The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) came into being on 18 June 1981, when seven Eastern Caribbean countries signed a treaty agreeing to cooperate with each other and promote unity and solidarity among the Members. The Treaty became known as the Treaty of Basseterre, so named in honour of the capital city of St. Kitts and Nevis where it was signed.
Today the OECS consists of nine member states: The independent countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines; as well as the British Overseas Countries and Territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat.
A revised Treaty of Basseterre to establish the OECS Economic Union was ratified on 18th June 2010. To date, the OECS has maintained the schedule outlined for implementation of the Economic Union. Most Member States have enacted or are in the process of enacting all domestic legislation required to give effect to the Revised Treaty. OECS citizens enjoy full free movement throughout the six independent Member States of the OECS, such that they are able to enter an OECS Member State and remain for an indefinite period in order to work, establish businesses, provide services or reside. The OECS Authority has also agreed in principle to the free circulation of goods within the Economic Union.
In May 2013 the EU became acredited to the OECS Secretariat.
The OECS is administered by a Central Secretariat located in Saint Lucia. Over the years several subsidiary and autonomous institutions have been created.
The Islands share a single currency, the Eastern Caribbean Dollar. The operation of the currency is overseen by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the monetary authority for the seven OECS governments and the government of Anguilla.
They also share a common Supreme Court: The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, with its two divisions, the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal is based in Saint Lucia but Judges travel to each territory to hear appeals from the High Court. Final appeals go to the Privy Council in the UK. Other institutions of the OECS include the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA).
The OECS functions in a rapidly changing international economic environment, characterised by globalisation and trade liberalisation, which are posing serious challenges to the economic and social stability of these small island developing states. It is the purpose of the Organisation to assist its Members to respond to these multi-faceted challenges by identifying scope for joint or coordinated action towards the economic and social advancement of their countries.
In carrying out its mission, the OECS works along with a number of regional agencies and institutions. These include the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat and the Caribbean Development Bank. The OECS will benefit from the EU's €346 million allocation to CARICOM under the 11th EDF, which will go towards strengthening integration within the sub-grouping.
The EU has provided a grant in the past that assisted with the setting up and operation of a technical mission to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva. In addition it has given financial assistance to the OECS to assist it in preparing for the Economic Partnership Agreement.