Georgetown, GUYANA, 29 March 2012/ CARICOM: The Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) and the European Commission (EC) on Wednesday signed three financial agreements designed to boost the Caribbean Region’s ability to deliver tangible results of integration to its populace.

With a total value of Euro $82.6M (US$110M), the financing agreements provide EC support for, among other things, the economic integration and trade of the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); the further development of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), with special allocations for Belize and Haiti ; and CARIFORUM’s implementation commitments under the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Advancing the OECS Economic Union, particularly in the areas of harmonized policies in tourism and agriculture; strengthening its capacity to integrate into the wider CARICOM arrangements and boosting competitiveness and export capacity of the private sector, are the key elements of the Euro 8.6M agreement that will be implemented by the OECS Secretariat.

The CSME-related Programme, worth Euro 28M, will lend support to develop areas of government procurement, labour market information systems and e-commerce. It will also place emphasis on transferring social security benefits, and building capacity in statistics, among other areas. Funds have been set aside under this agreement to support Belize and Haiti to be better placed ot take advantage of the CSME, as well as to assist other CARICOM Member states to bridge the implementation gap.

The third agreement provides Euro 46.5M to boost CARIFORUM’s capacity to take full advantage of the provisions of the EPA and to honour its commitments therein. The programme provides support for fiscal reform and adjustment; sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures; services; the rum sector and (removing) technical barriers to trade.

Prior to affixing his signature to the agreements, Secretary-General of CARIFORUM, Amb. Irwin LaRocque, said that the EU support to the Region came at a time when Heads of Government had declared their determination to ensure that the benefits of integration were felt by the people.

While the signature of the agreements signalled a beginning, the Secretary-General cautioned that the end product would have no meaning if the people of the Region did not feel the impact of the resources.

“Impact, results and benefits must be the watchwords at the level of implementation. We must satisfy regional stakeholders that our actions bring them added value to their lives. That is the bottom line,” he reiterated.

In his remarks at the ceremony held at the headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat, EU representative to CARICOM, and Head of the European Union (EU) delegation in Guyana, His Excellency Robert Kopechy, traced the historical foundations of both the EU and CARICOM, pointing out that the integration process was long and dynamic and not without “obstacles”.

“The path to full integration is a long and dynamic process, not deprived of obstacles. The European Union was not made all at once, or according to a single plan but rather it has been built through concrete achievements which created solidarity. As such The EU has been supporting the integration steps of CARICOM along this process,” Mr. Kopecky said.

He added that the funds for three programmes will be drawn from the € 165 M Regional Programme of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).

The funds, he said were “a testimony of the EU’s continued commitments to support the Caribbean Region in the dynamic process of regional integration and signal another milestone in the longstanding relation between the Caribbean Forum of ACP States and the European Union”.