OCT - Dialogue with EU

OCT - Dialogue with EU

With the aim of enabling the OCTs to take a full part in the implementation of the EU-OCT Association, a broad-based dialogue is organised by the Commission to enable the EU, all the OCTs and the Member States to which they are linked to consult each other on the principles, detailed procedures and results of the association.

In particular, an OCT-EU Forum for dialogue meets annually to bring together OCT authorities, representatives of the Member States and the Commission (as well as Members of the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank or representatives of outermost regions, when appropriate). The Commission chairs the OCT-EU Forum and provides its secretariat.

The 12th OCT-EU Forum took place on 5-6 December 2013 in Brussels. This edition of the Forum was very important since it took place following the adoption of the new Overseas Association decision.

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Commissioner Piebalgs addressed special welcome to Bermuda who has signed up for the OAD as of 1st January 2014. Commissioner Piebalgs launched the programming exercise under the 11th EDF and communicated individual allocation for the OCT in the context of territorial allocations. In his speech, Commissioner indicated that “Our partnership is not only working; it is growing, too. This functioning, growing partnership is moving forward as well – most recently, thanks to the EU’s timely adoption of the Overseas Association Decision. The Decision enters into force on 1 January and will enable us to address properly the modern challenges we face. Like our relationship, it is the product of a collaborative effort involving the OCTs, the Member States to which they are linked, stakeholders and the European institutions. Seeing our partnership working, expanding and moving forward is welcome. But I believe that we can take it even further. Our partnership, like EU development policy as a whole, has the potential to deliver more in terms of focus and results.”

He invited OCTs and Member States representatives to complete the implementation of programmes funded by 10th EDF and to actively engage in the programming process for 11th EDF resources but also to initiate the reflection on post 2020 relationship with the Union.

All participants praised in their interventions the collaborative efforts which allowed for the elaboration of new OAD.

The French Minister for Overseas underlined that the main purpose of the Forum was to seal the terms of the Association of OCTs, countries of great diversity but unified by common links to the EU. The revised OAD is the 9th decision of the Association which renews the confidence in the Association and responds to the global threats faced by OCTs. He welcomed the wider areas of cooperation offered by the new OAD, the eligibility to participate in horizontal programmes and the reinforcement for greater institutional dialogue.

The representative of the Netherlands expressed the satisfaction of his Member State that “the relationship between the EU and OCT has been taken to the next level: based on equality and mutually beneficial relations. Relations have moved beyond a partnership based on traditional development cooperation. Instead, improving regional integration, promoting sustainable development and establishing a trade regime are key. This is indeed a reflection of the mature and equal relationship we strive for.”

The Ambassador of Denmark for Arctic issues stated that Denmark is “happy to see that the special relationship between the OCTs and the EU are moving away from a traditional development cooperation approach to a more reciprocal partnership to support sustainable development of the OCTs. We are particularly pleased to see an increased priority given in the new OAD to the promotion of ‘Green Growth’, to sustainable management of natural resources, adaptation to and mitigation of impacts of climate change and the promotion of disaster risk reduction. These are areas of mutual interest to the OCTs and the EU.”

United Kingdom’s Minister for the British Overseas territories, in his message hihgligthed that “at this Forum we celebrate the agreement of a new Overseas Association Decision. The Decision recognises and values the strength and breath of the relationship between the Overseas Countries and Territories and the European Union. It recognises the uniqueness and diversity of the OCTs; it recognises the challenges they face; and it also recognises the cultural richness they bring to the EU. The OAD rightly recognises the importance of trade to the economic prosperity of OCTs. Regarding OCTs as most favoured nations is a significant step forward. The focus on capacity building measures in the field of trade and amending the Rules of Origin provisions will bring real practical advantages. And the importance to many UK Territories of the financial services sector has also been recognized. We now move from to hard work of developing and agreeing the new Decision to the important task of implementation. The degree of cooperation we have seen between the Commission, OCTs and Member States puts us collectively in a strong position as we move forward.”

