CASTRIES, St Lucia — Thursday, August 1, 2013, marked two years since Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) heads of government declared that people of the OECS region can move freely throughout the OECS Economic Union, which was established by the Revised Treaty of Basseterre.
Through this regime, arrangements are being enhanced for OECS citizens to enjoy free movement throughout the six independent member states of the OECS and, most recently, Montserrat.
Chairman of the OECS Authority, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda Baldwin Spencer, said the free movement of nationals is important to the development of one economic space among the OECS member states.
“It is extremely important that if we are going to be integrating this region and creating a single economic space for the benefit of the people of the region then they ought to be able to move freely up and down the OECS and it is a critical component of the Economic Union,” Spencer said.
The arrangements agreed by member states to give effect to the Revised Treaty of Basseterre are for persons to enter the participating member states without hindrance and remain for an indefinite period in order to work, establish businesses; provide services or to reside.
There is a solid commitment among the member states to have persons enjoy free movement throughout the OECS Economic Union.
The OECS chairman noted that participating OECS member states are working towards ensuring that the necessary processes and mechanisms such as legal documentation are in place to firmly buttress the free movement arrangement.
“I have to say that everything is not fully in place in every member state to give full and total effect to it. So that is work in progress and I think all of us will be getting there sooner rather than later but as of now the movement of OECS nationals up and down the OECS is pretty much in place… and for all intents and purposes it is moving forward,” Spencer explained.
Elma Gene Isaac heads the OECS Secretariat’s Regional Integration Unit (RIU), which coordinates activities regarding the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the OECS Economic Union.
Isaac noted that member states are at different stages of implementation of the legislative and administrative requirements regarding the free movement of the OECS nationals.
“We have three member states which have completed their legislative and administrative work in its entirety. We have others that are at different stages, they may need to pass one or two pieces of legislation,” she said.
Isaac added that there may be a country that has not yet done the work in respect of its laws for immigration, but is facilitating the movement of OECS Citizens administratively. She also noted the case of two member states in which the matter of indefinite stay regarding the free movement of OECS nationals is not yet in effect.
The finalization of arrangements will naturally enhance confidence and participation thereby reducing difficulties encountered by persons seeking to enjoy the privileges associated with the free movement of OECS nationals as stipulated in the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, which took effect on January 21st 2011.
Gaston Browne, parliamentary opposition leader, was part of Antigua and Barbuda’s delegation to the first official sitting of the OECS Assembly in March 2013. During the debate on the motion on the challenges to the free movement of persons within the OECS Economic Union, he emphasized the importance of leaders being fully committed to the free movement of OECS nationals and the advancement of the OECS integration process through the common services and the multiple sub-institutions of the OECS Authority. The opposition leader expressed the confidence that OECS nationals want to move freely and have the will to become one people with a common destiny.
Ambassador Ellsworth John of St Vincent and the Grenadines reported that the Ambassadors of the Member States manage and report on the implementation of arrangements that sustain and enhance the value of the OECS Economic Union.
John, who also chairs the OECS Free Movement Committee, said, “What we are trying to do is to be able to measure how many persons have actually moved and the impact that the movement is having on the member states.”
John suggested that the people of the OECS want the free movement regime to take full effect. He has also suggested the need for the publication of statistical data that will guide persons who are keen on utilizing the free movement regime.
In observance of the second year since the implementation of arrangements for the free movement of people across the OECS Economic Union, the OECS Secretariat has rolled out a video production of the first official sitting of the OECS Assembly, which was held at the Assembly’s headquarters on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, in St John’s, Antigua.
The OECS was established by the Treaty of Basseterre on 18 June 1981. The nine member states are: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.
The OECS member states with the exception of the British Virgin Islands share a single currency, the Eastern Caribbean or EC dollar. Institutions of the OECS Organisation include the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority. The OECS Secretariat, the administrative arm of the regional grouping, facilitates cost-effective joint or coordinated approaches by member states to meet the needs of the people of the region in responding to the demands of a rapidly changing international economic environment.