ST. JOHN’S: Two years after Heads of Government of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) declared that people of the regional grouping can move freely, Chairman of the OECS Authority and Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, says the free movement of nationals will continue to be a priority in efforts to further develop one economic space among the OECS member states.
In a statement released last weekend by the OECS Secretariat, Prime Minister Spencer said arrangements are being enhanced for OECS citizens to enjoy free movement throughout the six independent member states of the OECS and most recently, Montserrat.
“It is extremely important that if we are going to be integrating this region and creating a single economic space for the benefit of the people of the region then they ought to be able to move freely up and down the OECS and it is a critical component of the Economic Union.
“The arrangements agreed by member states to give effect to the Revised Treaty of Basseterre are for persons to enter the participating member states without hindrance and remain for an indefinite period in order to work, establish businesses; provide services or to reside. There is a solid commitment among the member states to have persons enjoy free movement throughout the OECS Economic Union,” said Spencer.
The OECS Chairman noted that participating OECS member states are working towards ensuring that the necessary processes and mechanisms such as legal documentation are in place to firmly buttress the free movement arrangement.
“I have to say that everything is not fully in place in every member state to give full and total effect to it,” he said. “So that is work in progress and I think all of us will be getting there sooner rather than later but as of now the movement of OECS nationals up and down the OECS is pretty much in place…and for all intents and purposes it is moving forward.”
Elma Gene Isaac, head of the OECS Secretariat’s Regional Integration Unit (RIU), which coordinates activities regarding the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the OECS Economic Union, said member states are at different stages of implementation of the legislative and administrative requirements regarding the free movement of OECS nationals.
“We have three member states which have completed their legislative and administrative work in its entirety,” said Isaac. “We have others that are at different stages, they may need to pass one or two pieces of legislation.”
Isaac said there may be a country that has not yet done the work in respect of its laws for immigration, but is facilitating the movement of OECS Citizens administratively. She also noted the case of two member states in which the matter of indefinite stay regarding the free movement of OECS nationals is not yet in effect.
Isaac said finalizing of arrangements will enhance confidence and participation, thereby reducing difficulties encountered by persons seeking to enjoy the privileges associated with the free movement of OECS nationals as stipulated in the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, which took effect on January 21, 2011.
The OECS was established by the Treaty of Basseterre on June 18, 1981. The nine member states are Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.