The Dutch Caribbean islands as Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) cannot make use of the so-called Structure Funds of the European Union, as reported by the Daily Herald.To do so, they would have to change their status to Ultra Peripheral Territory (UPT). Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated this in a letter that he sent to the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this week.
The Senate’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations had asked about the possibilities for the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to make use of the different European Union (EU) funds and subsidies. The OCTs have a special status within the EU, but they are not an integral part like the UPTs. As such OCTs can only make use of various EU funds like the European Development Fund (EDF), but not the EU Structure Fund. The latter fund is earmarked for territories that are part of the EU like the French Caribbean islands.
To acquire UPT status, the islands would have to complete a special procedure which takes about five years. There are several requirements in order to become part of the EU. One of the conditions might be the obligation to introduce the euro currency. According to Plasterk, there is little enthusiasm among the OCTs to start the procedure, also due to the economic crisis in Europe.
The OCTs have made very limited use of other European funds and subsidies outside the EDF. “European funds and subsidy arrangements have requirements that are hard for the OCTs to comply with due to their small size and limited capacity,” explained Plasterk. The OCTs lack a coordination structure for information on EU funds and subsidies.
Contrary to EU membership states, most of the OCTs in the world do not have local organisations that can support local initiative takers to submit a successful project proposal for funding from EU programmes.
According to a June 25 report of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) counsel work group, OCTs throughout the world only made use of 0.0032 per cent or 1.7 million euros of the EU’s framework research programme of 50 billion euros; 70 project proposals were submitted of which only 13 were awarded.