D R wants CARIFORUM restructured

BELMOPAN, Belize: The Dominican Republic has raised concerns about the current structure of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and has proposed that the grouping appoints its own Secretary General.

The Spanish-speaking Caribbean country tabled the matter as five foreign ministers and senior officials from the 17 countries that make up CARIFORUM (the 15-member Caribbean Community, the Dominican Republic and Haiti) met in Belize for the 18th meeting of the Council of Ministers last weekend.

Belize Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington, said the Dominican Republic does not appear comfortable with the current structure of CARIFORUM which is contained within CARICOM and expressed reservation relating to the role of the CARICOM Secretary General and the reporting procedure.

“The Dominican Republic doesn’t seem to want the Director General to have to report to the Council of Ministers by going through the Secretary General of CARIFORUM. Their recommendation is for the DG to have a direct line to the Council of Ministers and not have to report to the Secretary General of CARICOM.

“It’s a thorny issue because protocol has always been for institutions, certainly the CARICOM institutions, to make reports through the Secretary General that is the highest post. And from the Secretary General it goes to the Council of Ministers or to the Heads of Government. You just don’t by pass your Secretary General,” he said.

The meeting focused on restructuring the current governance structure arrangements to meet the expanded responsibilities which came with the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in October 2008.

CARIFORUM is specifically the mechanism created in 1992 for cooperation between CARICOM countries and the Dominican Republic and the European Union.

Elrington further explained that under the current structure of CARIFORUM, the Dominican Republic feels that it is being sidelined because it does not sit at the table with CARICOM leaders where the major decisions are being taken.

“They seem to believe, that’s the impression I’m getting, they seem to believe that there’s going to be a bias in favour of CARICOM countries than in fact the Dominican Republic and they want to make sure that in the governance structure, there is going to be proper representation for all interests including the Dominican Republic,” he said.

The foreign minister stressed the matter must be settled if both sides are to maximize the benefits of the agreement with the European Union.

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