Report Europe House Lecture

Europe House Lecture

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 on Monday 17 October.

The key note speakers were Cedrick Tilma, Nout van Woudenberg and Catherine Metdepenningen. The panel consisted of Ole Moesby, Mininnguaq Kleist and Ibrahim Moussouni. The event was led by moderator Dimitry Kochenov. Eduard Slootweg spoke a welcome word.

Common themes in the speeches and discussions were:

- redesign partnership to match 21st century needs and potential

- collaboration, reciprocity and listening to each other

- differences and similarities between OCTs

- the Brexit, which may lead to the exit of twelve UK OCTs

- differentiation: the special status of Greenland

- inclusion, sustainability, cohesion and human rights

Inhoudsopgave van deze pagina:


Moderator Dimitry Kochenov

Chair in EU Constitutional Law

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

Tonight is about an important change. In 1957 the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) were included when the EGKS were negotiated. Back then, Foreign Relations were mainly concerned about the EU and Africa. There was a unilateral way of thinking about organizing a common space at the time. Decolonisation changed this way of thinking. The situation has changed, but the relation is the same. That leaves us to wonder what is suitable and what not for the EU-OCT partnership in the 21st century. How can we build a productive partnership together? How can we change the situation for la monde? That is what tonight is about.


Eduard Slootweg

Head of European Parliament Information Office in the Netherlands

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

The Europe House Lecture is an annual event organised 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. Thanks to Aruba and its representation.

Overseas Countries and Territories are far too much neglected by the European Countries. Too often long historical ties and constitutional ties are forgotten or denied. As a consequence citizens of the Carribean part of the Kingdom could for long time not vote for the European Parliament.

The voice of the overseas countries and territories must be heard. And that is what we will do this evening!




Cedrick Tilma

Representative of the Government of Aruba at the EU

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

Cedrick Tilma described the legal framework of the association between the OCTs and the EU: the Overseas Association Decision. Article 1 of the Overseas Association Decision thereby states that the purpose of this association is to support the OCTs’ sustainable development as well as to promote the values and standards of the Union in the wider world.

In 2002, the OCT Association (OCTA) was created to develop an effective working relationship with the EU and support the collective interests of the OCTs in several areas of cooperation of the EU-OCT association. In 2020 the current financial framework expires.

Prime Minister Mike Eman, as chair of the Association of Europe’s Overseas Countries and Territories has signaled early on the importance of a timely start to initiate an OCT wide debate beyond the financing elements, involving the very nature of the partnership. The current approach based on ‘one size fits all’ traditional poverty reduction oriented development aid and an outmoded preferential trade agreement has not changed much in the last 60 years and is becoming obsolete in the 21st century.

A fresh new approach is needed that should deliver in the end a renewed partnership with characteristics what we have defined under the Aruba Chairmanship as Stronger, Smarter, Greener and More Inclusive.


Differentiation should become a crucial guiding principle, as is the case for Outermost Regions and stated in the Lisbon Treaty. In 2013 the council replaced ‘solidarity’ with a more contemporary approach oriented at supporting the OCTs’ sustainable development as well as to promoting the values and standards of the Union in the wider world. A cohesion policy could become a main instrument for reducing disparities between the OCTs and the European Union and in particular with their own member state. The aim of such a policy could be to bring the OCTs closer to the EU’s internal market and at the same time strengthen their position in their respective geographic areas. It is necessary to strengthen the partnership while being flexible enough for OCTs seeking a different intensity of cooperation.


The transfer of know-how and the implementation of new business practices and technologies should be key in the relation. Beyond tourism, rich fishing grounds and mineral resources, the OCTs possess assets that range from their unique geostrategic position sometimes close to emerging markets to their vast biodiversity and specific potential in terms of sustainable energy. Scattered across the globe from the poles to the tropics, OCTs are also ideally situated for observing and monitoring the effects of climate change. As insular and isolated countries and territories, the OCTs are privileged locations for protecting and studying endemic flora and fauna. The OCTs also add to the ethnic and cultural identity of the EU. The financial instruments that support the EU-OCT partnership need to be in sync with the potential of these assets. A smarter way of financing is needed by creating a dedicated OCT instrument that takes their specificities into consideration and is budgetized, meaning that is part of the EU budget, and not outside, as the EDF is organized.


