An EU-Caribbean partnership for growth, stability and development
This strategy promotes a strong partnership between the European Union (EU) and the Caribbean on development, poverty, democracy, human rights and global threats to peace, security and stability. The Commission wishes to shape a political partnership based on shared values to take advantage of the Caribbean region’s economic and environmental opportunities and promote social cohesion.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee of 2 March 2006 entitled “EU-Caribbean partnership for growth, stability and development” [COM(2006) 86 final – Official Journal C 104, 3 May 2006].
The overarching objective of the EU’s development strategy is to help all the countries in the Caribbean region achieve their long-term development goals in a self-sustaining manner and join the ranks of the developed states by 2020, when the current Cotonou Agreement expires.
The Caribbean faces a number of challenges, one of which is to build a well-balanced relationship with different partners in the Americas, in particular the United States, Brazil and Venezuela, that respects the interests of the small island states.
The EU supports the creation of a regional unit in the Caribbean, with CARICOM to encourage integration and CARIFORUM* to encourage cooperation. A second objective is to develop links between the Caribbean and the wider region, including Central and Latin America. To encourage the smooth integration of the region into the world economy, the EU will focus on the strategic EU-LAC (Latin American and Caribbean) partnership.
Bold leadership initiatives are also required if the region is to tackle its socio-economic and environmental challenges. The insular nature of most of the Caribbean acts as a brake on integration efforts and has adverse effects on the cost of energy, transport, communications and trade. To varying degrees, all the countries in the region remain vulnerable to both economic and natural shocks and face common socio-economic and environmental challenges, including climate change and management of natural resources. Countries such as Haiti, Guyana and some OECS* countries face significant poverty, unemployment, migration and brain drain, a high rate of HIV/AIDS, high levels of indebtedness and the need for economic reforms and for a restructuring of the public sector.
The communication highlights how the challenges facing the Caribbean can be transformed into opportunities. To achieve this, the EU is proposing action on three main fronts: shaping a political partnership based on shared values; addressing economic and environmental vulnerabilities and promoting social cohesion; and combating poverty.
A political partnership based on common values
The development of a strong political partnership between the EU and the Caribbean is a central plank in the EU’s Caribbean strategy. A political partnership focusing in particular on good and effective governance is the key to the consolidation of democracy, respect for human rights, improvements in gender equality, social cohesion, security, stability, conflict prevention, action on migration, the fight against drugs and regional integration.
Against the background of enhanced dialogue, the EU will prioritise its relations with CARIFORUM and LAC in order to move forward on issues of common concern. It will systematically support parliaments, the judicial system and public financial management systems, which are vital to ensure good governance. It will also promote transparency and information exchange in order to combat corruption, financial irregularities and corporate malpractices.
Addressing economic and environmental vulnerabilities
In an increasingly interdependent and globalised world, one major objective of EU development policy is to help developing countries reap greater benefit from the globalisation process. It is important to develop a viable economic model for the region. With this in mind, the EU will support regional integration efforts in the Caribbean and help boost competitiveness, diversify exports and establish regional markets. The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) process will play a crucial role in achieving these goals.
The environment and natural resources constitute an important asset for the Caribbean and, particularly, the poorest part of the local population. Caribbean states currently face many environmental problems, all of which impact strongly on the region’s economic and social development. These include land degradation, deforestation, scarce water resources, fish stocks management, biodiversity loss, waste and toxic chemical management and climate change.
The EU will help boost the region’s capacity for natural disaster management at all levels, with emphasis on risk reduction, preparedness, early warning, prevention and mitigation.
Promoting social cohesion and combating poverty
The EU will work together with the Caribbean to combat chronic poverty and improve stable basic livelihoods. Efforts will focus on, among other things, support for national social safety nets and activities that generate income for the poorest sections of the population.
Action against HIV/AIDS and other endemic diseases remains a priority in the region. To pursue this line, the Union aims to strengthen health care systems, with special emphasis on human resources and fair access to care. In the drugs field, the focus will be on education, awareness-raising, training and coordination between institutions so that a prevention-based approach is given priority.
To tackle real local problems such as brain drain, socio-economic alienation and weak social cohesion, the Union will work on developing a key mechanism that provides individuals with the skills base and know-how to take advantage of economic diversification.
Being more effective
The EU and the Caribbean countries must act together to build a more structured cooperation that reduces the risk of insufficient coherence and complementarity and of cumbersome procedures generated by the existence of a large number of small projects.
Regional and national aid strategies should be more coherent and mutually reinforcing. At national level, EU assistance will rest on a single national development strategy encompassing all Community instruments, including the European Development Fund (EDF), special funding for bananas, sugar, rice and rum, and all other Commission budget lines and facilities. At regional level, it will draw on the Regional Development Fund.
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