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DomRep wants CARIFORUM restructured

Published:Tuesday | April 5, 2011 | 12:00 AM

The Dominican Republic has raised concerns about the current structure of 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 met in Belize for the 18th meeting of the Council of Ministers last weekend.

CARIFORUM is a sub-grouping of the African Caribbean Pacific group of nations. Its members include the 15 members of CARICOM plus Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Belize Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington, said the Dominican Republic does not appear com-fortable with the current structure of CARIFORUM, which is contained within CARICOM, and has reservations about the reporting procedure.

"Their recommendation is for the director general to have a direct line to the Council of Ministers and not have to report to the Secretary General of CARICOM," said Elrington.

thorny issue

"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 bypass 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.

Cuba is not a part of the ACP group and is a party to the EPA.

CARIFORUM was created in 1992 for cooperation between Caribbean countries 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, 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 that the matter must be settled, if both sides are to maximise the benefits of the trade agreement with the EU.