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Dookeran joins EU officials for talks on helping region

By Julien Neaves

THE economic development of Haiti and regional integration will be among the topics discussed as Caribbean leaders meet with officials of the European Union (EU) this weekend.

This was reported by Christian Leffler, director of the Americas, European External Action Service, during a video conference to announce the seventh European Union-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (EU-LAC) summit in Santiago de Chile from January 26-27.

Leaders from 60 countries, including from Trinidad and Tobago, are scheduled to attend the Santiago summit in Chile, which will focus on investment.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran will lead this country's delegation. In his absence, Dr Roodal Moonilal will act for him.

Leffler explained that during the summit, there will be a number of parallel events, including the high-level meeting between leaders of Caribbean nations and president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso.

This meeting will include a review of the new Caribbean/EU joint strategy, one of the outcomes of the last EU-LAC summit in Madrid, Spain, in 2010. Other topics to be discussed are: how to support regional integration, working more closely together on climate change and natural disasters, improving citizen security and working together to assist "the most stricken partner", Haiti.

On Haiti, Leffler explained it is not just about rebuilding following the 2010 earthquake but assisting the country with rebounding economically. Journalists from Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago participated in the video conference on Monday, with the local session held at the EU offices, Queen's Park West, Port of Spain.

A member of the Guyana media expressed concern about the monitoring of EU funding programmes and monies "disappearing" into the national budget. Leffler said the EU usually receives complaints that they are too "heavy-handed" with monitoring and noted that for budget funding, there is always a contract with specific objectives to be accomplished.

During the meeting, Leffler also spoke on the launch of the Caribbean Investment Facility (CIF) in Barbados, with an initial capital of 40 million euros. He explained it will assist with the mobilisation of funds and loans, and facilitate the increase in investments.

"It is a mechanism for blending grants and loans in order to overcome funding gaps in different projects," he added.

According to a European Commission press release in April last year, "the main priorities for the CIF...are interconnectivity, energy infrastructure, transport, environment, climate change adaptation and mitigation, social services, infrastructure and support for private sector development...".

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