OCT Leaders Conclude Ministerial Conference
BRUSSELS, Belgium – The leaders of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) have concluded their annual Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) Ministerial Conference in preparation for the 10th OCT-EU Forum on 24 January 2012. OCTA Chairman, the Honourable Premier Reuben Meade of Montserrat, chaired the meeting which focused on the European Union’s (EUs) revision of the 2011 Overseas Association Decision (OAD).
During the programme, OCT Leaders heard presentations from experts on OCT relations, environment and trade; and also shared their own perspectives on future relations with the EU. The meeting concluded with the leaders agreeing to common positions for talks with the EU Commission (Commission) and the signing of a Political Declaration. The declaration call on the EU to, among other things:
- Consider the proposals and positions expressed in the Joint Position Paper adopted on February 28th, 2011 in formulating the new OAD to ensure that OCTs are fully involved in the dialogue and share preliminary proposals on the new OAD, until its submission to the EU Council in July 2012 by informing OCTs of the OAD timeline progress, relevant impact assessment results contributing to the on-going reflection process and increasing awareness within the European institutions of OCT issues and assets;
- Increase engagement and staffing levels with relevant and sufficient capacity dedicated to the management of OCTs affairs, and ensure adequate position within DG DEVCO, in support of the commitments of the renewed partnership, the programming exercise, and OCT membership of the EU family;
- Facilitate the participation of OCTs with meetings/seminars amongst OCTs, with the EC and with other relevant partners by informing them about the EU policies and strategies on biodiversity, environment, sustainable marine management, climate change, access to appropriate resources, and assistance in generating knowledge about the OCTs’ unique biodiversity, the threats faced due to climate change as well as adaptation to these changes whilst being mindful of the long term objectives of the cooperation with the European Commission on environment and climate change; and
- Take into account the interests of the OCTs when negotiating bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements in regions where OCTs are located with the aim to limit the tariff liberalization eroding OCTs preferences and increasing the competitive pressures on OCTs industries that export similar products to the EU market and supporting them in adapting to these additional challenges for a sustainable development to improve their economic competitiveness, particularly in sectors like fisheries which lack economies of scale but remain vitally important for OCT economies.
Outgoing OCTA Chairman Premier Meade in his closing remarks welcomed Greenland as the new Chairman of the OCTA Ministerial Conference 2012 and hailed the success of the meeting saying, “Today we reaffirmed our commitment to strengthening ties with the EU and the importance of impressing up EU officials at the 10th OCT-EU Forum the necessity of gathering input from OCT Leaders for inclusion in a new OAD”.