EU Commissioner for Development
OCT-EU partnership partnership: not only working, but growing too
12th edition of the annual OCT-EU Forum / Brussels
5 December 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to a rather cold Brussels for this EU-OCT Forum - the twelfth in all, and the fourth that I’ve had the pleasure of attending.
Before we get down to business, there are many people I must thank - not least President Artano of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, for chairing OCTA so skilfully, and the Lithuanian Presidency for concluding the negotiations on the new Overseas Association Decision.
In addition, Honourable Members Maurice Ponga, Jean-Jacob Bicep and Patrice Tirolien) continue to champion the OCTs and their interests most effectively. Their commitment to the OCT-EU partnership is matched only by that of the leaders and representatives of the OCTs and their Member States. Your constant engagement makes our partnership work.
Our partnership is not only working; it is growing, too. At this point I’d like to extend a special welcome to our friends from Bermuda, who have signed up to the Overseas Association Decision. And I also thank the Secretary-General of the ACP Secretariat for being here today.
This functioning, growing partnership is moving forward as well - most recently, thanks to the EU’s timely adoption of the Overseas Association Decision. The Decision enters into force on 1 January and will enable us to address properly the modern challenges we face. Like our relationship, it is the product of a collaborative effort involving the OCTs, the Member States to which they are linked, stakeholders and the European institutions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Seeing our partnership working, expanding and moving forward is welcome. But I believe that we can take it even further. Our partnership, like EU development policy as a whole, has the potential to deliver more in terms of focus and results.
New Overseas Association Decision
I’ve been championing focus, along with mutual interest and modernisation, as one of the three basic principles that should underpin our future association. The new Overseas Association Decision introduces these principles as genuine novelties in our partnership.
Let’s start with mutual interest and the novel approach involving moving towards a more reciprocal partnership based on shared interests and values. The new Decision lays down some priority areas for our cooperation, providing a solid link with your own priorities and initiatives. We can therefore expect our enhanced partnership in areas like research, innovation, environment, climate change, biodiversity, trade and regional cooperation to benefit us all.
Improved trade arrangements will include trade in services for the first time. Overall, the changes we’ve introduced will make OCTs some of the EU’s most privileged trading partners. Why? Because continued duty- and quota-free access to the EU market, combined with better access terms, will make for even more real export opportunities for OCTs.
And for the first time we will join forces to pursue the kind of smart and sustainable growth that is central to the EU2020 strategy and to our development cooperation as a whole.
More broadly speaking, focus will come into play as we take a targeted and sustained approach to supporting your development. I believe this is crucial to getting maximum impact and results from EU financial assistance for sustainable social, economic and environmental development in the OCTs.
A single focal sector will remain the rule in territory programmes, while regional allocations will allow for a combination of geographic and thematic programmes to tackle issues of mutual or, indeed, global interest. As with all our development cooperation, we believe a sharper focus will result in a higher impact from our funding.
To deliver that sharper focus and to truly maximise the impact and results of our relationship, simplification is key. And it can be achieved also by applying the third basic principle - modernisation.
We all agree that simplifying the rules and procedures governing our association is vital. That’s why we’ve done all we can to simplify how we programme and implement financial cooperation and individual policy parameters, especially in trade.
Let me illustrate these efforts briefly with some specifics.
National or territorial plans will be considered when defining the strategy in programming documents. This will result in faster programming, more ownership, more coherence with OCT development priorities and better results.
For budget support operations, Sector Reform Contracts will be the preferred option, better adapted to the specific context of OCTs. Furthermore, the Risk Management Framework will be the main tool to determine whether OCTs are eligible for budget support, while relying on the political guarantees that OCT status offers.
I am convinced that these tailor-made modalities will have a twofold effect. They will focus our analysis on the areas in which OCT economies, with their special features, need most help; and they will provide the Commission with a roadmap of measures through which these economies can reduce their vulnerability.
We will use opportunities such as Annual Technical Meetings to talk to Territorial and/or Regional Authorising Officers on programming and implementing EDF assistance, seeking solutions to bottlenecks where necessary.
At regional level we will look at pooling funding from other sources, such as EU programmes and the European Regional Development Fund. Blending EU grants with funds of the European Investment Bank and other development banks will also be considered to leverage much-needed investment.
And last but not least, all provisions on programming and implementing the 11th EDF for OCTs are included in the Overseas Association Decision. We can therefore steer clear of excessive regulation and too many reference documents.
I believe these three principles, combined with simplification, have set us on the right track. Now we must apply them to our programming.
Financial Allocations to OCTs under the 11th EDF
Once ratified by EU Member States in its current form, the 11th EDF will secure a substantial 364.5 million euro for the OCTs for 2014 to 2020, with additional funding allocated to Greenland. This increase of more than 12% over the 10th EDF in a very difficult budgetary context demonstrates the European Union’s commitment to helping further sustainable economic and social development in the OCTs.
For the territorial allocation, which has increased by more than 17%, the funding distribution pattern very much mirrors that used for the 10th EDF, albeit for a longer period. As a result we can give sustained support for sustainable development in the OCTs and take into account the isolation of OCTs and their respective populations, in line with the Overseas Association Decision. We foresee a top-up for isolated OCTs, while the remaining funds will be allocated on the basis of population. More detailed information on the individual territorial allocations will be presented by the Deputy Director General Marcus CORNARO in the context of the forthcoming sessions.
Meanwhile, at 100 million euro, the regional allocation has more than doubled compared to the 10th EDF, giving us the critical mass we need for large-scale actions. We can therefore maintain a geographical component for the Caribbean and the Pacific and Indian Oceans. At the same time we can provide sufficient funds for thematic actions in areas of mutual interest, fostering competitiveness and delivering growth that is both smart - through more effective investments in research and innovation - and sustainable, thanks to a focus on environmental protection, climate change, biodiversity and sustainable energy.
We can improve statistical systems. And, as I said earlier, we can step up cooperation with the ACP States, other third countries and Outermost Regions.
Now that the Commission has put the funding in place, it’s over to you. I’m happy to announce that the programming exercise for OCTs under the 11th EDF is ready to go. I cannot stress enough how critical your cooperation will be here if we are to engage in a fruitful and constructive dialogue and get the results we need.
The programming process you’ll be discussing has been revised, drawing on lessons learned under the 10th EDF. Our concern has been to guard against delays in the programming and implementation process.
My services have tried to take OCT specificities on board and eliminate all drawbacks to the programming process. It’s now up to you to help speed up this process and maximise the impact of EU assistance.
Simplification and focus must guide our action. With the right one-sector focus and timely programming, we can avoid the unnecessary problems we faced with the 10th EDF and waste no time in making a real difference to all people in the OCTs, who have every right to look forward to a future of opportunity and development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m confident that, as ever, this Forum will come forward with collective ideas to enrich the OCT-EU relationship. I began by praising the collaborative effort that, for me, sums up that relationship. It’s clear to me - and, I hope, to you - that this is precisely the effort that will see our partnership flourish even more in the years to come.