OCT and EU Relationship in Transition

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (GIS) – The Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) have since 2003 called for better recognition of the OCTs specific situation.

After Sint Maarten acquired country status last October, Sint Maarten is now officially an OCT, but before that the Netherlands Antilles was an OCT.

The OCTs are non-European countries and territories that have special relations with Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. 

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They are associated with the European Community with a view to promoting their economic and social development and establishing close economic relations between them and the Community as a whole.

The European Community Treaty states that the association of the OCTs with the Community ‘shall serve primarily to further the interests and prosperity of the inhabitants of these countries and territories in order to lead them to the economic, social and cultural development to which they aspire.’

There are in total approximately 25 OCTs. The OCTs are constitutionally linked to a Member State, but without being part of the Community.

Honorable Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, will be attending the Overseas Countries and Territories Association’s (OCTA) Ministerial Conference and the OCT-European Union (EU) Forum in the last week of February to be held on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia.

The European Commission has since 2005 suggested building a new relationship based on the OCTs and European Union (EU) membership of the same family.

The European Commission (EC) wishes to carry out a holistic review of the relations between the EU and the OCTs and to consider a substantial revision of the OCT-EC association.

It is the intention to examine how to step away from the classic development cooperation approach, while enhancing the competiveness of the OCTs and their gradual integration within the regional and world economies, taking into account not only the challenges they are facing but also their potential.

In order to pave the way towards such a modernization, the Commission has adopted a Green paper, which should facilitate a global and transparent discussion on the future relations between the EU and OCTs, in particular as regards the overall philosophy that should underpin these relations in the longer term.

The aim of the present Green Paper is to examine a series of challenges and opportunities and to obtain input from interested parties before defining a new partnership between the EU and the OCTs, in particular in view of the expiry of the current Overseas Decision at the end of 2013.

The discussions at the meetings will be primarily centered on a new EU-OCT cooperation structure. The Prime Minister is looking forward to the deliberations.

The trip is being funded by the EU and is being coordinated by the Department of Interior and Kingdom Relations (BAK) that falls under the Ministry of General Affairs.

New Caledonia is a French OCT which is located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean approximately 751 miles East of Australia and 930 miles Northwest of New Zealand.