Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Tuesday, reached out to key members of the European Parliament, proposing a sustained dialogue on issues of concern to both sides.
In the most recent of a series of Zoom meetings with EU parliamentarians and policy-makers, Mr. Browne spoke with Mr. Stephane Bijoux, who is a member of the European Parliament and chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Cariforum-EU Parliamentary Committee (DCAR). The DCAR monitors the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the fifteen Cariforum member states.
Mr. Stephane Bijoux, who hails from the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, spoke with some empathy for the issues raised by PM Browne, as he himself comes from a small island that suffers many of the same constraints as Antigua and Barbuda and other Caribbean states.
PM Browne outlined some of the challenges faced by Cariforum countries, including uneven access to the EPA. He described a situation where the lack of special and differential treatment for the smaller members of the EPA such as Antigua and Barbuda was a major obstacle to economic development.
The Prime Minister also addressed the question of the CIP programmes in the OECS member states, highlighting that some EU member states seem to be under a misguided notion that the CIP programmes can be used for illicit purposes, such as evading EU taxes or escaping the consequences of financial crime.
PM Browne emphasized that while many Cariforum states were in compliance with the FATF and other international standards, the EU had adopted an unhelpful approach of unilateral sanctions. He called on the EU to establish an enhanced dialogue with the Cariforum states, especially before any sanctions are applied.
For his part, Mr. Stephane Bijoux agreed on the question of sanctions and he considered that dialogue should always continue, even if sanctions are applied. He promoted the concept of South-South cooperation, and made note of Martinique and Guadeloupe, which are both French territory as well as associate members of the OECS. The Inter-Reg programme that exists between these French islands and the OECS was pointed to as a model of joint cooperation between regions that could be expanded.
The success of dialogue in recently changing US laws on banking was pointed to by PM Browne, and he called on the EU to adopt a similar approach.
Mr. Bijoux represents the Renew Europe Group as an MEP in the European Parliament.
The Prime Minister’s series of meetings with EU officials will continue in the weeks ahead.