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Antigua and Barbuda has had a formal relationship with the European Union (then the European Economic Community) since 1984. As a former British colony, which became independent in 1981, it was the entry into the EEC by Britain in 1973 which offered Antigua and Barbuda and other Commonwealth countries in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) the possibility of negotiating their future relations with the EU.
The overall aim of EU co-operation is to improve the quality of life of the populations in the beneficiary countries through targeted and sustainable programmes. In 2014 the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, which covers Antigua and Barbuda, disbursed just over EUR 80 million in development co-operation aid amongst the ten countries it is accredited to in the region.
The co-operation has been underpinned by four Lome agreements and now the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000, through which the European Development Fund (EDF) provides grant aid towards development projects and programmes. The European Commission manages the funds and jointly implements the projects.
Today the EU is Antigua and Barbuda's largest grant aid partner for development. The present EU 11th EDF intervention in Antigua and Barbuda focuses on Public Financial Management and Revenue Reform, which has a financial envelope of 2.4 million euro. An amount of EUR 150,000 has been set aside to support civil society organisations, specifically the Non-State Actors (NSA) Advisory Panel, which is actively involved in all aspects of our cooperation from programme formulation to implementation. This allocation may also be used to finance actions linked to cross cutting issues.
Some of the past projects and programmes supported by the EU include the upgrading and expansion of the Antigua Hotel Training Centre, rehabilitation of the seawall of the historic Nelson Dockyard, construction of a three-storey science block at the Antigua State College, expansion of the Technical Vocational Centre at Tomlinson among others.
The EU–Antigua & Barbuda development cooperation portfolio is almost entirely based on its allocations under the EDF. However, as a response to the present global financial crisis the country has benefitted from EUR 9.0 million of grants from the Vulnerability FLEX mechanism which was the European Union's swift response to help countries which were the most affected due to their poor resilience to external shocks.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) also helps to implement the EU’s cooperation and development policies outside the EU and has made loans available to Antigua and Barbuda. EIB loans have been utilised in the country for a road rehabilitation programme, an airport navigational system at the V. C. Bird Airport, the improvement of the North Shore Water Distribution System and a livestock development programme. The EIB also participated in the funding of the Antigua and Barbuda component of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States waste management project.
The EU is placing increasing emphasis on climate change, alternative energy and food security as well as mainstreaming issues such as environmental protection, gender and governance in its development co-operation. The EU is committed to the promotion of Human Rights, the rule of law and democracy worldwide.
As it pertains to the Regional dimension Antigua and Barbuda and the EU conduct relations not only at bilateral level, but within the framework of several regional groupings and other fora.
The European Union, in seeking a partnership for growth, stability and development with the Caribbean, supports the ongoing process of regional integration within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). As a member of CARICOM, Antigua and Barbuda is deeply involved in the policy dialogue between the EU and CARICOM and benefits from the resources made available under the EU Strategy for the Caribbean. Antigua and Barbuda also benefits from its participation in the EU-Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) summits that take place bi-annually. Heads of State and Government of the EU and the Latin America and the Caribbean countries met in June 2015 for the 7th EU-LAC Summit.