CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque accepted the Letters of Credence in a simple handing over ceremony in his office at the Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana.
In an exchange of views following the ceremony, Ambassador LaRocque said the accreditation demonstrated the continued strong relations between CARICOM and France, and referred to the applications for Associate Membership of CARICOM by French Departments: French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
For his part, Ambassador Prom conveyed his appreciation for being accepted as the latest Ambassador of France to the Caribbean Community family. He said that strengthening the “long and strategic partnership” was imperative, given the large community of Caribbean people in France and in its Departments.
“It would be a pity if our people don’t have a focus on working together, not only for regional concerns like security but other bilateral matters,” the Ambassador said. He added that CARICOM’s consideration of French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique for Associate Membership could provide the avenue for more direct participation.
In this context, Secretary-General LaRocque recalled the exchange of views between the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM and His Excellency Serge Letchimy, President of the Regional Council of Martinique, during the 25th Intercessional Meeting of the Conference in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where the issue of Associate Membership was considered. He informed that with specific regard to the French Departments; the Community was in the process of understanding various constitutional arrangements to allow for a dialogue in the not too distant future.
Ambassador LaRocque expressed the hope that France would consider resuming its non-borrowing membership of the CDB as part of its interface with the Region. He noted that another area of cooperation was continuing training in the French language, which would further strengthen relations not only with France and its Departments, but also with CARICOM’s French Speaking Member State, Haiti.
Given France’s increasing influence in the European Union (EU), the Secretary-General sought its advocacy on behalf of CARICOM with regard to EU’s policy of graduating middle income countries from concessionary financing. He told the newly accredited Ambassador that at a time when some countries of the Caribbean were feeling the effects of the international financial crisis, the Region was concerned that access to development funding was premised on the assumption that GDP per capita was an appropriate measure for development. This policy, he added, fails to consider the vulnerabilities of small states particularly that they are open to the vagaries of international shocks and the disastrous effects of climate change.
As CARICOM and France consider future cooperation, Ambassador LaRocque said that the year ahead offers many opportunities. He signalled the Region’s interest in engaging on issues pertaining to trade in respect of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM).
The Secretary-General also noted that closer cooperation could be explored through existing relations between the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and the Caribbean Animal Health Network (CaribVET), in relation to the management of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Systems.