Greater Georgetown, 19 September/ CARICOM: The 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Programming Seminar, currently underway in Georgetown, Guyana, is an engagement that the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) considers to be of critical importance to development in the Region.
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and CARIFORUM and Regional Authorising Officer (RAO), expressed this view at the opening ceremony of the 11th EDF Programming Seminar, held in Georgetown, Guyana, from 19-20 September.
The centerpiece of the forum is discussion on future development cooperation under the 11th EDF, which will run from 2014-2020, for the Caribbean region. Particular attention will be paid to national and regional priorities for the use of funds under the National and Regional Indicative Programmes, respectively.
Under the 11th EDF, CARIFORUM has called attention to people-centered development objectives.
Headlining the Programming Seminar’s opening were: His Excellency Donald Ramotar, President of Guyana; Hon. Oliver Joseph, Minister of Economic Development, Planning and Trade and Cooperatives, Grenada and the Chairman of the CARIFORUM Council of Ministers; Ambassador LaRocque; and Mr Andris Piebalgs, the European Union (EU) Commissioner for Development.
In attendance from the CARIFORUM side were regional policy-makers, National Authorizing Officers (NAOs), senior officials from States and regional institutions, and representatives from non-state actors. The EU side is headed by Commissioner Piebalgs, and includes officials from the European Commission Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid and European External Action Service (EEAS).
References to the strong historic, economic and cultural ties between Europe and the Caribbean permeated remarks delivered by the speakers, as did references to political, trade and development relations.
“The EU has made a big contribution to development in this part of world,” President Ramotar said as he underscored the importance that the Caribbean attached to its relationship with Europe.
Ambassador LaRocque noted that while the relationship between the two regions was evolving, “it nevertheless is underpinned by certain constants such as a commitment to global peace, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
He characterised the attendance of Commissioner Piebalgs at the Seminar as a reflection of the importance the EU attaches to its relations with CARIFORUM.
Minister Joseph noted that 11th EDF programming was unfolding under very different circumstances from those of negotiations on the 10th EDF. He called attention to the global economic downturn, and added that the Caribbean was deeply appreciative of the EU’s continued support of the Region, at a time when some of its Member States were themselves experiencing fiscal, financial and economic challenges.
This point was reaffirmed by Ambassador LaRocque, who said that the EU’s maintenance of support during this time of hardship as “clear evidence of the strength and durability of our relationship.”
However, Ambassador LaRocque voiced CARIFORUM’s concern regarding elements of the new EU external aid policies. He referred specifically to the twin principles of differentiation and graduation from access to grant resources.
Commissioner Piebalgs said of the process of negotiations on the 11th EDF, “it is technical, but also political.” He added, in reference to the strategic dialogue that is unfolding on the choice of priority sectors for cooperation, “there has to be a meeting of minds.”
Over a two-day period, Commissioner Piebalgs will hold bilateral meetings with National Authorizing Officers (NAOs) from respective CARIFORUM States. The Commissioner will meet separately with Ambassador LaRocque and his team, on 20 September.