The EU and the Caribbean Reviews Partnership
Friday, May 17, 2002 - Bananas, sugar, rum and rice are expected to top the agenda for St. Lucia and at least nine other Caricom member-states attending the Summit of European, Latin American and Caribbean Heads of Government, which opened in Madrid, Spain Friday May 17, 2002.
Some 48 Presidents, Prime Ministers and their respective delegations arrived from several corners of Europe and across the Atlantic for a meeting to discuss a number of issues - from trade, aid and the politics of cooperation.
During the meeting the leaders will also discuss how best to improve relations between the European Union and its Caribbean and Latin American partners across the Atlantic.
A day earlier, foreign ministers from participating states and their officials met to set the stage, while journalists from Latin America and the Caribbean participated in a pre-summit seminar that focussed n the relations between the EU and its Caribbean and Latin American partners. Journalists attending the seminar were updated on issues relating to EU aid to the Caribbean and Latin America since the first LOME agreement was signed in 1975.
EU representatives say that the Brussels-based union continues to give assistance to Caribbean states for primary products ranging from sugar to bananas to tourism and infrastructure.
According to the participants, the Caribbean has so far benefited from over US$3 billion since 1975, with over US$120 million going to the banana industries of the region. The EU officials however noted that there were structural problems affecting the progress of such important products in the region as bananas, sugar, rice, rum and tourism. They were particularly concerned, that after five separate agreements with Caribbean governments regarding bananas, there had been no progress in restructuring the industry until the year 2000
European Commissioner in charge of External Relations Christopher Patten told reporters the Madrid summit provided “a unique opportunity to increase strategic cooperation between Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The EU is the second largest trading partner of the Caribbean and Latin America and the hemispheric leaders attending will be seeking assurances of increasing and speeding-up the disbursement of economic and humanitarian aid.
The slow disbursement of EU aid has also been a matter of concern in the Caribbean, where the time line between approval and actual releasing of funds can take between four and six years. This is of particular concern to Caribbean banana producers, whose fickle industry faces annual problems ranging from adverse weather conditions to lowering prices for exports.
St. Lucia’s High Commissioner Edwin Laurent is representing Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony, who is attending the 32nd Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in the Cayman Islands.
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