Venezuela president makes surprise appearance at OECS meeting
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — The sixty-fourth meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority, which resumed in St Vincent and the Grenadines on Wednesday, included a previously unscheduled appearance by Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela.
OECS heads of government welcomed what were described as candid discussions with Maduro and reflected on the shared history of the region and years of bilateral cooperation between OECS member states and Venezuela. Heads further considered the current state of affairs in Venezuela and discussed a more constructive role to be played by the OECS to facilitate better dialogue, a reduction of tensions, and more collaboration in furtherance of the national interest of the people of Venezuela.
Among the statements made during Maduro’s visit, the central theme revolved around “the use of the Caribbean Sea as a link to strengthen unity and achieve prosperity, stability and a good quality of life for our people through cooperation, solidarity and exchange”.
Meanwhile, the Authority reviewed the financial obligations of member states to the OECS Commission with a view to improve the timeliness of subvention payments. Heads of government agreed that the timely payment of contributions is essential to the efficient functioning of the Organisation and committed to the expeditious settlement of outstanding contributions.
Heads of government deliberated on current matters of regional security and proposed recommendations for ongoing support in the areas of border security and intelligence sharing. The meeting recognised the importance of the Regional Security System (RSS) as well as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), which continue to be focal points for regional law and order, and considered the benefits of deepening practical cooperation among member states as a deterrent to criminal activities. The OECS Commission will investigate the feasibility of a regional cooperation framework for policing in the sub region.
Heads continued discussions on strategic options for external representation with a view to consolidate diplomatic missions. The meeting received a detailed report on the current expenditures for external representation by member states and considered the recommendations for increased collaboration. Heads also reflected on the re-establishment of a joint diplomatic mission in Canada.
Further, the Authority considered a stronger outreach into the African continent and in particular improving relations with the African Union as an entity, and with individual member states of the African Union. This outreach to Africa, the heads affirmed to be an important strategic element in the OECS thrust to deepen south-south cooperation and strengthen Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) relations.
OECS heads of government discussed the financial sustainability of the health sector in the region and noted the need to implement a regional health insurance capable of providing specialised care to member states at reduced costs. The Authority commended the progress that individual member states have made towards the implementation of national health insurance programmes and considered viable options for the adoption of an OECS health insurance in these member states.
The Authority considered the status of negotiations with St Martin and agreed that discussions should continue towards its logical conclusion.
Agriculture and Support Services
Heads of government received a report on the progress of the agri-shipping initiative being piloted in St Vincent and the Grenadines and commended the ministry of agriculture for the progressive approach to improve standards and approach new markets. The meeting noted the significant economic potential of the Initiative and proposed that the OECS Commission continue to work with St Vincent and the Grenadines to ensure the engagement of all member states.