenomenon. We, therefore, welcome the support of Austria in our calls for greater ambition to address the threat of climate change. Our countries also call for an urgent, systematic global response to provide Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) with adequate and predictable financial support, to address matters of adaptation, mitigation, as well as loss and damage. 

Further, even as we try to move past the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now grappling with recovery from the extremely negative economic and social effects.

These events expose our vulnerability and strengthen our case for a Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index to be used as the major criterion to determine access for concessional development financing. Austria, as a founding member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), can play a role in advocating for this change from GDP per capita as the main criterion for such financing.

Excellency, a matter of grave concern to us is the labelling of some of our Member States as “non-cooperative tax jurisdictions” by some Members of the European Union and the related de-risking strategies being employed by certain international banks which has resulted in the withdrawal of crucial correspondent banking relationships.

Austria, as a Member of the EU, can assist by seeking to ensure that the EU, in its decision-making, is guided by the informed position of the relevant global regulatory authorities and desists from taking unnecessary punitive actions. We believe that Austria can play an influential advocacy role on our behalf on this issue.

Let me once again extend to you a warm welcome to the Caribbean Community and my best wishes for a most successful tenure in your role as the Plenipotentiary Representative of Austria to CARICOM.

I can assure you of my support and that of the staff of the Secretariat, as we work together to strengthen the relations between CARICOM and Austria.

I thank you!

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