The Interdisciplinary Institute for the Relations Between the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean (IRELAC) organised the international seminar “The Caribbean-European Union synergy: What challenges and opportunities?”, with the cooperation of the European and Ibero-American Academy of Yuste Foundation and under the auspices of the Directorate for Americas of the Belgian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Friday October 26, in Egmont Palace (Arenberg Room).
The Caribbean is a crossroad between two hemispheres and a cultural and geographical mosaic of 38 territories in the broadest sense of the term. The Caribbean islands cover 30 territories (13 sovereign states and 17 dependent territories) of more than 240.000 km2 with a population of 44 million inhabitants and it is a region in the world where four official languages are spoken: English, French, Spanish and Dutch, apart from other indigenous languages, such as Creole or Papiamento. The Caribbean region deserves more attention from the EU, from its historical ties with Europe, but also because it is exposed to emblematic and systematic accumulating threats, that other regions such as the EU are condemned to face in the near future.
Thus, the seminar was an opportunity to draw attention to the numerous challenges and opportunities the Caribbean region has in terms of economic, energetic, and climatic aspects as well as to the importance of a cooperative approach among the Caribbean States and with the European Union’s partners.
The conference tackled aspects of the Caribbean region and improved diplomatic and academic ties between the EU and the Caribbean with the identification of first operative steps to take in the bi-regional partnership, in order to help guarantee macroeconomic as well as environmental sustainability in the region.
The event also served to pay a special posthumous tribute to Viktor Sukup, former civil servant of the European Commission, researcher at IRELAC and expert on the Caribbean, who accidentally died in 2016, after publishing his book on the Caribbean islands.
In the event, participated as speakers:
The Director of the Belgian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alain Van Gucht;
The Ambassador of Barbados in Belgium and the European Union and President of CARIFORUM, Joy Ann Skinner;
The Director of External Relations of the SEGIB and member of the European and Ibero-American Academy of Yuste Foundation’s Board of Trustees, María Salvadora Ortiz;
The Deputy Head of the Division for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in the European Service of External Action, Fernando Ponz Cantó;
The Diplomatic Councillor responsible for the relations with Latin America at the Spanish Embassy in the European Union, Rafael Reig Sánchez-Tembleque;
The Chargé d’Affaires and Mission Chief of the Eastern Caribbean States, Sharlene Jo-Ann Shillingford-Mc Klmon;
The First Secretary of the Embassy of Suriname, Milton Castelen
The Gent University Professor and Researcher on climatic change in the Caribbean, Philipp de Maeyer;
Assistant to the Director – Latin America and Caribbean at European Commission and expert on the Caribbean, Caroline Adriaensen;
The Vice President of the Institut des Ameriques and Professor at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, Carlos Quenan;
The President of IRELAC, Christian Ghymers;
Eduardo Estévez Martín and the delegate of the European and Ibero-American Academy of Yuste Foundation in Brussel, Miguel Ángel Martín.
The seminar that gathered over 100 people including diplomats, decision-makers and representatives of the academic was a success in all aspects. Diplomats and organisers expressed their interests in organizing follow-up events yearly.