Edison Rijna visited Saba on Monday, May 29 in his new role as Special Envoy for the Caribbean Netherlands for the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) funds and economic development with Latin America and the Caribbean and economic development. Rijna served nine years as Island Governor of Bonaire when he assumed his new role in April this year.
With his appointment as special envoy, he will work on better access to funds from the EU and the UN for the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius). To this end, he will maintain contacts with the European Commission in Brussels and the region and UN-affiliated organizations relevant to the Caribbean Netherlands and identify promising projects.
In addition, as Special Envoy for Economic Relations with Latin America, he will lead inbound and outbound economic missions to and from surrounding Central and South American countries. The aim of these missions is to provide companies and other parties from the three Caribbean Netherlands islands with better access to surrounding markets and to interest companies and parties from surrounding countries in investing in and trading with the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands. A larger trade and investment volume contributes to the strengthening of the island economies.
Rijna and his advisor Bianca Peters visited Saba to explain the new role and to prepare for future collaboration. They see opportunities in the EU’s Green Deal, Global Gateways, and the Social Domain. For Saba investments in nature and environment, renewable energy, and renovation of the airport could be interesting cases. The processes to apply for EU funding are sometimes difficult and it is hard to know for individual islands when subsidies or funds might apply. With the help of the special envoy, this might be improved. It is notable that the French islands in the Caribbean have been able to find substantial EU funding last few years.
Rijna’s working visit to Saba started with a meeting with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and Acting Island Secretary Henk de Jong, followed by a meeting with the Island Council. He further met with the management of the Saba Electric Company (SEC) and the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), both of which work with EU-funded projects. Rijna also visited the Botanical Garden.
The special envoy will present his exact plan in July 2023 and aims to station one of his staff members permanently on Saba. This is especially helpful because not only the Public Entity Saba can apply for funding, but also citizens, NGO’s and businesses. More information will be shared later. Rijna will visit the three Caribbean Netherlands islands, will have meetings in Brussels and The Hague, and will go to UN agencies in New York before he presents his plans.