Caricom, Austria strengthen diplomatic ties
The Caribbean Community (Caricom) on Tuesday strengthened almost 15 years of diplomatic cooperation with the Republic of Austria, when it accredited Gerhard Mayer as its new Plenipotentiary Representative to Caricom.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that emphasised cooperation in disaster management and sustainable energy was signed between Caricom and Austria in 2008. Caricom Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan, addressing Mayer as he presented his Letters of Introduction at the Caricom Secretariat, said it may be appropriate to revisit the MoU to better align it with Caricom’s priorities as set out in the strategic plan for the period 2015-2019.
She said Caricom was looking forward to Austria’s favourable recognition of the special circumstances of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as the international community negotiated the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Caricom was hopeful, Ambassador Soeknandan added, for Austria’s leadership in advocating on the Community’s behalf in the European Union and G20, for the use of other criteria concerning the EU’s policy of graduation of middle-income countries from access to development financing based solely on per capita income.
“The EU has followed this trend by introducing differentiation in its new development policy which will almost certainly result in diminishing resources being available to middle-income countries such as ours at a time when these resources are most needed,” the Deputy Secretary General told the newly accredited Ambassador.
She expressed the Community’s appreciation for the benefits that have been derived from cooperation with Austria in disaster management and capacity building, and scholarships in hotel and tourism management and Diplomatic Training from which the Caricom Secretariat has also benefited. “Austria’s Development Aid Agency (ADA) has provided financial support for the Community’s Earthquake Readiness Programme. Your friendship and solidarity towards the Community were also shown through Austria’s generous contribution to the relief efforts in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010,” she stated.
Ambassador Soeknandan acknowledged as significant, the step taken by Austria to enhance relations with the Community by proposing a joint Office in Vienna. She said while no final decision has been taken, it continues to be an important issue under consideration by Caricom Foreign Ministers.
The Austrian Ambassador noted that Vienna’s role as one of the United Nations headquarters has gained importance in recent years with the focus on energy, combating crime and corruption.
Since his Government believes that those issues are of great importance for the Caribbean region, Austria would be happy to support the opening of a common representation office of Caribbean countries in Vienna, he said.
He indicated Austria was pleased with the progress of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy and Framework and was ready to continue its support for the creation of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which he said was an important initiative.
Given the positive feedback by both the participants to the Executive Training Programme for Junior Diplomats and Civil Service Officials at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy and to a workshop on international law, Austria will continue to offer those initiatives as well, Mayer stated.