Questions and Answers: The EU Overseas Countries and Territories

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 1 maart 2019.

What are the OCTs and what is their relationship with the EU?

There are 25 Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) associated with the EU. All are islands, located from the tropics to the poles, in the Atlantic, Antarctic, Arctic, Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific. Their relationship with the EU began with the EU-OCT association, established when the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957.

The OCTs are not sovereign countries but depend to varying degrees on the four EU Member States with which they maintain special links - Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The OCTs enjoy wide-ranging autonomy, covering areas such as economic affairs, employment market, public health, home affairs and customs, while the Member States tend to remain responsible for defence and foreign affairs.

Unlike the EU's Outermost Regions, the OCTs do not form part of the EU territory or Single Market, and are not bound by the EU's acquis communautaire[1]. However, they enjoy a preferential trade status, with duty- and quota-free access to the EU market.

The OCTs (as listed in Annex II to the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) are:

  • Anguilla (UK)
  • Aruba (NL)
  • Bermuda (UK)
  • Bonaire (NL)
  • British Antarctic Territory (UK)*
  • British Indian Ocean Territory (UK)*
  • British Virgin Islands (UK)
  • Cayman Islands (UK)
  • Curação (NL)
  • Falkland Islands (UK)
  • French Polynesia (FR)
  • French Southern and Antarctic Territories (FR)*
  • Greenland (DK)
  • Montserrat (UK)
  • New Caledonia and Dependencies (FR)
  • Pitcairn (UK)
  • Saba (NL)
  • Saint Barthélemy (FR)
  • Sint Eustatius (NL)
  • Sint Maarten (NL)
  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (UK)*
  • Saint Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha (UK)
  • St. Pierre and Miquelon (FR)
  • Turks and Caicos Islands (UK)
  • Wallis and Futuna Islands (FR)

(*) OCTs without a permanent local population.

What kind of projects and programmes does the EU carry out in the OCTs?

The areas of cooperation that the EU supports in the OCTs are set out in the Overseas Association Decision (Council Decision 2013/755/EU). Depending on eligibility criteria, OCTs can access individual budget allocations for programmes on their territory, as well as a regional allocations.

The three ongoing regional programmes support sustainable energy and marine biodiversity in the Caribbean; environment and sustainable management of natural resources in the Pacific; and management and conservation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems in the Indian Ocean. A programme on climate change mitigation and sustainable energy is also in place, supporting all OCTs in facing these challenges.

What are the main challenges facing the OCTs in the coming years?

As all OCTs are islands, and most are small and remote, they are particularly vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters and various other challenges to their environment and biodiversity. That is why the many programmes focus on these areas specifically.

Similarly, as remote islands are mostly small in size and population, OCTs face economic challenges due to their small and often unified economies, and are especially vulnerable to external economic shocks and the fluctuations of global markets. For this reason, many OCTs choose to focus their cooperation with the EU on boosting education, digital development, connectivity and employment, or on boosting tourism as their economic mainstay.

Under certain conditions, the OCTs can also access EU instruments (such as the EU humanitarian aid instrument) and programmes (such as Erasmus+, Horizon 2020 or BEST 2.0) to assist them to address environmental, economic and social challenges.

For more information

Press release - EU and Overseas Countries and Territories boost cooperation at annual Forum with €44 million

[1] The treaties, legislation, legal acts and case-law making up the body of European Union law and binding on all Member States and their citizens.



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