Protests in St Lucia against EU negotiators

Caribbean Net News

Protests in St Lucia against EU negotiators

by Shervon Alfred

Caribbean Net News St Lucia Correspondent

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

CASTRIES, St Lucia: Farmers from across the Caribbean took to the streets of the St Lucian capital, Castries on Friday to picket top European Union negotiators, who were meeting on the island.

As EU delegates held talks with Caribbean leaders in Rodney Bay, hundreds of protestors gathered in the heart of the city, for a rally in Derek Walcott Square, about fifteen miles away.

Organizers estimated the crowd to have numbered nearly two thousand strong.

The protestors expressed anger that the Economic Partnership Agreement being negotiated between the European Union and Caribbean nations “will lead to the destruction of livelihoods in the region.”

“It affects not only the farmers, everybody. The small man, the baby that just born, every one of us,” said Alice Francis, a St Lucian protestor.

Catherine Ormond, a farmer in Dominica, said she has been personally affected by EU trade reforms. “...my home, my farm, even in my village: we have an organic group and the trade rules that are put, we cannot ship our organic things. We have organic bananas and it goes as regular bananas: we cannot get the organic price.”

The demonstration was led by the St Lucian chapter of the Caribbean Association of Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA).

CAFRA is particularly concerned about the inclusion of the Singapore Issues in the agreement.

In an open letter to the European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, the Director of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, Chris Sinckler said the, “EU’s renewed insistence on the inclusion of the Singapore Issues,” demonstrates that the negotiations are about furthering an agenda for the creation and penetration of ACP markets, rather than development and poverty eradication.

Ahead of the demonstration, Peter Mandelson warned Caribbean countries against the reliance on trade preferences and single crops and urged regional leaders to find alternative ways of diversifying their economies.

Chris Sinckler questioned the value of an Economic Partnership Agreement to the Caribbean, “...if we are not able to receive remunerative prices for our only major export commodities to Europe.”

Although, miles away from the EPA negotiations, the organizers of the demonstration believe “the message is getting across.”

“So far it’s already gotten out to the Ministers of CARIFORUM because they’ve asked for a meeting with us,” said Flavia Cherry, head of CAFRA St Lucia.

Organizers say the details of that meeting are yet to be negotiated.

Immediately following the meeting in St Lucia, the CARIFORUM Principal Negotiator, Richard Bernal left for England, where he was expected to meet with his counterparts from the five other ACP regional configurations.

They will discuss where their respective regions are in EPA negotiations with the European Commission and map out common strategies in facing the EC.

EPA negotiations are expected to be completed by the end of 2007.