In March 2016, I launched The Commonwealth Forum, a branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society based in Brussels, which serves as the main forum for the European Parliament’s relations with the Commonwealth nations.
The forum brings together Commonwealth Members of the European Parliament, Ambassadors, senior officials, representatives of the civil society, and other friends of the Commonwealth in Brussels.
I have decided to set up this platform because there was a clear lack of formal outreach and understanding of the Commonwealth within the European institutions, sometimes even driven by the idea that the EU and the Commonwealth were competitors for UK interests, when in fact they are two completely different groups, and a stronger framework between the two only benefits both sides.
The Commonwealth today represents a third of the world’s population and includes seven of the world’s fastest growing economies. These facts should not be ignored and we must explore and work on the opportunity it represents by encouraging an inclusive trade policy with these nations and leveraging the potential of this relationship.
It is important that we keep pushing forward the trade agenda with countries that have a greater commonality with us as is the case of Australia and New Zealand, but also to support and negotiate with those nations who have larger disparities, as these would see the most value in the elimination of obstacles to trade.
As a Chair of this initiative, I have been supporting numerous events and debates to promote the Commonwealth’s rich heritage and to develop a strong network for business and trade relationships.
In 2017 I am keen to continue to develop contacts with the Commonwealth missions to the European Union, and to champion this network, in the hope that we can reaffirm the importance of the Commonwealth nations in the heart of the EU. Building upon the links established with the Commonwealth Secretariat will also be a priority as we seek to achieve “Observer Delegation Status” with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.