What should the partnership between the EU and the Overseas Countries and Territories be like after 2020 when the Cotonou Agreement expires? That was the main theme of the Europe House Lecture that was held in October.
The Europe House Lecture is an annual event organized in turns by the European Parliament Information Office in the Netherlands and the European Commission Representation in the Netherlands. This year it was the turn of the European Parliament Information Office in the Netherlands. This discussion is triggered by Aruba, currently president of the OCT Association (OCTA).
Aruba would like to see a differentiated partnership between Europe and the OCTA-members, based on the key-elements stronger, smarter, greener and more inclusive.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands would like to focus on the added value and mutual benefit the EU-OCT Partnership brings to the OCTs, the Kingdom and the EU.
According to the EU, it is very early to make statements about the future relationship, but social, economic and environmental development should be central in the new agreements.
Catherine Metdepenningen is Head of Sector, OCT Unit, European Commission DG International Cooperation and Development. She started her presentation by stating: ,,The OCTs are part of the European family and are associated with the EU. We need to stimulate the economic development of the OCTs.”
On 25 November 2013 the Council adopted an important Decision, the “Overseas Association Decision”(OAD), which lays down a new articulated and consolidated set of rules and procedures governing the political, commercial and financial relations between the EU and the OCTs. ,,Hence, this Decision provides the comprehensive legal framework for their Association with the Union. Greenland benefits from a specific additional decision. Very important and exceptional, the OAD has no end date and includes provisions on its continuous update. The OAD reflects a paradigm shift, from focus on poverty reduction to a reciprocal relation focused on cooperation on mutual interests, and places special emphasis on priorities which are relevant for the OCTs”, Metdepenningen said. ,,We discuss these topics formally at the annual EU-OCT Forum, but also informally at meetings like these. There are also talks between the OCT commission and the member states about specific topics.”
According to Metdepenningen, the OCTs benefit from EU financial support in the framework of the European Development Fund (EDF – EUR 364, 5 Million under the 11th EDF), while Greenland receives support from the EU general budget. Furthermore, all OCTs benefit from funds managed by the European Investment Bank under its own resources and the resources allocated to the OCT Investment Facility. As a general rule, the OCTs can also benefit from the thematic project lines of the budget of the EU.
,,The world around us is evolving and so are the roles of organizations and institutions. At the political level, the year 2016 will be remembered for conflict, disease and migration, and has called for greater mobilisation of the international community. For the first time in history, we face the possibility that a member state will leave the EU. This is of course very important for the process”, Metdepenningen said.
She has a clear view on what has to be done: ,,At the institutional level, a series of consultations in a coordinated manner: a revised European Consensus for Development will ensure that our actions moving forward are relevant for the world of today and can adapt to the challenges of tomorrow. It should in particular strengthen the links with other EU policies, such as migration, security, humanitarian, trade and climate. Social, economic and environmental development should be central in the new agreements. The agreements should also be more inclusive. The OCTs need to cooperate closer with the member states and it is important that the OCTs integrate more in the region. This European Consensus translates somehow the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and COP 21 results. These two agreements will form the basis for international cooperation.”
According to Metdepenningen the current Cotonou Partnership Agreement needs to bethoroughly reviewed as well as the financial instruments which provide funding to external partners through the EU Budget. ,,The funding is showing good results at our top priorities: environmental issues, sustainable development and the use of natural resources.”
In closing, Metdepenningen showed optimism about the future: ,,The previous agreement gave a positive signal. The OAD Decision is very broad and allows for an extensive policy dialogue which can cover all the issues of common interest between the parties. The new AOD – in force only since 2014 – has established solid pillars that allow us to meet already the current challenges of the new paradigm of development. The Forum in Aruba next year will provide the opportunity to present the results of your internal consultations and to enter with the Commission into open and frank discussions. The OCTs have a special place in the EU family.”