Speech of the European Commissioner, Neven Mimica, at the 14th EU-OCT Forum, Brussels, 26 February 2016
The 14th EU-OCT (Overseas Countries and Territories) Forum (Brussels, 26/02/2016)
Ladies and gentlemen,
After enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the British Virgin Islands last year, it is indeed an honour to welcome you today here in Brussels for the annual Forum of the Overseas Countries and Territories and the European Union. What a year this has been.
2015 – designated as European Year for Development – saw the adoption of a new global Agenda for Sustainable Development and of a landmark agreement to combat climate change. It was also a year during which the OCT-EU partnership grew even stronger, with our commitment to shared, operational objectives demonstrated more clearly than ever in the conclusions of this Forum and in initiatives such as the Joint Declaration we will be signing later today.
It has been a pleasure working with the outgoing Chair of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association, Premier Dr Ben Whiteman. I thank you for your dedicated work and excellent cooperation.
I would also like to congratulate the incoming Chair, Premier "Mike" Godfried Eman, on his nomination, and I look forward to establishing equally strong relations over the coming year.
The ambassador for the European Union (EU) , Jernej Videtič made a courtesy visit to Aruba. Videtič was recently appointed and stationed in Guyana as head of the EU-Delegation. The Delegation of the European Union represents the Union in nine countries and territories in the region. These include Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago as well as six Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT’s) which form part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten.
The ambassador is stationed in the Caribbean for a period of four years and has big plans. “Mr. Eman and I will have regular contact. I wanted to meet with him to talk about his presidency of OCTA, the organization of overseas countries and territories with ties to countries that are part of the EU.” The Aruban Prime Minister takes over the presidency of OCTA at the end of February and has an ambitious agenda. One of his main focal points is to shift the relationship between the EU and the Caribbean partners from the current development relations to economic relations. “We have to focus more on the strategic location of the Caribbean, between Europe and the Americas. We have to exploit that much more”, Videtič said.
Zika is a mosquito-borne viral disease caused by the Zika virus (ZIKV) that has recently been spreading through the South Pacific and Latin America. In November 2015, preliminary evidence emerged that ZIKV may be associated with an observed increase in neurological complications (Guillain-Barré syndrome) in adults and severe congenital brain malformations in newborns born to mothers infected during pregnancy. The importance of a rapid research response to the Zika outbreak is highlighted by the WHO's declaration on 1 February 2016 that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Through the Horizon 2020 programme the European Commission is mobilising €10 million for urgently needed research on the Zika virus in response to the upsurge in cases of severe congenital brain malformations across Latin America, and their suspected link to Zika virus infections. If the link is proven, this money could be used to combat the Zika virus, for example, by developing diagnostics and testing potential treatments or vaccines.
Click here for more information on the Pre-publication of a call for proposals. The call is expected to be officially published on 15 March 2016, and the deadline for submission of proposals is expected to be 28 April 2016.