Montserrat’s Chief Minister to take over chairmanship of OCTA

Chief Minister Reuben Meade

Montserrat (February 22, 2011) – Chief Minister of Montserrat Hon. Reuben T. Meade will take over as chairman of the Overseas Countries & Territories Association (OCTA) following the conclusion of meetings in New Caledonia next Monday.

Chief Minister Meade will lead a delegation to the annual meeting which brings together representatives of the OCTs of the United Kingdom, France, The Netherlands and Denmark. For the first time, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, Saba, Bonaire and Curacao will have separate representation at the conference as the Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist in October 2010.

Another first will be the submission of a joint position paper on the future relationship between the OCTs and the European Union. According to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Angela Greenaway, the present agreement governing the relationship between the two groups ends in 2013 and a lot of time has been spent in the previous two OCTA meetings to iron out what the new agreement should encompass.

“The mandate of the European Union is to look at poverty reduction and there are some Overseas Territories which do not get direct aid from them. There have been challenges with drawing down the funds from approved EU projects and the new agreement will look at the disbursement,” explained Greenway, who is also Montserrat’s Territorial Authorization Officer for the European Development Fund (EDF).

Other areas which are covered in the proposed position paper are the issues of environment protection and trade.

Accompanying the chief minister will be PS Greenaway, Financial Secretary Hon. John Skerritt, Director of Project Aid Joseph Irish, and Montserrat UK Office Head Janice Panton, who attends the monthly OCTA meetings in Brussels and part of the Executive Committee for OCTA.

At last April’s Brussels meeting of the OCTA, Montserrat said it would use its position as Vice Chair to keep the Member States on target to achieve the goal of a new Overseas Association Decision before the present one expires December 31, 2013.

Under EDF-10, Montserrat has had 15.7m Euros allocated for building a new port. Chief Minister Meade said during last year’s OCTA that Montserrat’s strategic goals “cannot be achieved without both technical and financial support” or “by simply focusing on poverty reduction.” He is a strong supporter of a redefined relationship with the EU which meets the island’s needs “based on our rights to aspire to EU standards.”

The UK has said “the successor to the OAD must be flexible enough to meet the needs of both the larger, more prosperous Territories, and those which are more vulnerable and likely to be in need of development assistance for years to come.”

New Caledonia, which is the present OCTA chair, is a French OCT located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. Montserrat will host the next meeting of OCTA in Brussels later this year.

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