Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Treaty of Basseterre

The new treaty is an upgrade on the original Treaty of Basseterre that led to the establishment of the OECS 28 years ago.

OECS Chairman and host Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas described the event as “a day of profound historical import for the Governments and peoples that constitute the OECS”.“It is today that we commit our countries to an even closer and deeper union. And we do this by signing off on a new treaty – the Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union,” Douglas said as he addressed the hour-long ceremony at the headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).Douglas noted that the OECS countries were facing domestic, hemispheric and global challenges with profound implications in the economic, political and socio-cultural; spheres.“And so it is essential; that we seek out and identify ways of increasing our resiliency so as to ensure our continued viability, our continued relevance and our continued successes nationally, regionally and internationally.”

The prime minister said that over the next few months the treaty will be debated and fine tuned within the OECS countries leading to its ratification.Douglas said he regards the signing of the accord as a “fundamental philosophical transformation and political commitment to deepening the level of integration among member states.”The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin islands (BVI).

These islands, except the BVI, already share a number of institutions including a Central bank and a common judiciary.Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory and a founding member of the sub-regional grouping, did not sign the accord.

“Although the treaty has now been redrafted to allow Montserrat to retain its full membership and all the rights and duties appertaining before the coming into force of the new treaty, Montserrat is not yet in a position to sign on 29 Dec., 2009 because our internal approval process has not yet been completed,” said Claude Hogan, director of regional affairs and trade.’“It is envisaged that when Montserrat signs on to the new treaty it will continue to need entrustments for accession within the union on a case by case basis,” Hogan added.

Article 5.1 of the new treaty also provides that “a member state which is not an independent state undertakes to enact legislation to provide for the reception into its law of the legislation made under this Article.”The new treaty is an upgrade on the original Treaty of Basseterre that led to the establishment of the OECS 28 years ago.The new accord allows for the delegation of certain legislative authority in certain areas to the heads of government and for the formation of a Regional Assembly of Parliamentarians comprising members of the parliaments of the individual islands.In addition, the new treaty gives a “much more defined role” to the OECS Commission in getting the interlocking arrangements between the countries and the OECS.“So these I think are very very significant changes which would lead to more efficient implementation of policy that we have,” said ECCB Central Bank Governor, Sir Dwight Venner, who also addressed the ceremony.

He said since the last meeting of the OECS leaders in Anguilla, six weeks ago, “we have had to fine tune this treaty and we put it in a way that will be acceptable…to make sure that legalities to the treaty were accurate and did not offend the constitutions.“You have to understand that the OECS is a very congenial grouping. When the OECS heads meet it is more like a quasi-cabinet…so the chairman is very much engaged in the running of the OECS and that distinguishes us from other arrangements like CARICOM (Caribbean Community),” he added.

Prior to the signing of the treaty, Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said the recent experience with the global economic situations made it imperative for the sub-region to consolidate and deepen its integration process.“This is a very significant occasion we need to have an authority to bind us in terms of decision making and the new treaty provides for a Commission and also an Assembly,” he said, while his St. Vincent and the Grenadines counterpart, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said the treaty puts more authority “at the center of the regional integration movement.“

This draft treaty has been under discussion for quite some time…and having initialed it we would then go to our respective cabinets and then at another meeting do the final signature and then make all the arrangements for ratification and parliamentary approval,” he added.Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt who missed the ceremony, but was represented by Ambassador Charles Maynard, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that he fully supports the efforts to take the sub-region to the next level.“I believe it is a good thing for the region. We can’t be moving across the world talking as small independent nations. We have to work together to bring greater social and economic development to our people.

”Skerritt said he was hopeful that the population of the sub-region would be supportive of this new initiative and that the signing of the treaty would “signal our seriousness about moving the process forward and that hopefully we could have it implemented by June 2010”.But he acknowledged that some OECS countries may be holding general elections between the period of the signing of the treaty and its implementation, but that he is “hopeful that our people can keep it on the front burner”.