February 24, 2015
Martinique offically sworn in as associate member of OECS

An historic breakthrough that is of much significance to all countries within the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has just occurred.{{more}}

On Tuesday, February 17, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced to media officials that Martinique was officially sworn in as an associate member of the regional organization, which currently has six independent member states.

While OECS citizens will not be able to travel to Martinique with a passport or identification card and receive an indefinite stay as they can if they visit any other member states, there are many benefits to be derived from this new partnership.

“Associate membership means that Martinique will have the right of participation in the OECS and engage in all matters of functional cooperation, but it has not signed on to the economic protocol which is part of the revised treaty (of Basseterre). Inside there, there are some trade issues and very importantly, the freedom of movement issues. But all the functional cooperation, education and health, business facilitation and so on and so forth, they are a part of it,” Gonsalves explained.

However, the Prime Minister indicated that arrangements are being made for persons to enter the French territory for a limited period of time. Furthermore, he revealed that Guadeloupe is also expected to become an associate member.

“[This is] the first time a territory outside of the territories which had British suzerainty before independence,” he said. “It is important to note that both the Sarkozy government in France and the Hollande government currently, they both wrote to us, indicating their support for this particular policy: that Martinique and Guadeloupe will receive associate membership.”

With the admission of Martinque, the population of the OECS has moved from around 700,000 to just over one million. The gross domestic product (GDP) of the OECS has also benefitted from an increase of about 50 per cent.

“Now the person on the Colonarie omnibus may not immediately feel the effect of that, but it’s an important developmental step. The person in Rose Place or Paul’s Avenue may not feel any impact, but as the weeks and months roll by, you would see the significance of having Martinique inside the OECS as an associate member,” Gonsalves said.

Martinique joins the two other associate members of the OECS: Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.(BK)