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Cayman Hosts OCT EU Forum

Cayman was well-represented at the OCT EU Forum welcome dinner at Pedro St. James on Wednesday evening. (L-R) Mr Leonard Dilbert, HE the Governor Stuart Jack, Mrs Mariko Jack, Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin and Cayman's UK Representative Jennifer Dilbert.

The Cayman Islands are hosting an annual high-level meeting which brings together officials of European Union (EU)-affiliated Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and the European Commission (EC) for a discussion of issues of mutual interest.

The 2008 OCTA Ministerial Meeting and Seventh Annual OCT EU Forum, which got underway on Wednesday (26 November), is focusing on the future of EU-OCT relations in the context of a Green Paper recently published by the EC. The Cayman Islands are hosting the conference as the current chair of the OCT Association.

Welcoming delegates to the three-day event, Leader of Government Business, Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, remarked: "The Cayman Islands look forward to improving what is already a good relationship with the EU." He added: "We certainly believe that there are opportunities for greater cooperation that could further assist our development."

Other issues down for discussion relate to competitiveness, trade, regional integration, capacity building, and financing for development in the OCTs under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) programme.

"The Cayman Islands benefit substantially from EU aid programmes which are regional in scope and shared with other nearby OCTs," remarked Mr. Tibbetts, referring to regional weather radar to be located here. This project is intended to reduce disaster risk and improve early warning information on adverse weather conditions in the region.

The Cayman Islands directly received EU aid for the first time following the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. This assistance greatly supported the recovery and reconstruction effort.

Two EU officials were scheduled to visit Cayman Brac on Wednesday to see first-hand the extent of damage caused by Hurricane Paloma earlier this month.

Mr. Tibbetts, Education Minister, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, and Financial Secretary, Hon. Kenneth Jefferson, are the Cayman Islands' representatives at the conference.