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PM Pierre Refutes Opposition’s Claims about European Trip

“I was never summoned to Brussels”

By Reginald Andrew

 Prime Minister Philip J Pierre has refuted statements made by the opposition claiming that he was summoned to Brussels in connection with the Citizen by Investment Programme (CIP).

Primarily, the purpose of this trip was to dialogue with the European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament on matters relating to international migration.

Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet, last week, said the opposition had “been reliably informed” that Pierre was summoned “due to serious concerns about the operation of this Programme.”

Updating reporters on his trip, the prime minister (who travelled to Brussels, Belgium from April 7 to 12) said he attended several bilateral meetings with the EU representatives. He said the meeting with the EU officials focused on “their proposed changes to Visa Free travel in the Schengen Visa-Free Regime” and how these potential changes would impact countries with investor citizenship programmes, like Saint Lucia.

“I was never summoned to Europe…Europe has no problems with us,” the prime minister declared. He said that it is the current St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration that negotiated the Visa Free Access issue.

PM Pierre said the meeting with the EU legislators was planned a month in advance.

“I wanted to speak to the EU (representatives) face- to-face and explain to them the rigorous due diligence undertaken by our CIP,” he explained.

Added PM Pierre: “I wanted to speak to the EU before my government signs Saint Lucia to any Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Citizen by Investment with our Caribbean neighbours.”

Prime Minister Philip J Pierre

Contrary to opposing views, he said Saint Lucia participated in all the discussions held overseas.

“There is no agreement with the European Union, again this is a falsity of the leader of the opposition,” said he. “There is a Memorandum of Agreement between the countries involved in the CIP, (and) not an agreement with the EU, or anybody else. The only agreement that we have is with the American government.”

He said the US government has proposed six points to follow relating to the CIP issue, and Saint Lucia has been adhering to all these factors. “This is a Memorandum of Agreement among the countries in the region who have CIPs, not with the European government that is not true.”

The PM stated that Saint Lucia is following all the requirements provided in the MOA.  He said the country’s position on this matter is that, “we need to complete the contractual agreement that we have with investors before we sign on to any price changes.

“Incidentally, these price changes were done by the Leader of the Opposition when he was the Minister of Finance …he was the one who initiated these price changes,” the prime minister contended. “He is the one who removed …that anyone who wanted to get involved in our CIP had to have a net worth of USD3million. He is the one who removed the benchmark that we could only have 500 CIP citizens every year.”

PM Pierre also recalled that it was Chastanet and his cabinet colleagues that setup an Escrow Account overseas. An escrow is defined as a deed, a bond, money, or a piece of property held in trust by a third party to be turned over to the grantee only upon fulfillment of a condition.

Commenting on the Brussels trip, the prime minister said, “These meetings were extremely productive and I got valuable insights into the challenges of both illegal and legal migration, which is confronting the European Union in the leadup to the parliamentary elections in June, this year. The fact is, the proposal from the EU Commission must be passed by the European Parliament and that has not happened.”

He continued, “The proposal states that the CIP (status) is one of the reasons added to the other four that we can lose visa access…and that has not been voted upon by the European Parliament.”

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