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May 12, 2014

Dr. The Honourable W. Baldwin Spencer Prime Minister Speech, Antigua and Barbuda Host Europe Day 2014

Dr. The Honourable W. Baldwin Spencer
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda
Feature Address
At the Cocktail to celebrate Europe Day
Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute (ABHTI)
Dutchmans’Bay, 9th May, 2014

H.E. Dame Louise Lake Tack – Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda;
Distinguished Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean;
Other European Union Ambassadors representing Spain, France, Germany, United Kingdom and Belgium accredited to the Caribbean;
Distinguished Cabinet colleagues and Members of the recently prorogued Parliament;
Members of the Diplomatic Corp;
Permanent Secretaries
Specially Invited Guests;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Allow me to welcome you all to Antigua and Barbuda on this very important occasion, the celebration of “EUROPE DAY”. Antigua and Barbuda is honoured to have been chosen to host this year’s event as we celebrate our long standing fruitful partnership.

I extend a warm Antigua and Barbuda welcome to all our visiting European colleagues and friends. Though your stay might be short, and your appointed task here even shorter, I hope you found time to enjoy the many delights of our beautiful Nation – where the “beach is just the beginning”.

My European colleagues, you have come at a time when as a democratic Nation, we are preparing for General Elections. Participatory democracy is a tradition rooted in the fabric of our society and each citizen will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate and Government of their choice when the date is announced. You would have noticed the colourful billboards and advertisements in the newspapers; loud speakers advocating on behalf of the Political Parties and Public Rallies; all features of a free and open democratic electoral process.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

It is beyond doubt that as a small and vulnerable Nation, with weak and underdeveloped economic sectors, limited productive capacity, that we require friendly countries and partners to assist with our sustainable development agenda. Our limitations are made worst by an unpredictable global environment that is not kind to the weak and disadvantaged. That is why we have been aggressive in canvassing the International Community, building strong relationships while keeping our economy afloat despite the never ending fiscal and economic challenges.

FRIENDS

I wish at this time to acknowledge the tremendous support from EU to Antigua and Barbuda since the signing of the different Lome’ Conventions and now the Cotonou Agreement. For us, the EU is an important partner who continues to contribute significant financial and technical assistance, grant aid to develop the different sectors of our economy. The EU has been there through our good times and bad times. Of particular note, is the 9 million EURO Vflex support that we obtained from the EU to help mitigate the effects of the severe global fiscal and economic crisis. Under the present 10th EDF, the EU has contributed 3.4 Million EUROs towards Public Finance Management reform and support to non-governmental players. We were also the only country within the OECS to have even received a top up, 600,000 EUROs for the implementation of ASYCUDA at Customs as a result of the positive Mid Term review.

In the area of Education, the EU has financed a number of initiatives, including but not limited to, an Education Sector study; expansion and equipping of the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education as well as the Hospitality Training Institute; Drug Demand Reduction Programme; construction of the Science Block at the Antigua State College and rehabilitation of its Engineering workshop; restoration of the seawall at the Nelson Dockyard, and construction of the Ferry Docking Facility in St. John’s. These are all tangible development projects which impacts positively on the lives of our people and country as a whole.

It is also worthy to recall that it was the EU, the Financial Services Regulatory Commission and the Office of the NAO which developed the Caribbean Financial Services Conference, the first of its kind among practitioners and the international Community to cultivate a better understanding of the region’s IFC, new global industry standards and the improved regulatory framework. The first two such Conferences were held at the Sandals Grande in Antigua and third, recently in the Bahamas.

The FSRC has also been the beneficiary of an international Insurance Consultant financed by the EU who provided a critical review of the industry with recommendations for regulatory strengthening and training of staff.

DISTINGUISH LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

Dialogue and consultation with the EU have remained a fundamental mechanism underpinning our partnership. This is done through regular contact with the EU Delegation in Barbados and the occasional visit to Brussels, Belgium. In fact, next week a delegation from the FSRC and the Office of the NAO will be meeting with officials in the TAXUD Directorate on the FSRC’s reform agenda; further areas of cooperation and support; EU Advocacy on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda as a IFC, and the 11th EDF National Indicative and CRIP Programming.

DISTINGUISH LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

Since the signing of the EPA, Antigua and Barbuda with assistance from the CARTfund managed by the CDB have advanced the implementation of the Agreement especially as it relates to our administrative and legislative obligations. I wish to express our appreciation to DIFID and GIZ for their support with the implementation of the EPA thus far. We look forward to the assistance to be provided under the 10th EDF through the EPA Standby Facility. However, greater national capacity building interventions are required especially for the private sector, as Antigua and Barbuda seek to develop our national export potential and avail ourselves to the market access opportunities provided for in the EPA. With this in mind, Antigua and Barbuda looks forward to the impartial review of the EPA as we seek to mutually achieve the objectives stated in the Accord.

FRIENDS

Ambassadors, I seek your assistance in advancing a worthy project which is of significant importance to both Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis. I speak of the Restoration of the St John’s Cathedral and the Brimstone Hill National Fortress which was submitted to the CARIFORUM Directorate under the 11th EDF CRIP Multi-Country Programme. The project seeks to restore two important historical landmarks in Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis that have a significant bearing on both countries’ tourism product. I am aware that you visited the St. John’s Anglican Cathedral yesterday and can therefore appreciate the need to restore that valuable treasure. As was pointed out the ongoing work is being financed through local fund raising efforts. However, the Cathedral restoration programme is in dire need of an urgent injection of donor resources to enable the first phase of the work to be completed. I therefore, use this opportunity to call on the EU to look at the overall project and see how best it could be financed.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

It would be remiss of me not to commend the hard and dedicated work of the NAO. In order to execute all these programmes and maintain the excellent relationship with the EU requires a unique individual; a positive, proactive thinker; an excellent skilled negotiator who is steadfast in the quest to secure development assistance in support of the Government’s development agenda. I speak of Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry a man that I am very proud of as a public servant. I wish to take this opportunity to commend him for his unwavering, tireless, committed service to the country. Ambassador Henry continues to serve Antigua and Barbuda with distinction through an unwavering patriotism. He also has a team of committed young people within the Office of the NAO comprising Ms. Barbara Williams, Deputy NAO; Ms. Juray Roberts – Project Development Officer; Ms Ideka Dowe and Arita Phillip – Project Officers. As your Minister and Prime Minister, I say to all of you, keep up the fine work.

Before I end, I wish to raise a toast to the EU on the celebration of “EUROPE DAY”. Although like all countries you are experiencing challenges, may you nonetheless return to prosperity and we look forward to the continued strengthening of our relationship.

May God continue to richly bless the Nation of Antigua and Barbuda and the Nations of the European Union.

Thank you.

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