The meeting addressed a number of issues of critical concern to Member States including inter alia, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the health systems and economies of the region; key developments in the European theatre including the unilateral action to blacklist some Member States as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions by the European Union (EU), the status of the post-Cotonou Agreement, negotiated between the EU and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), as well as the Organisation’s joint overseas diplomatic representation in specified jurisdictions. The meeting of the Council acknowledged the increasing complexity of international issues and emphasised the need for the region to address these through the coordination of foreign policy.
In his opening remarks to the Council, the Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules congratulated the incoming Chair, the Hon. Alva Baptiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saint Lucia and assured him of the Commission’s support during his tenure. Dr. Jules acknowledged the contributions of the Outgoing Chair of the Council, the Hon. Mark Brantley, Minster for Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Director General commented on the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the region’s economies. He stressed the need for the region to intensify its vaccination drive and to address the resistance by some populations to inoculation. As regard developments in Europe, the Director General commented on the EU-OACPS successor Agreement to Cotonou and the blacklisting of States by the EU. He emphasized the need for the region to further strengthen the capacity for foreign policy harmonization in efforts to successfully navigate these complex global issues.
The outgoing Chair of the Council, the Hon. Mark Brantley commended the Commission for its efforts over the past year in furthering the mandate of the Organisation, despite the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. He applauded the Economic Union Working Group on Foreign Affairs for its diligence in advancing the agenda of the economic union and in particular the actions taken in the area of foreign policy harmonisation, and the establishment of focus group on critical financial matters in the international sphere.
In assuming the Chairmanship of the Council, the Honourable Alva Baptiste, noted the current issues of interest to the region, including the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the EU-OACPS Agreement post Cotonou, the deepening of the region’s relations with Latin America, and the need to expand the region’s diplomatic outreach globally. In his remarks, Minister Baptiste stated;
“We must ensure that our foreign policy matures in a manner consistent with our national and regional evolution, and that we create and implement nothing less than a strategic and targeted foreign policy agenda that brings direct benefits to every Member State”.
The Chair expressed gratitude to the Outgoing Chair for his stewardship of the Council over the past year and for the gains accomplished. He also thanked the Director General and staff of the Commission for their invaluable contribution. In closing, the Chair urged the support of all in advancing the OECS foreign policy agenda.
The Seventh Meeting of the OECS Council of Ministers: Foreign Affairs (COMFA) affirmed its commitment to remain engaged, as the need arises, on issues of concern to Member States and the Organisation at the global, hemispheric and regional levels.