SCHOELCHER: The French overseas department of Martinique has become an associate member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The OECS Commission said Martinique signed the necessary agreement on Wednesday at the OECS Summit in Schoelcher, just outside Fort-de-France, increasing the nine-member sub-regional grouping to 10.
“Martinique’s membership of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States follows a period of negotiations after the Regional Council of Martinique submitted a formal application for associate membership in the OECS with the full support/endorsement of the French Government,” the OECS Commission said.
In November 2013, the Regional Assembly voted unanimously in favour of the island’s membership of the OECS.
“Since then the OECS Commission has been treating Martinique effectively as an Associate Member and the French Region has already been attending regional meetings on matters such as health,” the Commission said.
OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules described the island’s membership of the sub-regional grouping as “historic”.
“The involvement of Martinique in the OECS, while there are limitations because of their status in relation to France, opens up great potential and certainly widens the demographics from an economic perspective.
“We have seen the relationship grow between Martinique and Saint Lucia and between Guadeloupe and Dominica, for example. What that does now is widen this to the whole OECS. The use of Martinique as a tertiary health facility centre for the OECS is something under discussion so there are a lot of opportunities.
“We are very concerned about not just ensuring growth in the economies of the OECS but growth with equity. It’s not enough to just grow the economy if you are growing it and only the existing players benefit, it has to be the type of growth that leads to a widening of opportunity for smaller persons; trickle-down effect; a spread of the benefits and community tourism we think will do particularly well with the engagement of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
“So we are expecting that this will yield great benefits in terms of weekend travel, bed and breakfast arrangements, community sporting activities, and so on,” he said.
During the summit, sub-regional leaders will receive an update on the implementation of the OECS Economic Union, the free circulation of goods and issues on sports and health.