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A Europe Far, Far-away

  • January 2nd, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

tahiti.jpgCan you be in Europe and be forever far from Europe?

The New Year brings the European Union closer to a promised clean-up of the governmental and legal arrangements for overseas territories of member countries   — so far not quite in, and not quite outside-of the family.

A stock-take made in 2008 of relations with the dependencies or overseas regions of EU states, mainly located in 21 islands far from Europe, found they had almost as many different arrangements in key fields like customs, trade or use of the Euro currency.

The European Commission responded with a formal Green Paper, calling for work on a settlement to cover all of the territories by the end of 2013.

They are loosely designated as Special Member States’ Territories, ranging from “special cases” such as Britain’s Channel Isles and Gibraltar, (plus Heligoland, and even the ecclesiastical Mt Athos), to a group more integrated into EU processes – the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT).

Some have been changing status under present rules, e.g. the small French territory of Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean, set to become an OCT next year.

The special territories exist legally as a group by being listed in an appendix to an EU treaty (European Community Treaty – Part IV) and are covered by a decision of the European Council (2001/822EC, in force to 31.12.13).


The European Commission has cited security concerns and action on climate change affecting island communities, as reasons for bringing the far-flung territories into the common fold; along with a conviction that present relations are moulded too much like post-colonial development aid schemes.

“By following a new approach, relations between the EU and OCTs could be better differentiated from Community Development Cooperation policy”, said the then EC Development Commissioner Louis Michel (25.6.08).

“The implementation of a sustainable development strategy for OCTs could support their competitiveness, as well as stimulate economic and social exchanges on a regional and global level…

“A renewed partnership with the EU could have reciprocal institutional, economic, social and cultural advantages, as well as benefits in the fields of security and environmental protection.”


These distant small corners of Europe include a set of former British colonies, e.g. the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos and the Cayman islands; the French Overseas Departments, La Reunion in the Indian Ocean, Guiana in the Caribbean region, and French Polynesia, as well as New Caledonia in the South Pacific, and France’s Antarctic holdings; Madeira and the Azores from Portugal, and the Spanish Canary Islands.

Countries listed with the EC Treaty:

Greenland, New Caledonia and Dependencies, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Territories, Wallis and Futuna Islands, Mayotte, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles (i.e. Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustacius, Sint Maarten), Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena and dependencies, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.


“Commission launches debate on relations with Overseas Countries and TerritoriesFuture relations between the EU and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)”, EC, Brussels.

IP/08/1009, 25.6.08.

Europa, European Commission (Home), Brussels, “Summaries of EU Legislation”. 15.9.08.  (1.1.10).


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