Mr Ponga, MEP, welcomed the new opportunities that have come about, as a result of the Overseas Association Decision stating that "we must take these opportunities to make the partnership between the EU and the OCTs as efficient as possible, benefitting partners. This is an incredible opportunity for our territories and Europe, because it is thanks to its OCTs that the European Union will serve as (shining) an example to the world.”

Mme Josette Borel-Lincertin, President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, stressed the need "to find synergies so that OCTs and outermost regions would be able to formulate models of development suited to their realities and constraints. Outermost regions and OCTs should be able to position themselves as real players, in terms of European cooperation, in their different regions. "

The chief Minister of Anguilla, indicated “We believe the EU and the Overseas Territories can be effective partners in promoting both social and economic development, and this will be mutually beneficial, resulting in more socially secure societies and rising numbers of economic opportunities. “

Aruba’s plenipotentiary Minister called “upon all OCT’s to embrace the new instruments the OAD provides us and at the same time adopt European standards where necessary.”

Bonaire representative highlighted that “given the small scale and economic potential of most of our islands to finance these innovations, we most definitively welcome and recognize the EU funding.”

Premier of British Virgin Islands chose the theme 'Unlocking the value of the OCTs.' This theme reflects OCTs consensus on sustainable development through innovation, competitiveness and green growth. It also reflects a shift in OCT-EU relations from an aid-based relationship to a modern partnership between two equally responsible parties working together to develop the full potential of the OCTs. It also implies that the OCTs are valuable assets to the EU, as well as our regional and international partners.

Representative of Cayman Islands referred in particular to the relationship with the EU in the area of financial services indicating in his closing remarks that “all business is global and therefore, all regulation of business must also be global and universal”, reiterating Cayman Islands’ commitment to “continue to play an active role in these discussions, and to take up its responsibility by effectively applying standards that are promoted and practiced globally.”

Curacao representative underlined that “Such exchange of ideas and strategies confirm the determination of OCT’s to devise ways and means to address the challenges we face as leaders in advancing our respective development processes. In this connection, we encourage the further advancement of opportunities for such dialogue amongst OCTs, the outermost regions, as well as the ACP countries which are similarly situated.”

Member of Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands indicated that “the OAD was wholeheartedly welcomed by the Falkland Islands. We extend our thanks to the Commission and to colleagues and friends in the OCTs in securing a significant advancement in trading arrangements between our Islands and the EU. The removal of quota restrictions and simplification of Rules of Origin offer great potential for the advancement of the Falklands Islands economy.”

The Minister of French Polynesia expressed his satisfaction regarding the evolution of the Overseas Association Decision and indicated that "the more we remain in step with each another, the more we go towards elevating the EU to a world-leading position."

Greenland representative indicated that “OCTs are global hubs of excellence – but this does not help much if only we know. This is knowledge to be shared and widespread.”

The Premier of Montserrat declared that “We embark on the implementation of a new Overseas Association Decision. The primary features of the new Decision and the financial resources available will enable us to create the investment, employment and wider innovative developmental opportunities so critical to the goals of the OCT-EU partnership. I look towards the future with greater optimism about OCT-EU relations. We know that the EU-OCT partnership is progressing and as a consequence we must be innovative and effective in the prudential use of the resources available to us. We must collaborate as OCTs. Our people demand it of us as leaders. With the resources and opportunities being made available, it is for us to be innovative and deliver the development and growth potentials.”

The President of New Caledonia declared that this process was long because of the heavy workload, but that it has led to a high-quality document which should prove to be of enormous value to the OCTs and the EU. It is now the time to "play the new music score" and explore the new harmonies" contained therein. “We are keen to develop regional initiatives in the Pacific, to build up projects and to share our expertise with the ACP countries -but also to work with our neighbours, Australia and New Zealand, particularly with regards to our fields of mutual interest, concerning the OAD.”

Pitcairn islands representative indicated “We are currently working with Pew charitable trusts and National Geographic to develop a Marine Reserve using Pitcairn’s largest resource, its 800,000 sq km of Exclusive Economic Zone. It will be the world’s largest Highly Protected Marine Reserve. This has global environmental benefits. You might think it audacious of the smallest democracy in the world to seek to establish the world’s largest Marine reserve but we are no stranger to challenges or to doing the right thing for humanity.”

