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EU relations with Overseas Countries and Territories

The OCTs are 25 countries and territories, which have special links with Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and which are associated with the Union according to the provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The relation between the EU and the OCTs is a function of the EU law, not of the constitutional law of the Member State [example: Saint-Pierre et Miquelon was previously an overseas department under French constitutional law, but has always been considered an OCT under EU law (and not an Outermost region)]. Their nationals are in principle EU citizens.

In detail

Which are the OCTs?

  • Anguilla (UK)
  • Aruba (NL)
  • Bermuda (UK)
  • Bonaire (NL)
  • British Antarctic Territory (UK)*
  • British Indian Ocean Territory (UK)*
  • British Virgin Islands (UK)
  • Cayman Islands (UK)
  • Curação (NL)
  • Falkland Islands (UK)
  • French Polynesia (FR)
  • French Southern and Antarctic Territories (FR)*
  • Greenland (DK
  • Montserrat (UK)
  • New Caledonia and Dependencies (FR)
  • Pitcairn (UK)
  • Saba (NL)
  • Saint Barthelemy
  • Sint Eustatius (NL)
  • Sint Maarten (NL)
  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (UK)*
  • Saint Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha (UK)
  • St. Pierre and Miquelon (FR)
  • Turks and Caicos Islands (UK)
  • Wallis and Futuna Islands (FR)

(*) OCTs without a permanent local population.

Legal framework

Under Part IV of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Articles 198 to 204), "the Member States agree to associate with the Union the non-European countries and territories which have special relations with Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom" (Article 198).The European acquis does not apply to OCTs; instead, the detailed rules and procedures for the Association are provided for by the Council Decision 2013/755/EU* on the Association of the OCTs with the European Union which was adopted on 25 November 2013. Its objectives include:

  • The establishment of close economic relations between the EU and the OCTs as a whole, amongst others through an improvement of the trade arrangements;
  • The promotion of EU's values, standards and interests in the wider world via the OCTs;
  • The enhancement of OCTs' competitiveness;
  • The strengthening of OCTs' resilience and reduction of their vulnerability;
  • The establishment of a more reciprocal relationship between EU and OCTs based on mutual interests and shared values;
  • The promotion of cooperation of OCTs with third partners.

This Decision replaces the Council Decision 2001/822/EC, which expired on 31 December 2013. It is the outcome of long consultations and negotiations between the Commission (Task Force OCT), OCTs and Member States. It aims to modernise the relationship of the EU with its OCTs, moving beyond development cooperation and focusing on a reciprocal relationship based on mutual interests.

The OAD offers a modernised trade regime that focuses on three main areas: trade in goods, trade in services and cooperation on trade-related issues. This is expected to have a positive effect on the OCT trading environment. It will rank OCTs among the EU's most favoured trading partners. not only because of the OCTs' duty- and quota-free access to the EU market for goods, but also because the OCTs will automatically receive better terms of trade in services and establishment. In addition, by changing the conditions under which OCT goods and services access the EU market, it should become easier for OCTs to translate market openings into real export opportunities.

In the case of Greenland, the EU has a comprehensive partnership, which is complementary to the OCT association arrangements under the OAD, and which is based on: (i) Council Decision 2014/137 of 14 March 2014on relations between the European Community on the one hand, and Greenland and the Kingdom of Denmark on the other**; and (ii) the Fisheries Partnership Agreement of 30 July 2006*** between the European Community on the one hand, and the Government of Denmark and the Home Rule Government of Greenland, on the other hand.

* Council Decision 2013/755/EU of 25 November 2013 on the association of the overseas countries and territories with the European Union (‘Overseas Association Decision’) (OJ L344, 19.12.2013)

** Council Decision 2014/137/EU  of 14 March 2014  on relations between the European Union on the one hand, and Greenland and the Kingdom of Denmark on the other (OJ  L76 of  15.03.2014)

*** Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community on the one hand, and the Government of Denmark and the Home Rule Government of Greenland, on the other hand – Protocole setting out the fishing opportunities and financial contribution provided for in the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community ( 1 ) on the one hand, and the Government of Denmark and the Home Rule Government of Greenland , on the other hand (OJ L293/5, 23.10.2012)


Specific Characteristics of the OCTs

There are significant differences between the OCTs themselves in terms of the degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the Member States to which they are linked, their economic and social development as well as their particular geographical characteristics and climate. However, they do share common characteristics: none of them is a sovereign country, they are all parliamentary democracies, they are all islands, the size of their populations is very small and their ecological richness is extraordinary compared to continental Europe.

Their location, as well as their natural wealth, grants them significant advantages as does their role as European outposts in their respective regions. At the same time, they are all vulnerable to external shocks and are in general dependent on a narrow economic base that mostly revolves around services. In this light, the objective of the partnership with the EU consists in enhancing the OCTs’ competitiveness, strengthening their resilience, reducing their economic and environmental vulnerability and promoting cooperation between them and other partners. Specific arrangements are therefore established regarding trade and trade-related cooperation, while financial cooperation is foreseen in order to assist OCTs in their sustainable development.

What form do EU-OCT relations take?

Dialogue between the EU and the OCTs

There is a constant dialogue between the partners, e.g. through:

  • the annual OCT-EU forum (Commission, all OCTs and all the Member States to which they are linked);
  • regular tripartite meetings (Commission, all OCTs and the Member States to which they are linked), and
  • partnership meetings (Commission, individual OCT and related Member State).

EU financial support for OCTs

The EU provides financial support for each OCT's development strategy (set out in a 'Programming Document'). Total EU funding through the European Development Fund (EDF) for all OCTs for the 2014-2020 period amounts to €364,5 million. Greenland is not eligible to EDF funds but receives funds from the General budget of the EU on the basis of the Partnership Agreement between the EU, Denmark and Greenland. The OCTs also receive funding under programmes funded by the general budget of the EU (e.g. research, education, innovation and competitiveness, culture and media, etc.).


Indicative* allocation 10th EDF-OCT (in million EUR)

Indicative* allocation 11th EDF-OCT (in million EUR)






















New Caledonia



French Polynesia



Wallis et Futuna



Saint-Pierre et Miquelon












Turks et Caicos






Falkland Islands



Saint Helena, Ascencion and Tristan da Cunha






Reserve B



EIB Investement Facility



Technical Cooperation Facility














* Precise amount to be defined in individual Financing Decisions.

** Mayotte not eligible to EDF funding since 1.1.2014 following its change of status to an Outermost region of the EU.

Reference service within the European Commission

Within the European Commission and Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation EuropeAid, the Task Force OCT coordinates all activities in the sphere of EU/OCT relations. It also has the primary responsibility of implementing the legislative and regulatory framework established pursuant the Treaty provisions dedicated to OCT.

The role of the Task Force OCT is to define, lead and update the association of the OCTs with the EU. It also leads and coordinates the programming of European aid for all OCTs and plans, coordinates and supervises the Directorate-General’s activities and reporting on relations of the EU with the OCTs.

The Task Force OCT organises and chairs partnership meetings between the Commission’s services, the OCTs and the four Member States to which they are linked (annual OCT-EU Forum, tripartite meetings and partnership working parties) and chairs the Commission Inter-Service group on OCTs.

Last update: 04/06/2014 | Top