Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Hon. Gaston Browne, yesterday continued his diplomatic outreach and engagement with members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on issues affecting Antigua and Barbuda’s national interest, as he held a virtual meeting with Hon. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, a member of the Greens/European Alliance Group.
Ms. Herzberger-Fofana is a member of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Cariforum-EU Parliamentary Committee (DCAR) which monitors the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the fifteen CARIFORM member states. The institutional structures established by the EPA include the CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee which serves as a forum for MEPs and parliamentarians from CARIFORUM countries to meet and exchange views. The CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee has thirty (30) members.
Prime Minister Browne began the meeting by calling for an enhanced dialogue between the EU and CARIFORUM members in order for the EU side to be fully briefed on the real issues affecting the smallest of the CARIFORUM members. He pointed out that the OECS countries require special attention because of their small size and the structural disadvantages which make them especially vulnerable. He introduced the idea of special and differential treatment by the EU for the OECS members of CARIFORUM.
Prime Minister Browne gave a brief outline of the state of the economies in the Eastern Caribbean which highlighted the fiscal pressure that many countries were under, especially since the onset of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The problem of de-risking by banks in the region was highlighted by Prime Minister Browne and he emphasized the need for both sides to work together to mitigate the risks posed by this development.
MEP Herzberger-Fofana, who was born in Mali but is a citizen of Germany, expressed her support for issues of climate resilience, with which the CARIFORUM was struggling. As a member of the Greens party in Germany, she said that her party was a natural ally in the fight for climate resilience; and that CARIFORUM members would get a sympathetic hearing from MEPs on the issue of climate justice. Prime Minister Browne said that he was hopeful that the conversation would also include the question of climate funding for mitigation and adaptation to allow CARIFORUM members to effectively transition to green energy.
Prime Minister Browne also took the opportunity to make the case for the CIP programmes being operated by various OECS Member States.
“The fact of the matter is that our CIPs represent not only debt-free foreign investment but significant public revenue of between 15-40%, without which the state itself would be endangered.”
Prime Minister Browne went on to outline the importance of the EU Schengen visa-free travel arrangements to the CIP programmes of the CARIFORUM region, and he urged the EU to engage in an open dialogue with members in order to avoid adverse and unintended consequences from EU policy choices. The damage to OECS economies and societies from such EU action, he pointed out, would be catastrophic.
On the issue of so-called ‘offshore tax jurisdictions’, Prime Minister Browne was emphatic that unilateral EU sanctions on CARIFORUM members that they deem ‘non-compliant’ was not the way to go. Instead, he urged dialogue and technical assistance for the smallest CARIFORUM states to address whatever legislative and policy deficiencies may be identified.
The Prime Minister also extended an official invitation to MEP Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana to visit Antigua and Barbuda in the near future to see the conditions on the ground at the inter-face between EU policies and regional development. The parliamentarian responded that she was fully vaccinated and ready to go.