POINTE-À-PITRE, Guadeloupe – The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) formally welcomed Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France, as an associate member of the Organisation at a meeting held in Basse Terre, on Thursday. Newly elected British Virgin Islands premier, Andrew Fahie, was also welcomed at his first OECS engagement, delivering a passionate address to member states.
OECS chairman and prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, noted the accession of the French territory adds tremendously not only to the land and sea space but to the economic potential of the regional grouping, but in furtherance of the deepening and broadening of the regional integration of small Eastern Caribbean islands.
“The enlargement of the OECS, with the accession of Guadeloupe to associate membership, opens up tremendous possibilities not merely to survive but to thrive more markedly across the arenas of economy, society, culture and polity.
“While centuries of European colonial rivalries in the Caribbean have contributed to the fracturing of our countries in differing linguistic groups and a contrived island separateness, it is these contradictions, and separations which are the very seeds which predispose our territories to a greater and more perfect union,” Gonsalves said.
On behalf of all Guadeloupeans, President Chalus said that the accession to the OECS was a historic moment in the life of the territory, is an expression of the new levels of collaboration that Guadeloupe as an associate member of the OECS could look forward to, included functional cooperation such as the INTERREG III program which was delivering solid development outcomes for the Eastern Caribbean.
“The program contributes to the integration of the Caribbean space and responds to the aspiration of our populations and our accession will seek to deepen this cooperation and outcomes. We share a unity of destiny; island economies, territories vulnerable to climate change and facing the same challenges in terms of energy supply.
“Guadeloupe is determined to contribute to the vision, shared by all of you here, in which the promotion of the green and blue economy is put forward to make the space of the Lesser Antilles, the world reference in sustainable territories.
“The triple Caribbean, French and European membership must be approached pragmatically because, like Martinique and Saint-Martin, it offers Guadeloupe real opportunities for its development while nourishing the contribution it intends to make within the OECS.
“Shared education, training, health and realisation of our natural heritage and biodiversity strengthens our Territories’ capacities to respond to environmental challenges, improving public services and the resilience of populations to major natural hazards.
“Between the literary greats of Derek Walcott and Edouard Glissant, there is a unity of vision between our people and a shared culture that is our point of convergence connecting the genius of each of our territories and without which we would be mere dust in the wind,” Chalus said.
Fahie, in his first address to member states also hailed the value of regional integration, emphasizing that islands and territories must cooperate closely together to defend shared interests and protect the regional financial services sector.
“Our struggles in this Caribbean basin have always been one and the same, and it manifests itself in the modern day through our shared interest in having to defend and protect our different financial services sector from unfair and onerous demands from the United Kingdom in particular in our case; and the European Union in your cases.
“We also seek sub-regional solidarity in standing-up to a new aggressive push from the United Kingdom, which seems determined to issue edicts to its overseas territories in the region, without paying attention to the expressed will of the people, and ignoring our own values and customs which are deeply fashioned by both history and geography.
“And in the face of new challenges and orchestrated onslaughts, we must be determined to move forward together, not on our knees but on our feet” adding that “As a people we all move to the same beat. Our vibe and our rhythm are built on hopeful melodies of change, and cadences that capture aspirations of building a stronger and better society that we can pass on to our children,” Fahie said.
The degree to which sub-regional unity, shared solidarity, values and customs, history, geography and faith at solving regional issues, captures the hard reality, Gonsalves said in his concluding remarks.
“Our shared contemporary reality, the memory of the pains and joys of our historic journeys, and the imagination to capture a spirit devoid of learned helplessness were now grounded in a confidence that better years lay ahead for the regional grouping, together,” he said.
OECS states comprise countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Martinique.