(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Finland’s Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), His Excellency Kim Luotonen, on Friday presented his credentials to CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
At the ceremony held at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, Ambassador Luotonen held up the integration movement as a good example of the importance of cooperating and working together to advance the Region’s interests. He hailed the Community’s efforts at advancing the economic and commercial interests of its Member States and Associate Members, while recognizing the challenges of small states in becoming influential players in economic and commercial exchange.
The Ambassador pointed out that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed between the European Union – of which Finland is a member – and CARIFORUM, has brought the Community into close cooperation with the EU on “a heavier footing” than if each country acted alone. Finland, the Ambassador said, wanted to continue as an “active partner within that regional framework” to advance common interests as well as to support those who needed assistance to catch up with the stronger ones.
While its cooperation activities are undertaken by the EU, Finland has a long history of supporting the meteorological work in the Caribbean in the areas of capacity-building and provision of equipment and software. It has contributed in excess of 20 million euros to the reconstruction of Haiti and is working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to finance the reform of Haiti’s education sector. Finland has also made a generous contribution to the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) and is in the process of identifying projects that could be financed with that funding.
Finland has also been a prime mover in the regular, valuable encounters between Foreign Ministers of CARICOM and the Nordic countries. It has also cooperated with the Region in its efforts to advance energy integration and access through increased use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The importance of the energy sector, Ambassador LaRocque pointed out during the brief ceremony, was underlined in the Community’s first Strategic Plan as a major element to unleash key economic drivers in the Region’s pursuit of sustainable development. The Strategic Plan was approved by CARICOM Heads of Government early in July, and one of its goals is for renewable energy to provide 20 per cent of the electricity supply in the Region by 2017.
Another priority focus of the five-year Strategic Plan is climate change, which is also an area in which Finland has shown interest, and provided invaluable technical and financial support. The Secretary-General said he hoped that the cooperation could be extended to include Finland’s active support for Community positions at international climate change negotiations.
The Secretary-General and the newly accredited Ambassador to CARICOM both made reference to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, negotiations for which CARICOM played an active role and a project that Finland has given the highest priority. As of April this year, Finland became one of 41countries to ratify the Treaty. With the imminent entry into force of the Treaty, CARICOM is seeking Finland’s further support for CARICOM Member State, Trinidad and Tobago, as the home of the Treaty’s Secretariat. Finland is seeking the Community’s support for its candidate for the position of Head of the Secretariat.