Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a long-time opponent of citizenship by investment, says the European Commission has already told Caribbean prime ministers it’s only a matter of time before it revokes visa-free Schengen travel privileges from the Caribbean CBI jurisdictions.
Speaking during an interview with the Vincentian Agency for Public Information on Monday, Gonsalves said that during a recent meeting between the OECS country prime ministers and the European Commission, representatives of the latter had said, regarding the removal of visa-free Schengen travel for the Caribbean CBI countries, that “it is not a matter of if. It’s not a matter of this thing may happen. This thing is happening. It’s [a question of] when we are going to bring down the hammer, and the hammer is coming down shortly.'”
One prime minister of a Caribbean CBI country who had attended the meeting, Gonsalves revealed, had told him that “it’s the end of the road.”
PM Gonsalves indicated the British would cut visa-free travel to the other Caribbean CBI countries before the year was over, but didn’t specify when the EU might do the same.
“It’s coming. They’ve already indicated it. The UK has started it. […] In fact, this particular prime minister told me that the European Union was even tougher on this than the UK.”
Gonsalves hinted that what happened last week to Dominica could have been predicted.
“Those who didn’t see this coming and who wanted to base an economic strategy on this, like the opposition in Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, they now get their comeuppance. Do you see how much your judgment brought to bear? And I said this thing is not sustainable. You can’t base your economic development on this. You can’t finance your budget on these things.”
Vanuatu expressed “profound dissatisfaction” at UK decision
Meanwhile, in Vanuatu (which also lost visa-free access to the UK along with Dominica last week), Foreign Affairs Minister Jotham Napat expressed indignation at the UK’s decision. According to the Vanuatu Daily Post, Napat summoned the British High Commissioner Nicolette Brent to seek a “justifiable explanation” for the decision.
Stressing that Vanuatu had been actively working to implement the reforms recommended by the EU, Napat expressed his “profound dissatisfaction” with the UK’s unilateral decision and said it had made him question the UK’s commitment to Vanuatu’s development goals. He also lamented that the decision had not been officially communicated to the Vanuatu government before it was made, thereby giving Vanuatu no opportunity to negotiate or engage the UK in dialogue.
Calling the decision “unfair”, Napat said it had disregarded all the reforms the new government has embarked upon. He promised to thoroughly examine the implications of the decision and to formulate a comprehensive response.
In Saint Kitts & Nevis, veteran lawyer and CBI market observer Dwyer Astaphan, who is a former government minister and MP, told the Antigua Observer that Caribbean CBI countries needed to make the matter of protecting Schengen access “a top priority issue. Our leaders have to deal with this matter urgently and deliberately in the best interest of the people.”
Caribbean governments, he said, “must engage the UK government and the EU. If you could have everybody together somehow, find out […] what is it that would satisfy [the EU]. Cleaning up our regulations? Cleaning up our vigilance? If it reaches a point where there is nothing that we can do to satisfy them, then we can conclude that it is spite and bullying on their part. But we haven’t reached that point.”