Talks of regional integration took centre stage when Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Valeriano Diaz, paid a farewell courtesy call on Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, yesterday.
With the Foreign Affairs Minister stressing that “CARICOM is not stalled but evolving”, she pointed out that the regional countries “can’t do without each other”.
Noting that resources were critical and that the partners each faced challenges because of the financial recession, she concluded that CARICOM needed to be selective with its priorities so that the region’s people would be recipients of the benefits that are to be derived.
Minister McClean continued: “CARICOM has achieved a lot; some of our biggest concerns are food security, so we need to focus on agriculture, and, as a result, regional maritime transportation is important as this would stimulate greater trade.”
Ambassador Diaz agreed that those areas were critical and identified that investment and citizen interaction were needed if the region expected to see growth in agriculture and regional transportation.
Further pointing out various sources for grant monies, the outgoing envoy noted that most countries could no longer afford to borrow huge sums of money. He added that the Barbados ‘Public Sector Smart Energy Program’ was partially funded through an EU grant as well as the Carriacou project Wind Energy Programme.
Minister McClean expressed gratitude for the role the ambassador played over the past four years as Head of the Delegation of the EU to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. She emphasised that this island and CARICOM recognised that EU support was important to transforming the region’s economies.
Ambassador Diaz will leave the island shortly to take up a new post in Brussels, Europe. (BGIS)