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Overseas countries and territories (OCTs): towards a new partnership
The European Union intends to reform the principles which form the basis of its cooperation with overseas countries and territories (OCTs). This new approach shall support the sustainable development of OCTs whilst taking due account of their specificities.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 6 November 2009 - Elements for a new partnership between the EU and the overseas countries and territories (OCTs) [COM(2009) 623 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
Relations between the European Union (EU) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) should evolve into a reciprocal partnership, founded on mutual interests. These relations are currently defined by the framework for association established by Decision 2001/822/EC.
This Communication presents a new approach aimed at supporting the sustainable development of OCTs by adapting the cooperation principles and priorities to the specificities of these countries and territories. In addition, if their level of development is generally higher than that of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states, certain OCTs shall continue to benefit from European aid to fight against poverty.
Supporting sustainable development
The future partnership, based on Article 198 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, should prioritise three axes of cooperation:
- the competitiveness of OCTs in key areas such as education and training, innovation, the small and medium-sized enterprises sector, and good political and economic governance;
- reducing their vulnerability to economic shocks, environmental issues, energy dependency and natural disasters;
- regional integration through increasing intra-regional economic exchanges, carrying out cooperation projects (specifically for cross-border environmental protection) and increasing cultural exchanges.
Cooperation should be tailored to the situation of each partner.
European financial and technical assistance shall be improved, specifically by coordinating financial instruments with those for the Outermost Regions, ACP states or other countries neighbouring the OCTs.
OCTs may participate in certain Community programmes (such as the 7th Research Framework Programme). The programmes must therefore be adapted to the new priorities.
The Commission has identified a set of areas for cooperation which should enable the potential of OCTs to be developed. They involve:
- establishing centres of excellence and expertise to manage the advantages and difficulties of each territory;
- upgrading OCT legislation to EU rules and standards, specifically to encourage the trade of goods and services (for example by bringing customs procedures and sanitary and phytosanitary standards closer together) and compliance with the principles of transparency on tax;
- developing environmental cooperation to support the transition of OCTs to a greener economy, and helping them adapt to climate change, biodiversity protection, the promotion of renewable energies and disaster risk reduction;
- improving the OCTs’ accessibility by developing information and communication technologies and transport infrastructures;
- increasing trade and economic cooperation in terms of international trade liberalisation, which entails reciprocal trade relationships and specific rules of origin.
The Communication follows the Green Paper on future relations between the EU and OCTs. The conclusions of the Green Paper support the revision of the existing framework for association.