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Remarks by the SECRETARY-GENERAL CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque   On the Occasion Of the   PRESENTATION OF CREDENTIALS BY H.E. Mr. JOSE MARIA FERNANDEZ LOPEZ DE TURISO PLENIPOTENTIARY REPRESENTATIVE (DESIGNATE) OF THE KINGDOM OF SPAIN TO THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY

Excellency, it is truly my pleasure and honour to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of your credentials as the Kingdom of Spain’s Plenipotentiary Representative to the Caribbean Community.

Your predecessor, Ambassador Joaquin Maria de Aristegui, did a most commendable job in enhancing the already excellent relations between CARICOM and Spain. Given your wealth of diplomatic experience, Excellency, including being a former Director of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, I have no doubt that you will be successful in building on that valued relationship and so, further strengthen the links between us.

The relationship between CARICOM and Spain is one that is based on goodwill and the shared belief that a partnership, founded on equality, mutual respect and common values, can engender positive results for all.  This is evidenced by the wide range of cooperation that exists between us.

Despite the severe economic challenges that have confronted Spain in recent years, your country has been, and continues to be not only a critical international development partner but, I am very happy to say, a most reliable and supportive one.  As our respective countries seek to advance the interests of our peoples in a fiercely competitive and ever-challenging global environment, we must seek to continue to cooperate within the international arena, as this provides an opportunity to meaningfully enhance the CARICOM-Spain relationship further still.

Ambassador, the ongoing adverse effect of the global, financial and economic crisis is one with which your country is all too familiar.  The impact, however, on our small, open, highly-indebted and vulnerable countries, has been far more severe, and is compounded by other actions which have their geneses outside our borders. Climate change is just one example. Another is the practice of many international development partners of ‘graduating’ or `differentiating’ countries that are categorised as Middle Income, which prevents them from accessing concessionary financing.  This is based primarily on the flawed assumption that GDP per capita is a sound measure of development.  We therefore look forward to Spain’s continued understanding and support in the corridors of the international community as we negotiate the Post-2015 Development Agenda, with full recognition of the uniqueness and vulnerabilities which characterise small states such as those in CARICOM.

Excellency, the formal and institutional arrangements that underpin our relationship have played a critical role in bringing us closer together. Between 1999 and 2008, four Summits have been convened while, at the technical level, in 2002 and 2006, two meetings of the Joint Commission have taken place. These engagements have not just been political encounters, but have resulted in technical cooperation with tangible results.  Projects were implemented in diverse and critical areas such as water and sanitation, health and non-communicable diseases, agricultural development, fisheries, tourism, services, electoral observation and other key economic and social areas. Spain has also provided support for the diplomatic and Spanish language training of officials across the Region, allowing for more effective CARICOM representation in international fora.

Spanish technical cooperation has been further enhanced with the establishment of the CARICOM-Spain Joint Fund, in November 2011.  During 2012, projects were funded in the areas of agriculture, food security, institutional support and trade and economic integration.  These areas are crucial for the sustainable economic development of the Community.  In 2013, additional projects in the security domain, with particular emphasis on youth and gender were initiated.

Excellency, CARICOM looks forward to the Third Meeting of the CARICOM-Spain Joint Commission scheduled for 19 May 2014, in Georgetown, Guyana.  We also eagerly await the engagement with your Foreign Minister who has been invited to address the Seventeenth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) the following day. These Meetings will provide opportunities for further productive exchanges in the review of existing areas of cooperation, as well as explore other avenues for international collaboration.

While I have underlined that Spain has been a very special friend to the Caribbean Community, it would be remiss of me not to make specific mention of the significant contributions that Spain has made and continues to make in the development of Haiti, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in January 2010.  For this, we extend our deep appreciation to the Government and people of Spain and look forward to your country’s continued support in facilitating Haiti’s ongoing development.

Excellency, in closing, let me warmly welcome you to the CARICOM family.  I pledge my full support and that of my staff as you take on the duties of Plenipotentiary Representative of the Kingdom of Spain to the Caribbean Community.

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