Councillor Lawson Henry and SHG’s UK Representative, Mrs Kedell Worboys MBE, recently attended the 15th European Union (Overseas Countries & Territories) (EU-OCT) Forum in Aruba from 20-24 February 2017.
Aruba is an island in the South Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Venezuela in South America.
On Monday, 20 February 2017, the pair attended the Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services in the Territories of European Overseas (BEST) technical meeting. The session was opened by HE Mike Eman, Prime Minister of Aruba. Presentations covering the introduction on BEST, the achievements thus far and the possibility of a follow-up scheme were given by various officials. The meeting concluded with full support for the continuation of this or a similar programme in 2018 and 2019.
On day two, Councillor Henry and Kedell were taken on an Energy Tour organised by the Aruban Government. They visited many of the Island’s initiatives and projects that use and promote the use of renewable sustainable energy.
Kedell then attended a meeting on the Thematic Component of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) before joining Councillor Henry at the evening reception, hosted by the Aruban Government.
A trilateral meeting with the European Commission and Her Majesty’s Government took place on Wednesday, 22 February. Councillor Henry and Kedell were joined by St Helena’s Financial Secretary, Dax Richards, via Skype and discussion covered the programming of the 10th and 11th EDF.
Councillor Henry commented:
“This meeting is usually done each year so that we can update the Commission on various aspects of the funding we received from the EU. Although the Commission is kept up-to-date regularly through other means, this face–to-face meeting is important for both the Commission and the Island.”
Kedell attended meetings of the Overseas Countries & Territories Association (OCTA) Executive Committee, to prepare the Political & Administrative Resolutions and the Common Conclusions to be presented at the OCTA Ministerial.
The OCTA Ministerial conference was opened by the Chairperson – the Prime Minister of Aruba. Eighteen of the twenty two OCTs were present.
Reports were then given by the President of the Executive Committee and the Chairs of the Working Groups. The Joint Position Paper (JPP) on ‘Guiding Principles for the Post 2020 Relationship between the Overseas Countries & Territories and the European Union’ was presented and debated. Councillor Henry signed on behalf of St Helena. Only one OCT did not sign the paper.
Due to time restraints many of the planned discussions could not take place. However, the Political & Administrative Resolutions were tabled and approved. St Helena is once again a member of the Executive Committee.
On the last day of the business trip, Councillor Henry and Kedell attended the 15th EU-OCT Forum. The keynote speech came from the Commissioner for International Development, Mr Neven Mimica, who confirmed that allocations from the 11th EDF will be available to UK OCTs despite Brexit. This is providing the documentation required was submitted and approved by November 2017. In the Trilateral meeting with the UK OCTs, the Commissioner also expressed his wish to see some ongoing relationship post-Brexit. Statements were also made by the four Member States and MEP Maurice Ponga.
Following two roundtable discussions, the meeting was closed by the Commissioner.
Councillor Henry and Kedell left Aruba to return to the UK on Saturday, 25 February.
Councillor Henry concluded:
“As with the entire trip, the last event, a Carnival, did not disappoint. It was a very nice evening to bring to a close a fruitful week in Aruba where the government has been the perfect hosts.”
Councillor Henry is due to return to St Helena on Friday, 10 March 2017.
1 March 2017