Green growth for Overseas Countries and Territories
Environment, trade and regional integration are set to become key areas of cooperation between Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and the EU in the years to come. Discussions at the OCT-EU Forum (24-26 January 2012, Brussels) focused on how EU development funding can best be used to the benefit of OCTs, and how the cooperation framework can be made more efficient in the future.
Participants agreed to concentrate efforts on bringing about sustainable economic development. “The purpose is to create growth without increasing resource and energy consumption”, said Greenland’s Prime Minister, Kuupik Kleist, in his closing speech, stressing the important contribution that an optimal use of EU development initiatives can make in this context. As the incoming chair of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA), Greenland intends to collaborate closely with the Danish EU presidency to make green growth a reality for OCTs.
Momentum for action
This year’s event, which marked the 10th anniversary of the forum, took place at a strategic moment as the legal framework defining the relationship between OCTs and the EU is under revision. The form that the future Overseas Association Decision (OAD) and the complementary partnership between the EU and Greenland will take is to be decided this year. The Commission will submit proposals on the future shape of the EU-OCT association to the Council in the first half of 2012.
Taking into account priorities highlighted by the OCTs in a joint position paper, these will give special attention to environmental protection and climate change and trade-related issues, as well as regional cooperation and integration.
Forum participants stressed the need to take into account the specific needs and challenges of each different country and territory. The Commission confirmed its commitment to making improvements in this regard by creating a more flexible framework.
The decision on EU financial support for OCTs under the next Multiannual Financial Framework (2014-20) is also in the pipeline. The Commission has proposed a total envelope of more than €560 million, including €217.8 million under the general budget for the Partnership with Greenland, and €343.4 million under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) for the other OCTs. It will also look at how OCTs’ participation in the horizontal programmes for which they are eligible can be improved.
Building on past achievements
The proposals for the coming years build on the work carried out in partnership during the past years and aim to take these initiatives further.
“Our cooperation has gone from strength to strength”, said EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. “The €460 million in support of all OCTs since 2008 alone has spurred on development. That support spans numerous fields, from human capital to infrastructure and transport, and from health to governance and economic reform. […] The EU-OCT association is the bedrock of our partnership for the future.”
The forum was also the opportunity to look at some successful initiatives carried out thanks to EU support. The Falkland Islands, for instance, achieved a diversification of the rural economy away from a dependence on wool. Other positive examples include a project for the management of protected areas to support sustainable economies in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the organisation of the Green Aruba Energy Conference in 2011.
To make the best use of available funds, Mr Piebalgs called on OCTs to overcome the delays in committing funds under the 10th EDF.
Background: a ‘special relationship’
The OCTs are 26 countries and territories outside mainland Europe which have constitutional ties with one of its Member States (Denmark, France, the Netherlands or the UK). While they are not part of the EU and therefore not directly subject to EU law, they have a special ‘associate’ status designed to help their economic and social development.
Despite significant differences between the individual OCTs, they face many common challenges including remoteness, vulnerability to economic shocks and climate change and difficulties in building and maintaining infrastructure and achieving sustainable energy supply.
The OCTA was created in 2002 to coordinate OCTs’ views and to act as a counterpart in discussions with the Commission and EU Member States.
The next OCT-EU Forum will take place in Greenland in September 2012.