Friday

24th May 2019

Opinion

Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

  • Then EU-commissioner Georgieva Kristalina in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, which killed at least 100,000 (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

This month ministers and officials from across the Caribbean assembled in Jamaica to discuss the future of our collective relationship with the European Union.

This was the latest in a series of forums that have taken place in the past eighteen months, all with the aim of working toward a bolstered agreement that will further integrate our political and economic interests.

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The current African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) agreement with the EU was signed in 2000 in Cotonou, Benin.

The eponymous agreement was designed to establish a comprehensive partnership, focused on three pillars: development cooperation, political cooperation, and economic and trade cooperation.

It has been successful in many areas, but the time has come to renew its purpose and for fresh engagement among our nations.

Much has changed over the past two decades for Caribbean nations as well as the EU.

While in 2000 there were only 15 member states of the EU, there are now 28, which has radically changed the dynamic of the Union's influence in the world.

The global threats we share have also shifted.

Climate change, for example, which poses unmeasurable risk to the Caribbean, is a fight which is more urgent now than ever before.

Haiti

My country, Haiti, is on the front line of that fight.

A new agreement must, and I am confident will, take into account the context of the unfolding challenges we face as a global community, as well as anticipate those that may occur in the future.

My confidence in that process is born by the exhibited commitment of ACP EU states to both the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.

In 2017, when the process for negotiating a new deal began, it was agreed that there should be a stronger emphasis on the individual needs of the different regions.

After all Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean have different climates, cultures and economies.

For the Caribbean there are very specific areas we are keen to develop, including on climate change, security, education, human rights, strengthening of democratic institutions and social mobility.

African and Pacific partners will have their own specific needs that render a bespoke partnership essential.

In Haiti, we are determined to utilise this opportunity to highlight the importance of using any future multilateral agreement to support our economy's development and that of others in our neighbourhood.

Haiti's tribulations over the past ten years have been well documented.

We have faced more humanitarian crises in the last decade than many nations will have faced in a century and our people have suffered immeasurably.

Sustainable economic advancement is the only pathway to providing a better life for our citizens.

February 2020 deadline

And the new ACP–EU agreement can play a key role in that, helping to drive investment to nations, like ours, that not only need it most, but also offer bountiful commercial opportunities.

The government of Haiti is focused on forging a new place in the world.

We have taken significant steps forward domestically, building the nationwide infrastructure that will make a modern economy possible, carrying out crucial structural and systematic reforms to our public and private sectors, and lowering unemployment.

This government has secured record levels of foreign direct investment, ushering in a new era of funding and opportunities, but our road to recovery from the catastrophic earthquake in 2010 and the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2017 requires a herculean effort from the Haitian government, people and the further financial engagement from the international community.

Initiatives like the ACP–EU agreement acknowledge the need for inclusive growth and the shared benefits to be had by the wider global community once the economies of developing nations are in a position to grow and prosper.

We are an ambitious country and an ambitious region, and our aim is to shift away from aid dependence as swiftly as possible – a transition that will be made possible with the influx of profitable investment from our international partners.

And in a place like Haiti, which needs to radically improve entire infrastructure systems, build new cities, boost tourism and expand across all sectors, there is an unparalleled level and breadth of opportunity for European firms, should they grasp it.

The new ACP – EU agreement needs to be signed by February 2020, and my hope is that this iteration takes into account the contextual changes that impact the world in which we all live today, as well as the benefits that come from creating shared economic growth among the agreement's would-be signees.

Let's make a plan that will create something big for us all.

Author bio

Bocchit Edmond is the foreign affairs minister of Haiti.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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