Top

News Center

May 12, 2014

Speech by Ambassador Mikael Barfod, Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and Eastern Caribbean on the occasion of Europe Day Celebration

Her Excellency, Dame Louise Lake Tack, Governor General;
Prime Minster, Hon. Winston Baldwin Spencer;
Leader of the Opposition, Gaston Browne;
Honorable Members of Cabinet;
Members of the House of Representatives;
Senior Government Officials;
Fellow ambassadors from the ‘EU family’: Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom;
Other invited guests;

Good evening.

Introduction

It is indeed a pleasure to be back on the shores of this beautiful island, where the beach is only the beginning! I wish first to extend my warm thanks to the government of Antigua and Barbuda for hosting the European Union as we celebrate Europe Day and to our National Authorising Officer and his team along with the relevant Ministries for making this mission a success.

The EU Delegation feels welcomed in Barbados – its home base – as our flags share the same blue and yellow colours. However, since arriving here, I’ve realized that the United Progressive Party also shares these colours! While we commend their taste in colours we are not here in any way to support any Party in the upcoming elections!

Given that it is a premiere for Antigua and Barbuda some of you may be wondering what exactly Europe Day is and why we are all here this evening.

Tonight after a short historical flashback  I would like to highlight the role the EU plays on the world scene; the importance of EU enlargement and other significant milestones; and last but not least the EU- Antigua and Barbuda relationship.

What does Europe Day mean?

Europe Day is the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. It is a wonderful occasion to celebrate how in the EU we have overcome age old differences to shape a common future. On 9 May 1950 Robert Schuman, then French Minister of foreign affairs made a call for the integration and control of coal and steel industries under a joint high authority in order to avoid rearmament of France and Germany. This first call for the unification of Europe thereby making war on the continent impossible and spreading peace and prosperity globally is what we celebrate here this evening.

Today, the 9th of May also happens to be the day Russia is celebrating victory in the Second World War. They celebrate the end of an aggression against their territory and people back in 1945.  I think we should use the occasion to take this one step further. Recent events in Ukraine show that we cannot take values such territorial integrity, personal rights and freedoms, democratic governance, rule of law and a decent living for granted. In today’s Europe, notwithstanding enormous progress, we see that democracy is a constant work in progress; on behalf of its 500 million citizens, we share a responsibility to safeguard and nurture it. And we will support those that have to go to the streets to defend or call for it.

And Ukraine is obviously not just a European problem. Integrity, rule of law and human rights are global values at the heart of the United Nations charter that are close to the hearts of democratic societies throughout the world, including the Caribbean countries that have a strong interest to take action in favour of preserving these values at home and throughout the world. Containing aggressive behaviour in Ukraine is very important to all of us, even half a world away in the Caribbean.

The EU’s role in global peace and stability

The EU plays an important role in bringing together partners around the world to achieve lasting peace and stability. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton leads the talks between world powers with Iran. They resulted in an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme last November – a crucial step towards making this world a safer and more secure place.

In crises around the world, the EU adopts a comprehensive approach that combines all the tools at its disposal: diplomatic, developmental, military and economic. This allows us to address not just the symptoms, but also the root causes of the problems the world is facing.

Take the Horn of Africa, where thanks to a combination of political dialogue with the government of Somalia, targeted development aid, humanitarian assistance and the biggest naval mission ever lead by the EU, ATALANTA, piracy has been reduced by 95%. Today the young boys that manned pirate ships go to school and learn the skills that will help them lead their country towards a more prosperous future.

Such interventions are made possible through the European External Action Service, a new diplomatic service created in 2011. Through its work, the EU has become a truly global player, able to promote its values and interests around the world.  We have made human rights the silver thread that runs through EU foreign policy, assisting democratic transitions around the globe and helping oppressed minorities, social groups and NGOs to voice their concerns.

We are also happy that members of civil society are here with us tonight, including the members of the EU-sponsored Non-State Actors Advisory Committee. We welcome all strands of society as it is important to learn from all stakeholders.

Enlargement and other significant milestones

1 May 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the fifth and biggest enlargement of the European Union which saw the accession of eight countries from Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries of Cyprus and Malta. Furthermore, as part of that 5th enlargement, Bulgaria and Romania also acceded, but in 2007.

In a year rich in anniversaries 2014 also commemorates the centenary of the start of WWI; and 75 years since the beginning of WWII. It marks, as well, the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

For Europe, enlargement has meant greater stability and peace, economic growth and security. Internationally, the EU has an increasing influence in world affairs, as a leader and partner in trade, conflict resolution, security and environmental / climate issues – to name a few.

This year is also special for European citizens. From 22-25 May voters will go to the polls to cast their ballot in the elections to the next European Parliament. This means citizens will have a clear say in what should be the EU’s priorities for the next five years.

I know that this is something with which you all can identify as you yourselves, as citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, will in the near future also go to the polls.  We wish both sides the best and expect fair practice by all. We met earlier today with both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to convey these sentiments. The European Union is keenly interested in a thorough democratic process of elections. In fact we will be observing the elections alongside the Organization of American States (OAS).

EU’s cooperation with Antigua and Barbuda

The EU has enjoyed diplomatic relations with Antigua and Barbuda since 1984. It has a regular exchange of views bilaterally, regionally (via OECS and CARIFORUM) and on the world scene. The EU’s Development Cooperation with Antigua and Barbuda since this time has been primarily through the multiannual European Development Fund (EDF) for Regional and National Programmes.

Over the years the EU has funded projects such as the Restoration of the Nelson Dockyard Seawall, the Montserrat Ferry Docking Facility, both of which we visited yesterday; as well as our impressive venue here this evening at the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute which also benefits from its current cooperation with Guadeloupe.

Presently under the 10th EDF, we are working with the Government on Public Finance Management reform. The initial contribution of 12.7 million Eastern Caribbean dollars was increased by 20% in 2009 given the good performance of Antigua and Barbuda.

A Vulnerability mechanism was also introduced in 2010 as the European Union’s swift response to help countries which were the most affected by the economic downturn due to their poor resilience to external shocks. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda received an allocation of 33.6 million Eastern Caribbean dollars. The excellent cooperation between the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and in particular its Ministry of Finance, its National Authorising officer and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) resulted in a successful implementation.

The funds available for the upcoming five years will also focus on Public Finance Management.

In general the new funding will be re-organized with more support going to regional programs. This includes an expansion of multi-country programmes, as well as increased possibilities for cooperation offered by the Caribbean Investment Facility. It presents the opportunity for leveraging additional funds for regional programmes through blending operations.

At this late stage I would like to underline the presence of fellow ambassadors and representatives from the EU Member States (Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom), as well as other European countries honorary consuls since the funding mechanism with which we support Antigua and Barbuda and the other Caribbean countries is as a direct result of the contributions of their citizens – let us never forget that! – We value their continued support particularly during these challenging times.

Conclusion

Sixty four years ago Robert Schuman took a decisive step towards what we know as the European Union (EU) today. Europe Day is an opportunity for all of us: to commemorate past achievements, but also to look ahead at how we can shape our future together and promote peace and prosperity at home and globally with friends and loyal partners such as Antigua and Barbuda.

Top