Monday, May 22, 2017 — OECS Ministers of Foreign Affairs concluded a successful meeting of the Council of Ministers – Foreign Affairs on May 17, 2017 in Barbados, under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Charles Fernandez, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Immigration of Antigua and Barbuda.
All members of the Council save one were represented at Ministerial level, with the exception at the level of Ambassador/Commissioner.
The meeting took place against the backdrop of profound and dramatic changes taking place at the global, hemispheric and regional levels, and addressed a packed agenda covering a wide range of matters of critical import to Member States.
These include (inter alia) the participation of the OECS in regional and international fora, relations with the UK and the EU post Brexit, relations with the EU post 2020, the status and future of the ACP, CELAC as a platform for engagement, and the development of institutional capacity in international relations and diplomacy within Member States.
In welcoming participants to the meeting, Head of the Commission’s International Relations Division, Amb. Anthony Severin encouraged the Council to be engaged in order to share regional perspective, to facilitate and benefit from the sharing of information and ideas, and to facilitate planning for collective action.
Amb. Severin urged the Council to be vigilant, particularly where developments and changed circumstances presented uncertainties and challenges that threatened to either reverse hard won gains or deny opportunity to Member States. He further challenged members of the Council to strive to create a culture of engagement at all levels.
In a similar vein, the incoming Chair of the Council pointed to the necessity for policy harmonization and coordinated action even while recognising the legitimate individual needs of Member States. In this regard, he reminded participants of the provisions in the Revised Treaty of Basseterre regarding the pursuit of “the fullest possible harmonisation of foreign policy among Member States”, and the adoption “wherever possible” of “common positions on international issues…”
The incoming Chair further exhorted Member States to work toward greater cohesiveness in respect of their participation in regional and international groupings.
The Third Meeting of the Council of Ministers – Foreign Affairs was underscored by a purposeful engagement on the issues under consideration, and a commitment to advance the purposes, functions and objectives of the OECS Economic Union. The Council agreed that the work before it was characterised by great complexity, and that it was necessary to remain continually engaged. In that connection, it mandated the Commission and Member States to prepare the groundwork to facilitate such engagement through the mechanism of the revived Working Group on Foreign Affairs which had been established in 2009 as a result of mandates issued by the 48th Meeting of the OECS Authority. The Commission has committed to the early reactivation of the Working Group.