14th Annual OCTA Ministerial and EU OCT Forum

Turks and Caicos Continues to Benefit from TCI-EU Relationship

The Turks and Caicos Islands along with other UK overseas countries and territories recently attended the 14th European Union Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) Forum held in Brussels, Belgium during the week commencing 22 February 2016.

The delegation which included the Premier Hon. Dr. Rufus Ewing, Minister of Finance Hon. Washington Misick, Deputy Governor and EU program manager for the TCI Anya Williams, Permanent Secretary Finance Athenee Harvey and Head of Secretariat and Head of UK Office Ronlee James and Tracy Knight, participated in several key meetings with the EU including its trilateral meeting with the Director General for Development and Cooperation Mrs. Jolita Butkeviche to discuss the ongoing progress of EU programs in the TCI; a regional meeting with other OCT’s to discuss the progress of the regional program centred on sustainable energy and marine biodiversity programs in the OCT’s, along with their participation in the 14th Ministerial Conference and EU OCT Forum where Premier Ewing led a round table discussion on Enhancing growth and investment opportunities in the OCT’s along with his intervention on the OCT’s response to the new global agreement on climate change.

At this year’s 14th Ministerial Forum, the TCI Premier Hon. Rufus Ewing was elected to serve as the Vice Chair of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association. This is a key role as the TCI stands in line to be elected as the Chair of OCTA at the 15th OCT Forum which is to be held in Aruba later this year and will coincide with the planned UK Presidency of the EU.

Premier Ewing commented that he was pleased to be taking on the role as the new Vice Chair of the Overseas and Countries and Territories Association. “The overall mission of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) is to improve policy dialogue, strategic partnership and sustainable development in the Overseas Countries and Territories. This appointment comes at a time when there is great uncertainty surrounding the future relationship of the U.K. and the EU with a referendum having already been announced for June 23rd, 2016. At the Joint Ministerial Council held last December in London UK Overseas Territories were quite clear on the benefits of grant funding received through the EU. It is important for the TCI that the funds already earmarked for TCI in the EDF 10 and 11 programs are not jeopardized in any way. Our meetings with the EU sought to clarify issues such as this and we are quite certain that the TCI can still fully benefit from these programs notwithstanding the pending referendum. I look forward to my role as the Vice Chair of OCTA and will continue to promote programs and policies for the betterment of the Turks and Caicos Islands in the wider context of the OCT’s.”

Commenting on the TCI EU relationship Hon. Washington Misick stated that; “The TCI continues to enjoy a successful relationship with the EU; the EU having committed to over twenty-five million euros (€25m) in grant funding to the TCI through the EDF 10 and 11 programs. The EDF 10 program of €11.85m is geared towards building a better business sector, with the first drawdown of (€3m) having been received in April 2014, the second disbursement of (€4m) having been received in December 2015 and the final disbursement of (€4m) due in December 2016. While the EDF 11 program of €14.6m formulated around improvements in the education sector will span the years 2017-2020. This has been of great assistance to the TCI and these are most noteworthy programs that will bring real benefit to the people of the TCI.”

Deputy Governor and EU program manager for the TCI Anya Williams stated that she was pleased with the overall success of the EU programs in the TCI. “The TCI has over the years managed several successful EU programs including the Housing program which provided new and/or renovated homes to many families affected by Hurricane Ike in the islands of Grand Turk and South Caicos; the Protected Areas Management Project which provided much needed grant assistance to the National Trust and the EDF 9, 10 and 11 programs which provided millions of dollars in grant funding to valuable programs in the TCI. At a time when the TCI was working extremely hard to stabilize its finances, the Director General for Cooperation and Development stated that she took a personal risk in 2012 in reinstating the TCI into the EU program, but we are both happy and proud that we have exceeded the EU’s expectations and now have one of the most efficient and effectively managed EU programs within the overseas territories.”