Barbados, a small island in the eastern Caribbean situated near to Trinidad and Venezuela, is one of the most prosperous countries in the region. It has been independent since 1966, and has an exemplary system of parliamentary democracy ( Westminster model). It fully respects human rights and does not have any problems of governance. The percentage of the population considered poor stands at just over 10%. Home to various regional institutions, it also plays a constructive role in regional integration efforts and relations between the region and the European Union.
Barbados is vulnerable on account of its size 431 km² and 270,000 inhabitants making for a particularly high demographic density- and the historical dependency of its economy on sugar production and now tourism, mainly from the United Kingdom and North America. The main challenge is to promote greater economic diversification, in particular by transforming the uncompetitive sugar sector, and through more sophisticated development of human resources. Regional cooperation and integration mechanisms also need to be improved to enable the country to adapt to changes in international conditions.
Barbados is a key country in EU-Caribbean relations in view of its active role and its status in the region, in particular in the eastern Caribbean, where it is a sub-regional centre pivotal for transport and services. The foundation of past success needs to be consolidated to meet the challenges of the present and the future. These include changes at regional and global level in light of the reform of the common market in sugar, the Economic Partnership Agreement signed with the EU at the end of 2007 and the progress towards establishing a Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM). Opportunities for expanding tourism need to be analysed. This has been restricted by the limitations of the country and its financial services sector, the development of which has for some time been seen as a priority by the national authorities.
The EU/Barbados cooperation strategy for the period 2008-2013 focuses on supporting government policies, in particular those aimed at promoting the development of human resources and economic diversification by means of general budgetary assistance. The 10th European Development Fund provides for almost € 10 M and the Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol Countries (AMSP) provide for more than € 34 M for the period 2007-2010. The focus is on diversification of the country’s economic base, in particular through assistance aimed at the development of human resources, and support for the national authorities in their efforts to ensure an economically and ecologically viable transformation of the traditional sugar industry, which they want to re-orientate towards the production of ethanol and electricity.