Ambassador Irwin LaRocque,
The CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM)
on THE occasion of
THE PRESENTATION OF CREDENTIALS BY
HIS EXCELLENCY SáNDOR MARNIX RAPHAËL VARGA VAN KIBéD EN MAKFALVA,
Plenipotentiary Representative (Designate)
of the KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS TO THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY
17 February 2021
- Your Excellency Raphaël Varga, Plenipotentiary Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to CARICOM;
- Mr. Linley Gihan, Trade Officer, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands;
- Ambassador Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations, and other Members of Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat.
Ambassador, we are here this morning to reaffirm the friendship and partnership between our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I am pleased to accept your Letter of Credence, and to extend congratulations on your appointment as the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Caribbean Community.
Over the years, CARICOM has maintained a friendly and steady relationship with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It has been enhanced by engagements between the Foreign Ministers of CARICOM and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2015 and 2016, and at the level of Senior Officials in 2017 and 2018.
During these engagements, the possibility of CARICOM and the Netherlands signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) had been discussed and the time may be right for completing those discussions. It represents a good starting point for the continuation of high-level interactions.
Also, in 2018, I participated in an event organized by the Kingdom in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly on “Strengthening International Cooperation in Maritime Security in the Caribbean”.
Our cooperation in the field of security has been enduring, with the Netherlands being among our key International Partners, including participation in naval exercises in the Region with other nations.
The Dutch naval base out of Curacao has been a key player in the Community’s efforts in the immediate post-disaster phase following hurricanes. This assistance following the devastating hurricanes of 2017 was testimony to what can be possible.
This cooperation has been further solidified with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2019, with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
That MOU ensures cooperation on disaster risk management and provides for more efficient access to the support of the Dutch Navy. It also included the accession of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten to the membership of CDEMA.
Those three constituent parts of the Kingdom have applied for Associate Membership of the Community. In furtherance of those applications, I led a Secretariat Delegation to the countries in late 2019 to launch negotiations. The negotiations are well-advanced and are expected to be successfully completed soon.
A clear demonstration of the goodwill that exists, is CARICOM’s agreement, at the invitation of the Kingdom, to mount an Electoral Observer Mission to monitor the General Elections to be held in Curaçao next month. A similar mission observed the 2017 Elections.
Excellency, on occasion, the Community has sought the support of the Netherlands for our positions in regional and multilateral fora. At this particular point in time, the development aspirations of Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS) of CARICOM are under threat. This includes, climate-related disasters and also, more recently, from the multifaceted effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Community welcomes the Netherlands’ contribution, through the European Union, to the COVAX initiative for access to COVID-19 vaccines.
CARICOM Member States have signed on to the COVAX Facility, which is designed to provide equitable access and distribution. As helpful as that facility undoubtedly is, we will need to expand vaccination coverage for our populations beyond it.
For us, the most tourism and travel dependent Region in the world, the issue of access to vaccines is a crucial element in rebuilding our devastated economies as well as protecting our people. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
It is why we are deeply concerned at the inequitable access to available vaccines. Global statistics indicate that some developed countries have contracted enough doses to vaccinate their populations many times over, while some developing countries such as those in the Caribbean Community are vastly underserved.
CARICOM is therefore calling for a global Summit to address the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, to ensure fair, transparent and equitable access. This should be conducted in the context of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ACT-A Facilitation Council.
CARICOM stands ready to collaborate with international partners, such as the Netherlands on this issue which is vital to our full recovery.
Our countries are also seeking the valuable advocacy assistance of partners who are influential on the global stage on other issues which are vital to building a resilient recovery. These include, access to concessional financing, debt relief and blacklisting of some of our Member States.
In regard to blacklisting, CARICOM has noted that the Netherlands goes beyond the globally accepted standards, as well as those of the European Union in doing so. Regrettably, your country’s actions have not taken into account the substantial progress made by CARICOM Member States at compliance with global standards.
I urge strongly that the Netherlands pursue a mutually collaborative engagement towards our shared goals of effective tax governance, and combatting money laundering and terrorism financing.
Ambassador, it is my hope that your accreditation opens a new chapter in the relations between CARICOM and the Netherlands. I am looking forward to enhancing those relations, and I assure you of my full support and that of the staff of the Secretariat.
I wish you a most successful tenure as the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to CARICOM.