Dear Colleagues, Friends
Good evening everybody and, thank you for coming and Happy Europe day (not only to my fellow Europeans)
We celebrate this day in addition to each individual national day. Why? What does it mean to be European these days? To many European citizens the concept of European Union is still a distant paradigm. For some it boils down to rules and regulations formulated and sometimes felt as imposed by the so-called “Brussels” people (eurocrats we often hear), some menace to be ready to leave the family, some actually will leave, unfortunately, very soon .
However, when problems are faced, even many of the lukewarm or sceptical Europeans swiftly call for Europe to step in and find a solution. Many do not know that welcomed solutions found in the past and actually adopted at national level could only be tackled properly at European level… … In fact the other day I read an article on the local press announcing the coming into force, in a very important country for this region across the ocean, of a piece of legislation introducing the current highest standard of data protection for the citizens. It is a very necessary level of privacy protection required by the citizens as made clear by the recent scandal involving the company Cambridge Analytica and the profiling of Facebook users. Well I smiled at the news as presented because this is actually the EU General Data Protection Regulation entering into force this month introducing a set of data protection rules for all companies operating in the EU, wherever they are based.
Luckily for many, Europe is much more than a label on a product or the Euro banknote in the wallet. For many Europe is the feeling of freedom in a space where to study, work, live, express oneself and be protected by very high quality standards from food and drugs control to environmental;public goods in general; freedom of expression and human rights protection irrespective of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Europe, particularly evidently when looked at from far away is a much more inclusive and cohesive society than one realises while living in it!
The EU has anchored itself in the values of solidarity, openness, dialogue, multilateralism, in respect of international rule of law and in support of the UN system. It is not easy to reach the level of integration and common action among 28Countries, unfortunately soon 27. Indeed we share centuries of history and common values but we also have different pointsof view and priorities…Not to mention the ever challenging waves of populism and nationalism that come and (hopefully) go when times get tough and discontent at national level grows. The difficulties we have been facing in dealing with the immigration emergencies in these last years and the need to revise our asylum policy and improve it, based on the principles of solidarity and burden sharing, is an example in point of how complex the process of integration is. Still the ultimate values of the EU and something that we always need to keep in mind is the resilience and perseverance with which we build our house ..using one special tool: dialogue, dialogue and dialogue.
I think that this is our brand mark and we know how precious dialogue is. We need to remind ourselves again and again from where we come and how we managed to build peace and prosperity; how this so-to say genetic imprinting of ours has to characterize how we place and act in the international order, beyond the past imperialisms or past colonialisms of some of our members (including my own country of origin).
We are not necessarily always “the good fellah”…we are not naive: we obviously defend our own interests in the world economy but we can honestly claim that the European construction offers us the transparency, accountable way to confront ourselves all the time, where and what we stand for.
With our Caribbean partners, as I always like to reiterate, the European Union is a stable, reliable partner. We do not make too much noise about our substantial cooperation with the region (with the Caribbean only we are currently implementing one billion Euro of cooperation grants). The EU and the EU MS combined are by far the first ODA providers.
All the cooperation sourced from the EU via the EDF programmes has not been subject to the so-called graduation process…We know the challenges faced by the Caribbean Countries, in particular those that are SIDS. We know the vulnerabilities and challenges faced in keeping up with standards and ever increasing level of competition in a world that becomes more and more complex, the SIDS being mostly victims and not originators of the challenges faced.
We understand that. We are at a crossroad: how do we want to shape our relation in the future? Can we keep our modus operandi unchanged?
It feel like yesterday when last year we were here for the same celebration but …looking at the last 12 months, what the world had to suffer from, what the Caribbean had to live through….
I am proud to share with you that beyond emergency support the EU is contributing to the reconstruction of Dominica (11 M €), Barbuda (5 M €), DRR and preparedness CDEMA (11 M€) additional 4M€ in preparedness via our ECHO office, A regional resilience Fund 30M€, additional support to SKN also affected in the last hurricane season and in need to strengthen resilience (2.6M€) addition to our support to BVI, Anguilla, Cuba, DR…..
