Beyond fighting poverty – Commission pushes for modernised EU relationship with Overseas Countries and Territories

In the perspective of the revision of the EU - Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) relationship, Mr. Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, will attend the OCT-EU annual forum on the first of March 2011. He wants to promote a redefinition of relations between the EU and the overseas countries and territories, the Commission intends to go beyond the fight against poverty in developing a partnership involving mutual rights and obligations.

Prior to his departure, Commissioner Piebalgs declared that a focus on poverty reduction was no longer sufficient for the EU-OCT relationship. The new partnership should push for the economic and social development of the OCTs, ensuring an inclusive growth and a sustainable development. The OCTs have its important place in the European family and he assured he was determined determined to put the relations to a new, improved footing.

The main aim of the Forum is to elaborate on how the EU-OCT relationship can be moved to a new level ahead of legislative proposals expected for 2012. Commissioner Piebalgs will receive a joint paper from the OCTs, as well as Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, that lists proposals and ideas on how to further advance the relationship. Enhancing competitiveness, strengthening resilience and promoting cooperation should be at the core of the new approach. Increasing cooperation of OCTs with their regional and European partners will be an important element of this.

An overhaul will need to reflect the specific situation of OCTs. Many of them are vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change: cyclones, erosion, floods, the rising sea level; but also to public health threats such as infectious diseases. Often, additional challenges arise from a narrow economic base and low population density, not to mention the sometimes extremely remote location.

Background

*The European Union and the Overseas Countries and Territories

The EU is closely associated to 24 OCTs – territories which have special relationships with four EU Member States: Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the UK. Many of them are in remote locations in the Atlantic, Pacific or Indian Oceans. OCTs are not part of the EU territory but their citizens are in principle European citizens. OCTs benefit from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with a total of €286 million over the period 2008-2013. Greenland, which is not eligible for funding under the EDF, receives € 25 million per year from the EU budget as part of its Partnership Agreement with the EU.

*Redefining the relationship

The current Overseas Association Decision of 2001 will expire in 2013. In preparation for this, the European Commission launched a Green Paper in 2008, followed by a Communication to consult on the future development of EU-OCT relationships. The communication defines three central objectives: Enhancing competitiveness, strengthening resilience and promoting cooperation. A legislative proposal for a new Overseas Association Decision will be presented by the Commission before July 2012.

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