As islands, OCTs have limited space and if they do not embrace more sustainable production, consumption and disposal patterns they will end up sitting on an ever increasing heap. OCTs can take advantage of their position by promoting themselves as centers of excellence in the field of sustainable energy, which can also spur growth and job creation. Sustainable energy can drive OCTs overall sustainability agenda.

More inclusive

Inclusion refers to the need to include everyone in societal processes. People should have a voice and effective opportunities to shape the course of development. OCTs need to be much more involved at the level of government decision makers in the OCT-EU partnership. Being inclusive needs special attention to insure that no OCT, whether it is an entire government or a single citizen is left behind. It can help in the attainment of goals across the board: in health, education, energy, biodiversity protection, climate change, economic resilience and more.

The four lines (Stronger, Smarter, Greener and More Inclusive) should become the building blocks for a new rationale post 2020 It is the intention of the OCTA Chair to coordinate a joint position between the OCTs and the four member states, endorse this new rationale and submit it to the European Commission at the next EU-OCT forum which will take place at the end of February 2017 in Aruba.


Nout van Woudenberg

Kingdom Affairs Adviser, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

As Kingdom Affairs Adviser it is my task to advice on the adequate implementation of the aims and objectives of the Caribbean autonomous countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Kingdom’s foreign policy. That cannot be done without proper collaboration within the Kingdom, and between the autonomous countries of the Kingdom. Collaboration, therefore, will be the essence of my lecture.

“One Kingdom, Four Countries - European and Caribbean” that was the slogan during the campaign of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

After all, the structure of our Kingdom is a unique one: four autonomous countries, Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten and the Netherlands, whereby the autonomous country the Netherlands is divided in a European part and three so-called Public Entities (Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius) situated in the Caribbean.

Collaboration within the Kingdom resulted in a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for the year 2018.

Not only did the Prime Ministers of all of the Kingdom’s autonomous countries represent the Kingdom in various international institutions and meetings of international organizations, the collaboration also led to the creation of important institutions and programs, such as the Center of Excellence on Sustainable Development for SIDS in Aruba, or the UNESCO-IHE Scholarship Program to Strengthen Capacity in the Water Sector for SIDS.

That collaboration showed that in fact the Kingdom is larger than the sum of its parts, and is also essential when we talk about the relationship between the European part of the Netherlands as EU Member and Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius as OCTs of the European Union. Not only because of our historical ties, but also because the added value and mutual benefit the EU-OCT Partnership brings to all of us: to the OCTs, the Kingdom and the EU.

That mutually beneficial relationship is also one of the pillars of Aruba as Chair of the OCTA, the Association of Overseas Countries and Territories.

The current EU-OCT relationship faces some challenges. OCTs, with their limited capacities, face a considerable administrative and procedural burden when applying for EU funding, such as the European Development Fund. And the same goes for other, Horizontal, Funds, such as Horizon and Erasmus.

The fact that the European states that more recently joined the European Union do not have own OCTs, making the percentage of EU Member States with OCTs considerable lower, makes our future discussions even more challenging. That brings me to the future challenges.

We face uncertain times. “Brexit” makes it probable that 9 of the OCTs will lose their connection to the EU and leave OCTA. As EU member state the Netherlands will be actively and with a positive, forward looking spirit, involved in discussions on the future relationship.

It is very encouraging that today OCTA-members, chaired by Aruba, are grasping the opportunity to start discussions to shape the future relationship. Important for EU-Member States and the Commission to listen and take note of the visions and perspectives from our overseas partners.

I am therefore confident that collaboration within the Netherlands, between the Netherlands and our OCTs, and between the OCTs and EU will become increasingly beneficial for all of us.


Catherine Metdepenningen

Head of Sector, OCT Unit, European Commission DG International Cooperation and Development

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

The 25 OCTs have in common that they are all islands. Three of them are uninhabited. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Future of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. This review is indirectly relevant to the OCTs, as they are not legally bound by the current Agreement but consequences for the EU's development policy, our external action, the EDF funding and therefore on OCTs. It is too soon, today, to predict the nature of the future EU-ACP Framework. Many tracks are on the table from both sides but the result of this exercise will depend firstly on the common political will of the parties – EU Member States and ACP countries.

Mid-term evaluations of all the External Finance Instruments which provide funding to our external partners through the EU Budget are going on (including the specific Greenland Decision). The funding is showing good results at our top priorities: environmental issues, sustainable development and the use of natural resources. We are focusing our efforts on the conclusion of the programming process of the funds available to the OCTs under the 11th EDF, both territorial and regional.

