The meeting addressed a number of issues of critical concern to the OECS and its Member States including (inter alia):
- key developments in the international arena;
- negotiations between the African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP) and the European Union (EU) on a new relationship to come into effect in 2020;
- the financial blacklisting of OECS Member States (and others) by the EU as “non-cooperative tax jurisdictions”;
- the progressive enlargement of the OECS;
- strategic joint diplomatic and commercial engagement in specified jurisdictions; and
- OECS climate action within the ambit of the United Nations Framework and beyond.
In welcoming participants to the meeting, the Commission’s Head of International Relations, Ambassador Anthony Severin noted that the international geopolitical environment had become increasingly intense and complex, and that it had continued to engage the full attention of members of the Council.
He noted further that
"Developments in the hemisphere, in Latin America and particularly in Venezuela had served to severely test the region’s capacity to satisfy a key treaty objective of the OECS, namely foreign policy coordination and harmonization."
He opined that the capacity for foreign policy coordination and harmonization went to the heart of the region’s integration effort and that notwithstanding the sovereign character of our individual member states, it is a capacity which we must strive continuously to strengthen if we are to successfully navigate the profoundly complex…geopolitical landscape.
The Commission’s Head of International Relations reminded delegates that
“As practitioners in the field of international relations and diplomacy we have a responsibility to foster engagement – to develop and promote structured approaches to engagement among ourselves and with the rest of the world; we have a responsibility, notwithstanding our small size, to encourage, to promote and to champion multilateralism over unilateral action, and international law over the extraterritorial application of domestic law”.
He saw these responsibilities as deriving from “a proud and shared history that teaches us that we too have a contribution to make to global civilisation, and that this contribution is not only valid, but both rich and profound”.
Representing the Outgoing Chair, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Ambassador Felix Gregoire noted that the work of the Ministerial Council was critical to achieving the mandates of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, and expressed satisfaction with the achievements of the OECS in the area of international relations, particularly in the establishment of a resident diplomatic presence in Africa; and in the continued enlargement of the Organisation’s membership, with the recent accession of Guadeloupe to associate membership of the Organisation, and the transition of St Martin from Observer status to Associate Membership in the coming months.
The incoming Chair of the Council, the Honourable Peter David considered the full and high-level participation of Member States at the Fifth Meeting of the Council to be an expression of the “individual and collective commitment to integration and cooperation for the betterment of our peoples”.
He opined that
The Council has ushered “a new era of bilateral and regional cooperation in Caribbean relations” through its work, and saw it as providing “powerful impetus for building a stronger OECS community”.
The Incoming Chair expressed the expectation that
"The deliberations of the Council would lay the foundation and set the tone for meaningfully addressing some of the significant issues that are crucial to our nations’ development”.
He singled out in particular, climate change and better access to climate finance, the development of renewable energy sources, agriculture and food security, the promotion of science and technology, and the enhancement of air and sea connectivity. He urged the Council to work to strengthen the OECS and to “make (its) voice heard in the international domain”.
The Fifth Meeting of the OECS Council of Ministers: Foreign Affairs (COMFA) reaffirmed its commitment to remain engaged on the major issues of concern to the Organisation and its Member States at the global, hemispheric and regional levels, and to work toward their resolution in the interest of the region.