At regional level we cooperate with many of the regional agencies like CDEMA, Caribbean Export, CROSQ just to mention a few , via CDB or other agencies and we support the secretariat of Cariforum to harmonise regulation and work on the integration agenda. Our main areas of support are regional integration and sustainable development, renewable energy and environment, citizen security. I can assure you that with our partners we are sparing no effort to make this cooperation felt at national level by the operators of the private sector, by the layman and laywoman in the street. The EIB is channelling 170 M€ of soft loans via the CDB in mitigation and adaptation to CC and to green the economy beside providing soft loans to both private and public sector to improve infrastructures in the region. Not always we manage to communicate and make our huge presence here as visible as it should.
We pledged 300M€ at the regional conference in NY last November, a mix of new/fresh funds and reprioritisation of already available funds to reconstruct and make the region more resilient. We made progress…but I do not hide my concern about yet another hurricane season approaching.
And like for the preparedness to the hurricane season how better off are we in getting prepared for the global challenges we face?
A colleague of mine recently suggested to me a quotation for an intervention I made at a regional event we hosted here in Barbados a few weeks ago: the quotation was from Yuri Gagarin and I quote
“Looking at the earth from afar you realize it is too small for conflict and just big enough for cooperation“.
And I add for each one according to ones’ means, for each one according to ones’ responsibilities. We have been honouring our responsibilities.
In August this year negotiations for the new EU-ACP Agreement (known as Cotonou Agreement) will start. What type of relationship do we want to shape for the post –Cotonou era after 2020?
We know what we want : a strengthened relationship with the Caribbean Countries on a peers basis, always acknowledging the particular vulnerabilities of our partners as SIDS but at the same time acknowledging the challenges at world level and the essential need to strengthen our political dialogue as peers. It is true that the EU is raising the bar in dealing with issues related to tax avoidance and incentives considered aggressively unfriendly hindering revenues generation, by the way both in Europe and in the countries applying it, on money laundering or on financing of terrorism. This is an inevitable trend that we had better face. But we need to have a proper dialogue with our partners. I am glad to announce that by the end of this month a technical delegation from Brussels will host a 2 day intensive dialogue with our partners of the region in T&T exactly on these issues tackling in detail tax jurisdiction.
With Barbados we have a strong partnership that we treasure. Our past support to the education sector and the private sector development (I mention the rum industry, among many) have been recognised again again. Our current main support programme focuses on renewable energies. Without hinting at any political consideration infringing in the election campaign period, please allow me to express our appreciation for the level of cooperation granted to us in particular by the Ministry of FA and in particular the Minister and the head of protocol and his office, by the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and small business development, by the Ministry of Energy, within the Office of the PM.
We wish all the Barbadians a serene election campaign. We look forward to our continued cooperation with the Government and the peoples of Barbados.
Before I close let me make an announcement and a fewspecial thanks.
The announcement is that next week we launch our 10thedition of the European FF! 2 weeks of movies from 11 European Countries, free of charge at the Olympus Theatres, Sheraton Mall, from 16 to 29 May. In a special tribute to a great soul and mind that just left this planet, Stephen Hawking, we are also showing the Theory of Everything a biographical film on professor Hawking at Copacabana on 17 May. Thanks to the UK HC for making an effort to source the movie for us to enjoy. Please come and attend to this special edition of the FF. It is worth it.
BTW for those interested tonight we are going to screen a movie not shown at the FF, after the programme offered by our amazing bands. The movie, actually a captivating documentary titled “Europe at sea” is about the challenges Europe face in the foreign and security domain and how has been dealing with them. I am sure you will find it interesting
Finally my Special thanks go:
1)To the he Barbados Community College, the members of the steel pan band and symphonic band, the invaluable Roger Gittens and director Pernell Farley. Thank you!
2) To the EIB, actively present in the region through the dynamic and very cooperative colleague Floris physically located in the premises of our delegation here in BBD. The EIB has also contributed to the “booze” we can enjoy tonight.Thank you!
3) I would like to thank my amazing colleagues working at the Delegation here in Barbados. A real dream team. We have a multi-cultural team featuring colleagues from A&B, Guyana, Jamaica, SL, Trinidad, and Barbados (of course!), and Belgians, French, Germans, Italians, Polish, Portuguese, Romanians, Spanish and Swedish. Quite a melting pot, in true tune with our multicultural open and dialogue –prone spirit. I am proud of you and want to thank you for your amazing work! Special thanks go to the team that made this event possible, Natalie, Waynes, Marguerite, Delvin, Dwayne and Stephen.
4) To the Barbadians peoples and government for hosting us in this beautiful Country. We look forward to building a stronger and stronger relationship in the future. Thank you!