Free movement within OECS in August, regional parliament for Antigua

The Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda – future home of the OECS National Assembly in Antigua (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Antigua and Barbuda in Prime Minister)

ST. KITTS JANUARY 26TH 2011 (CUOPM) – Leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) ended a two-day meeting in Grenada agreeing to an August 1 deadline for the free movement of nationals within the sub-region.

The establishment of an European-styled regional parliament has also been agreed to by the leaders who meet at Calivigny Island, off Grenada’s southern coastline.

Host Prime Minister Hon. Tillman Thomas said by mid-year, OECS nationals will only be required to use a drivers license or an identification card to travel around the sub-region.

“We are setting the date of August 1st of this year. By that date we expect OECS citizens to be moving in and out of OESC states without restrictions,” Prime Minister Thomas told a news conference.

“Once you have a driver’s license or ID card you should not have any difficulty moving. We are removing all the impediments to restrictions. We want that to be done by August 1st.”

The two day meeting took place on the heels of the coming into force of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union on January 21.

The regional parliament, part of the new OECS governance structure, is likely to be headquartered in Antigua and would include representations from Prime Ministers and opposition leaders in member countries.

The assembly will have legislative authority in about 8 areas ranging from finance and trade to immigration.

“It will move from state to state and conduct its business in a very transparent and open way,” said OECS Director General, Dr. Len Ishmael.

“There has been discussion about ensuring that both the Prime Minister and opposition leader are both members of that parliament when it convenes but they are details of the operation of a regional assembly that still need to be fleshed out in detail.”

The legal teeth given by the revised treaty of Basseterre is seen as significant since under the original treaty establishing the OECS in l981, decisions could only have been arrived at by a consensus.

“What we have to do now is to make sure the revised treaty become part of our domestic law and we are hoping that within three months each state within the oecs makes that treaty part of their domestic law.”

OECS countries have set a three month deadline by which the revised treaty of Basseterre becomes domestic law.

“It means that there is now an organization that could pass legislation to affect all OECS states. Essentially that is it,” Prime Minister Thomas explained.

“So once the regional assembly passed legislation …that would be binding on all the states involved within the organization.”

The meeting also discussed a number of other issues including security, resources required to support overseas missions as well as endorsed draft rules of procedures governing the five organs of the organization: authority, Assembly, Council of Minister, Economic Affairs Council and OECS Commission.

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.

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