Other available languages: none
Brussels, 28 February 2011
Q&A on EU support to Overseas Countries and Territories
On 1 March 2011 EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs will attend the annual OCT-EU Forum (1-4 March) in Noumea, New Caledonia. Representatives of the 24 Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) including 7 Heads of Government of OCTs as well as representatives from the four Member States to which the OCTs are linked (Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) will be amongst the participants at the Forum.
What are OCTs?
OCTs are non-European countries and territories that have constitutional ties with one of the following Member States: Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. All inhabitants of the OCTs are, in principle, European citizens, however, OCTs do not constitute EU territory. The OCTs are associated with the European Union with a view to promoting their economic and social development and establishing close economic relations between them and the Union as a whole.
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, but also in the economic and social field and as regards their geographical characteristics and climate. However, despite the immense diversity between the OCTs, 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. They are all relatively vulnerable to external shocks and are in general dependent on a narrow economic base that mostly revolves around services.
From a European perspective, as part of a mutual relationship, the OCTs can be important actors in their respective regions in promoting core values of the EU, such as human rights, rule of law, environmental protection etc.
Which are the OCTs?
What is the annual OCT-EU Forum? What will be on the agenda?
The EU, the OCTs and the Member States to which they are linked are engaged in a broad-based dialogue in which they discuss the principles, detailed procedures and results of the association. The OCT-EU Forum represents the annual event that facilitates this dialogue.
At this year's Forum, discussions will focus on the future of OCT-EU relations on the first day (1 March). The second day will see sessions on public health and environment. The third day is devoted to evaluating past cooperation and to implementation and programming of the 9th and 10th EDF territorial and regional allocations.
What funds and programmes do OCTs currently benefit from?
The OCTs are facing many challenges such as: remoteness, vulnerability to economic shocks and climate change, difficulties to build and maintain infrastructure, or sustainable energy supply. OCTs benefit from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with a total of €286 million over the period 2008-2013.
Greenland is not eligible to EDF funds but receives €25 million per year from the General budget of the EU on the basis of the Partnership Agreement between the EU and Greenland which covers the period from 2007-2013.
10th EDF programming table (2008-2013)
In addition, all OCTs, can benefit from EU programmes such as:
Examples of projects in the OCTs
Renewable energy in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis-et-Futuna
The EU funds with €5,227 819 a programme benefiting the 3 Pacific OCTs (New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis-et-Futuna) called "Tonnes équivalent pétrole - valorisation des énergies renouvelables et transfert d'expérience et de savoir faire (TEP VERTES)". This programme aims to improve living conditions and development of economic activities of rural or isolated populations. It does so by increasing the use of renewable energy, through for instance the installation of photovoltaic equipments to ensure the provision of electricity in schools and the construction of power stations using renewable energy. Thanks to the project, a hybrid (solar and diesel energy) power station was inaugurated in August 2010 in Ahé (French Polynesia). A mixed (windmill and solar energy) and a photovoltaic power station have been built in New Caledonia. The total number of final beneficiaries is estimated at 750 households.
Response and Preparation for Natural Disasters in South Pacific Ocean
The EU funds the Regional Response and Preparation Programme for Natural Disasters for the South Pacific Ocean (€2.5 million from the EDF), implemented by the French Red Cross. The successful intervention of PIROPS during and following the cyclone TOMAS in Wallis and Futuna (March 2010) notably illustrated the success of the programme. This cooperation platform is hosted by New Caledonia. The objective is to reinforce the material, logistical and human capacities to respond to natural disasters in the South Pacific. The programme has enabled the setting up of an emergency intervention package (first aid material, water treatment…) to respond to the needs of 5000 people in emergency situations. It has also allowed for the recruitment and training of 180 team members who can respond within 48 hours and provide assistance in the field of drinking water treatment, health care and logistics. Finally, thanks to the programme, the targeted population has been able to improve knowledge of risks and is better prepared to react in case of a natural disaster. One example for this is community on the east coast of New Caledonia, which is most exposed in the event of a tsunami.
Netherlands Antilles "Urban Infrastructures for Socially Deprived Areas"
A programme to improve the living conditions of low income residents and assist poverty alleviation on the five islands of the Netherlands Antilles is currently being implemented, with a financial contribution of €24 million. It aims to create adequate and accessible social infrastructure and services in socially deprived low-income housing communities and to enable the island government’s public works department concerned with social infrastructure to deliver suitable and timely services on a sustainable basis. It will notably improve infrastructure and services in a minimum of 12 existing and green field low-income housing settlements, including roads, electricity, drainage and irrigation and improved water supply systems, treatment and distribution networks in 6 housing communities.
What will be the future of OCT-EU relations?
The current Overseas Association Decision of 2001 will expire in 2013. The proposal for a revised Decision is therefore foreseen for 2012. In preparation of this, the European Commission launched a Green Paper in 2008 to consult on the future development of EU-OCT relationships, followed by a Communication in 2009. The Communication provides a guide for the further work in replacing the current Overseas Association Decision when it expires. Numerous issues will need to be studied, including: impact of regional integration, principal challenges and the opportunities of each OCT, identification of their potential, their level of competitiveness, and possible adaptation of the rules of origin, and possible financing mechanisms. All these issues will be examined in an Impact Assessment by the Commission prior to its legislative proposals for the time after 2013.
The 24 OCTs and the four Member States to which they are linked will present a Joint Position Paper to Commissioner Piebalgs on 1 March 2011 in New Caledonia, laying out elements of their vision for the future. This document will be taken into consideration when preparing the legislative proposal for a new Overseas Association Decision, to be presented by the Commission to the Council by mid-2012 2012.