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Posted in: Statements from CARICOM Meetings by admin | 19 May 2006 | Release Ref #: 97/2006 | 2229

    (CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Eighteenth Meeting of the Caribbean Community Council of Ministers got underway in Georgetown, Guyana on Friday 19 May, with Trinidad and Tobago announcing its willingness to assist Suriname in the wake of heavy flooding in that Member State of the Community.

    The Council, comprising Ministers responsible for CARICOM Affairs, was set to finalise a range of issues which are likely to come before the Conference of Heads of Government on 3-6 July in St Kitts and Nevis at its 27th Regular Meeting.

    At the opening ceremony of the one-day Council Meeting, Chairman of the Community Council, Senator Knowlson Gift, Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago took the opportunity to express sympathy to the government and people of Suriname as they combatted the effects of the recent severe flooding in that country. He announced that his country was prepared to assist that CARICOM Member State with similar equipment to that provided to Guyana in January 2005 when that country also suffered from disastrous floods.

    The Minister noted that the Community, through the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) was involved in providing assistance to Suriname.

    The Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister gave an overview of matters which he said the Council hoped to address. The Chairman said he looked forward to receiving an update on the situation in Haiti following last Sunday’s inauguration of President Rene Preval.

    Deputy Secretary-General of CARICOM, Her Excellency Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite emphasised the importance of the Council as the second highest decision-making body in the Community. Ambassador Applewhaite also referred to the Council’s responsibilities as the body to which all other ministerial organs reported and pointed out that within the reports to be considered by the Meeting lay “matters which directly affect the well-being of our citizens such as health, education, employment, the last of which is affected by our trading relations within and outside the Community.”

    In that regard, she alluded to the success of last week’s two summit meetings in Europe, CARICOM-Spain and the European Union/Latin America and the Caribbean Summits, during which the Community received indications of strong support for its development plans.

    The Deputy Secretary-General noted in particular that Spain had signalled its interest in joining the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) through its announcement of a contribution to the Bank’s Special Development Fund and the willingness expressed in both meetings by the Europeans to consider support for the regional Development Fund, a key element of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

    These indications, she said, were timely, given the current pressures faced by the Region in the aftermath of adverse decisions to the critical agriculture sector by the EU and the World Trade Organisation. The Deputy Secretary-General noted that “effective transformation of this sector is absolutely necessary if we are to survive globally.”