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Monday, May 15, 2006 



More EU support - Caribbean nations to get increased budgetary aid
published: Monday May 15, 2006

John Myers Jr., Agriculture Coordinator

VIENNA, Austria:

THE EUROPEAN Union (EU) has agreed to release billions more in budgetary aid to Caribbean countries, but has stressed that the region must demonstrate its commitment to achieving integration in order to benefit from the increased aid package.

The EU's president, José Manuel Barroso, made the announcement on Saturday following a meeting with heads of state and government represen-tatives of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on the conclusion of the fourth European Union/Latin America and Caribbean Summit in Vienna, Austria.

He, however, could not say how much would be reallocated as he explained that the final amount had not yet been finalised.

"Our friends of the Caribbean were asking for a possible reallocation of funds and I am happy to say that in the next few days our CARICOM partners will receive a formal letter accepting the reallocation of almost all the amount that was under discussion regarding the ninth EDF (Euro-pean Union Development Fund)," Mr. Barroso said in a statement to the media. The ninth EDF is valued at ¤57 million.

The EU president said it will also increase the allocations under the 10th EDF, for which the amount is to be signed tomorrow.

This allocation will be for the next seven years.

He noted that in the meeting with Caribbean heads of govern-ment and other representatives, the EU pledged to put in place mechanisms to fast-track the disbursement of funds, while placing more emphasis on direct budgetary support to allow for greater accountability.

A SUCCESS FOR THE REGION

The EU will be holding a special meeting with Caribbean countries at the senior official level in St. Kitts-Nevis in October to further discuss the new agreements reached at the Vienna Summit.

This will be followed by another meeting in Panama to discuss renewable energy resources at the regional level.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Anthony Hylton, who represented Jamaica at the summit, welcomed the EU's decision and described the event as a success for the region. But he stressed that portions of this aid would only be available if the region moves towards full integration and this would have to be paramount in the development plans of governments.

"Coming out of this declaration one thing that has become increasingly clear ... they would wish that in their engagement with the rest of the world, including the Caribbean, in order for them to assist them regional integration is the only option," he pointed out.

"If we (Caribbean) decide that we want to go it alone ... we won't have the support of Europe in the continued restructuring our society and our economy that Europe is now offering on the basis that we take the steps that they recommend and deem necessary," he added.

Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who spoke on behalf of CARICOM, described the agreement as an important decision by the EU in assisting CARICOM countries meeting changes in global trade, while at the same attending to its own domestic issues.

Prime Minister Gonsalves also said he expects the amount to be reallocated to be known within the next month.

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