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.




Ole Moesby

ambassador of Denmark to the Netherlands

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

I am glad we can talk about what happens when the Overseas Association Decision (OAD) expires. Denmark is a small country and considers Greenland as an important partner in addressing climate change, security issues and business opportunities.

I am in line with the four key words coined by Tilma: stronger, smarter, greener and more inclusive. OCTs and the EU face similar challenges. Climate change in particular is very important, not only for OCTs, but for all of us. More inclusiveness is also very important. It means that we need to improve the way of decision making and involve local communities in that process.


Ibrahim Moussouni

chef du bureau chargé des politiques européennes au Ministère des Outre-mer

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

The ACPs have already started the discussion in Brussels. We would have liked to start the discussion together. The talks between the ACPs and EU on the one hand and the OCTs and the EU on the other hand are two different categories, but they are linked.

The EU-OCT partnership is changing. There is a shift from fighting poverty to focusing more on the environment. This evolution needs to be moved further. The OCT-EU partnership needs to be addressed. The essence of the OCTs is their geography. Valorisation and taking in account the geographical location of the OCT. Some countries can evolve to a low carbon economy, which have a good influence on neighbouring countries.

Consultations are very important. We need to have discussions and take time to see how we can work together before we send proposals to the European Parliament. Cooperation is also crucial: what do we have in common and what do we want to show to our neighbouring countries?

Differentiation is also very important. The specific needs of every OCT need to be taken serious, also when negotiating trading agreements. The OCT-economies should not be damaged by (other) trade agreements

Paris would like to see the procedures to be simplified, because they are quite complicated. We need to reform the European Development Funds (EDF). Territories do not have access to these horizontal projects such as the Erasmus program. They need a level playing field with the continental players. The OCTs are not taken into account enough.


Mininnguaq Kleist

Head of Greenland Representation/Minister Councellor

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

Greenland is not an OCT. The EU-OCT partnership is not perfect, but fundamentally it is good.

Sustainable development, environmental change, education, these are good fundaments that we want to keep in our cooperation.

Greenland is not a part of the EU. The EU-Greenland partnership is different from the EU-OCT partnership. Greenland does not want to acquire an OCT or ACP status. Greenland also does not want to acquire the status of an outermost region, because we left the European Union. Greenland has a Partnership Agreement with the EU, mainly concerning education, fisheries and mineral resources. The OCT-status needs to be developed.

We are all worried about losing our British friends. What will happen when they leave? What will happen to the OCT-status? The islands will act in their own interests and so will Greenland. Greenland might need to look to their Arctic neighboring countries for a partnership.

Greenland has capacity issues: focusing on one particular area or partnership reduces manpower in other areas and partnerships. We learn a lot from the cooperation with the OCTs, particularly on the topics of governmental structure, renewable energies and the technologies being tested in Aruba. Greenland is large, but does not have a large population. We treasure this cooperation, but we will keep our own interests in mind, just like every country.


Debate with the public

Question Mr. De Zwaan: To what extend do we think that the treaty regime is still beneficial/needed for the OCTs? We have also considered the OCT-status as the last end. The interest of the commission in the OCTs seems to become less and less. Should we change the status of Curacao to outermost region?

Cedrick Tilma: The nature of the current partnership is from the development aid age. The current approach is not a 2016 approach and definitely not a 2020 approach. OCTs are the last category of partners, why? OCTs are not many and not unified enough. If OCTs can come up with a common vision, then we have a better future. Otherwise new alliances need to be found. Autonomy is nice, but it doesn’t feed you. The key is collaboration. Try to identify common goals. There is no clear view of the future. As OCTs we need to look forward and identify common goals.

Catherine Metdepenningen: I agree with Aruba. It is complex right now. The discussions have just started; there are many options. The ACP and OCT talks are at the same time and there are parallels. We are considering many options in the ACP-talks. Regionalisation of the agreement is an option. Everything is possible; all options are being considered. The Commission is open to any agreement.

Ole Moesby: We need to find a way of strengthening this partnership, to make this cooperation work. It is important for addressing climate change, energy, fishing, hunting, et cetera. We need a strong partnership.

