Bermuda breaks new ground in Europe

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BRUSSELS, Belgium — Bermuda broke new ground with the first appearance by a premier and minister of finance of Bermuda before the Economic Committee of the European Members of Parliament during what must be considered a momentous week for Europe, given the pivotal decision scheduled on how to assist Greece.

Chairman of the Committee, Sharon Bowles, invited then welcomed Premier Paula Cox to the Committee meeting where she was afforded the opportunity to speak to sitting members of the European Parliament in a 10:30-11:30 am time slot.

After thanking the Committee for affording her the opportunity to speak in what clearly was a busy week, the premier delivered a concise and resolute message that expressed a willingness to partner with the EU on issues of mutual benefit so that a special relationship could be nurtured.

She stated, “There is common ground between Bermuda and Europe. Yesterday I had a full agenda of meetings at the Commission. I met with the Secretariat; the Director and Head of Unit of governance and external affairs; the external action committee and the Director with responsibility for the overseas territory association.”

The premier informed the members that she remained cognizant that in Europe, as was noted during her visit to Washington DC last week, issues related to the economy and raising the debt ceiling loomed large.

She noted that Bermuda took its role as a responsible global citizen seriously. The premier said, “Bermuda is a quality jurisdiction for financial services. We believe in transparency, quality risk-based supervision and collaboration and cooperation with our key trading partners in the EU and the US.

“As hosts of the 2011 OECD Conference a few weeks ago, Bermuda was amongst its peers and firmly stood on its sound regulatory platform. Bermuda is a cooperative and transparent jurisdiction, and there is a lot of common ground between Bermuda’s interests and that of European MEPs in taking the necessary steps to enhance the regulatory and financial system to prevent further economic challenges.”

Cox also spoke to the continued engagement of Bermuda’s independent regulator with global supervisors so there was enhanced oversight internationally.

In expressing the special relationship and the opportunity for strategic partnering, the premier was questioned about the types of opportunities that she saw. She replied that she had raised the issue of Bermudians being seconded to work at the Commission and in the Parliament in meetings she had attended the day before and this idea, as it had earlier, met with a favourable reception.

The premier’s ten minute address was followed by a question and answer period. In addition to the Committee, the floor was opened to questions from attending MEPs whose inquiries ranged from why Bermuda was so attractive to business, and its commitment to tax transparency, to what distinguishes "offshore" financial centres from "onshore" financial centres.

These queries gave an opportunity to reinforce Bermuda’s commitment to an equivalent insurance supervisory regime for commercial insurance and reinsurance, however, the premier stressed to the MEPs that she believed Bermuda’s captive supervisory regime was already adequate for the limited purpose and risks written by those entities.

The premier closed her remarks by again calling for secondment opportunities for young Bermudians looking to gain exposure on the global front.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a number of MEPs sought the premier to personally greet and thank her for coming.

Cox concluded, “This has been an extremely positive and supportive gathering of Members of the European Parliament and I believe the Bermuda story will resonate here long after we have gone.”

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