Saba’s representative explained that “the Saba Bank is the most biodiversified element in the Caribbean Sea. It is also recognized that our region contains the invaluable assets of nature that forms part of the basis of the global environment. This needs to be cherished as well. Sustainable development is key in order to protect this vulnerable asset in our region.”

The senator of Saint Barthelemy welcomed “the new philosophy and direction of the decision. The OCTs are, in their respective regional pools, conduits of the values, culture, and in a sense, of the ambition of Europe. Regarding, more specifically, the wider environmental objectives, Saint-Barthélemy has largely aligned itself with European law by forging a demanding local policy in this area. We are also very attentive and favorable towards all cooperation initiatives.”

Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha & Asencion islands welcomed “the new OAD and the modernised relationship recognising the diversity of the OCTs. While St Helena is supportive of the areas of mutual interest detailed in article 5, we would like to highlight the fact that OCTs are at varying stages of development and still require support for basic infrastructure. We look forward to the continuation of the BEST or a similar programme to support the very important environment projects required in the OCTs.”

The President of Saint Pierre et Miquelon welcomed the new Overseas Association Decision that “will place OCT-EU relations on a new basis –one that is more equitable and recognises not only the specific needs arising from our islands and our remoteness, but also a one which can contribute towards the construction of wider Europe and its international influence.”

Sint Eustatius declared that “Together with our counterpart OCTs we will make use of the innovative possibilities of information technologies that will remove the boundaries between us. Innovation and cooperation between the OCT's can only lead to better use of the support from the EU and will also lead to higher efficiency. »

The Premier of Sint Maarten “no man is an island”, in short: cooperation is key! Sint Maarten is uniquely situated in a small area composed of OCTs, ORs, and ACP member-states. Sint Maarten has sought to intensify cooperation with its neighbours, and I am proud to say that content will be given to these approaches at beginning of next year with the identification of areas for joint cooperation with French Saint-Martin. Sint Maarten is currently investigating ways in which it can make use of its unique geopolitical location to the benefit of both the region and the EU, while at the same time ensuring the continued socio-economic development of its people. Feasibility studies are being carried out to determine our own appeal as a hub for EU and other international business, with hopes that our duality will serve as a recipe for increased transnational cooperation, trade, and knowledge sharing.”

The Prefect of French Southern and Antarctic Territories indicated that “Our OCT covers an area ranging from the tropical Scattered Islands, to the Sub-Antarctic Islands and Adélie Land in Antarctica. It houses the largest nature reserve in France, with a land area of 700,000 ha. and a marine area of 1.57 million ha. Inclusion in the Association decision is essential for our country, as it concerns areas of cooperation such as the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable management of fishery resources, accessibility, support for research and cultural exchange. The French Southern and Antarctic Territories can become full participants to cooperation, in their own right, and not only in conjunction with the seven ACP countries and the two outermost regions in the area.”

Turks and Caicos stated “we are pleased that the EU has heard the cries of the OCT’s and as a result has adopted an OAD that seeks not only to simplify procedures, but also to provide training and much needed capacity building to OCT’s to better assist in the preparation of work that will be required going forward. This is an area that has indeed inhibited access to funds in the past and we are happy that this is being addressed.”

Wallis and Futuna highlighted that “despite the structural handicaps we face, it is our priority to build a sustainable and environmentally-friendly economy. We particularly favour innovative projects and those that have been adapted to the constraints of our community. Adapting to the impact of climate change should be the second major focus of the work of our community, over the coming years. In order to achieve these goals, we rely on the strengthening of political dialogue with our institutional partners, the State and the European Union, but also with the countries and territories of the Pacific region and elsewhere.”

Documents from OCT-EU Forums are available below:

Taking place at the launching of the programming exercise for the 11th EDF, this edition of the Forum was followed by two days training seminar regarding European Development Fund, organized by the European Commission in order to provide to OCTs in depth perspective of the procedures applicable to EU funding for OCTs under the 11th EDF. The seminar was attended by representatives from all OCTs.

You can consult all presentations provided during this training here.