Ibrahim Moussouni: France has mixed experiences in changing OCT-status. Saint Bartholomy has become an OCT recently. Mayotte, on the other hand, is not an OCT anymore since 2014. Because of that, they only received halve the funds of the EU. That has cost them a lot of money. They have really high costs which are not automatically paid by the EU.

Mininnguaq Kleist: Greenland was brought in to the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. We were dragged in by Denmark at the time. In a referendum in 1979, the citizens of Denmark voted to leave the European Union. This was mainly because of sovereignty about the fishery. Fishery accounts for over 50 percent of our GDP.

Greenland had something the EU wanted when we left the EU. We are also lucky to have a great geostrategic position. That, of course, helped in the negotiations and the cooperation. We are not lucky with everything, but we are lucky in this regard. The EU wanted something from Greenland and so we developed a plan for how to enter the negotiations. If you have something the EU wants, use this, and get something in return.

Question Mr. Brinkhorst: Suppose Aruba would request the Netherlands to discuss the future with the European Commission, would you open the door and let the Commission look at alternatives?

Nout van Woudenberg: Yes. But does it depend on us? I don’t think so. We cannot impose our will on the OCTs and what status they want. We don’t want to do that either. We ask the OCTs what they want. There have been referenda about their status.

The Netherlands cooperate with its partners. We have worked together for the non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council. We might not have got the seat without this cooperation. We cooperate and collaborate with our overseas partners. Collaboration is the key word.

Question Mr. Chaudry: What can we expect from rule of law and human rights?

Ole Moesby: We have to develop abroad a close partnership with the EU. It is extremely important for the EU what happens in Greenland and the Faraoer Islands. Even more important is that we are respecting the wishes of Greenland.

There may be many differences between Aruba, Curacao and Greenland, but there are also similarities. Most important: we should look at the local communities and what benefits them.

Mininnguaq Kleist: Human rights and transparency are stimulated by Denmark, with regard to the indigenous people. As developing countries we are constantly going through transcends.

We established our Greenlandic human rights council 4 or 5 years ago. Transparancy international in Greenland has a very important role to play. Human rights are important for Greenland. We also discuss human rights and the rule of law with the Nordic family. We see value and cooperation. Talks about establishing a constitutional commission have begun.

Catherine Metdepenningen: There are no clauses to human tights. The OCTs are constitutionally linked to member states which respect the rule of law, because that is necessary to be an EU member state. The EU can stop cooperation under article 69 if a country does not respect the rule of law or human rights. The EU has invoked article 69 with Burundi and Eritrea for example.

Ibrahim Moussouni: The EU and the OCTs respect the rule of law, of course. The OCTs can be windows to promote human rights in the neighbouring countries and in the regions. This way France can promote human rights everywhere. OCTs and outermost regions need to promote human rights and the rule of law. We do not have many outermost regions in geographic areas, but they could be role models for neighbouring countries.

Photo of the Europe House Lecture © Copyright: Europese Unie 2016

Question Mr. Van Zutphen: I am the Ombudsman for the Dutch BES-islands – and also the Dutch National Ombudsman. I would love to see so much change in the OCTs with regard to human right, health care and good governance. What is the beautiful future after 2020?

Cedrick Tilma: We don’t have the answer; we need to cooperate. We are not utilizing the European dimension to the full potential because it is limited to developmental cooperation. We want to improve the partnership, because the current approach is a gift. We want a reciprocal approach, not a developmental. A lot has been achieved in the EU that can also benefit OCTs. Perhaps we want to move closer to the body of the EU, and have the partnership managed under DG Region. We need to anchor the partnership with the EU.

Question Mr. Heyer: We have heard that there are limited resources and all options are open for debate. It is difficult to include all interests in the decision. How will we try to include the interests of all the parties involved in the new partnership?

Mininnguaq Kleist: Greenland waits and sees how the Brexit develops. Then Greenland will reevaluate its partnership with the EU. So we will have to see what the next three, four or five years may bring.

Ibrahim Moussouni: We have to assess the situation of the territories and the European norm. Mayotte is a poor example. Before you change the status you have to think of the consequences. What effect will it have on the people. There is always a chance for a special treaty, but it is not a given.

Ole Moesby: Three things need to be done: development, more concrete and more visible. Some islands are very visible, others need to become more visible. The EU has a historic and important role in the OCTs. The EU is an important partner to make that change.

Moderator Kochenov closes the debate. He reminds us of how important it is to start and keep talking and listening. We have done so tonight and need to keep it up.