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Monday, May 15, 2006 

Caribbean welcomes Spain’s support
Monday May 15 2006

MADRID, Spain (CMC) – Spain is offering to assist in establishing the Regional Development Fund (RDF) considered as a key element in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Madrid has also taken its first step towards becoming a member of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) by contributing to its special development fund.
St. Lucia Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, Caricom’s immediate past chairman, welcomed the initiatives announced during the third Caricom-Spain summit that ended in Spain last Thursday.

Anthony said he hoped the discussions would be advanced to enable Spain to become a member of the CDB as soon as possible.

Caricom countries have agreed to establish the US$250 million RDF to assist disadvantaged member states fully participate in the CSME that will allow for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the region.

Caricom Secretary-General Edwin Carrington as well as the Caribbean leaders expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the two-day summit.

Carrington described the meeting as “the most productive and valuable of all.”

Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero told an end of summit news conference that the discussions were fruitful and friendly and he expressed the hope that Caricom would consider Spain a privileged friend.

During the summit, Spain expressed a willingness to assist Caricom in its approach to the wider European Union (EU) with respect to the issues regarding banana and sugar.

St Vincent & the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who has lead responsibility for bananas within Caricom, had outlined the difficulties encountered by the region in its attempts to access, in a timely manner, the funds agreed by Europe under the Special Framework Assistance (SFA).

The SFA is intended to help offset the dislocations in those countries suffering from the adjustment of the EU’s banana regime as imposed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Gonsalves said though the funds had been agreed to since 2001 and the region had met all the procedures required, to date no money had been disbursed to the region.

St. Kitts/Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas told the summit that the EU must maintain the level of assistance promised to the sugar producing countries affected by the EU’s changes to the long-standing Sugar Protocol.

Douglas said the original sum of US$244.6 million had been decreased to US$167.6 million and suggested that resources could be tapped from unallocated funds under the ninth European Development Fund (EDF).

The prime minister also insisted that the funding should be “front loaded” to expedite the required economic restructuring.

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