A Constructive Dialogue with Europe
15 December 2020
The 18th annual Forum between the European Union and the overseas countries and territories took place on Friday morning. The President of the Government of New Caledonia, Thierry Santa, was represented by the Head of the Cooperation and External Relations Department, François Behue.
After the Ministerial Conference of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association of the European Union (OCTA) in the middle of last week, New Caledonia participated on December 11 in the 18th EU-OCT Forum. This forum for dialogue brings together the European Union's Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs - 13 in number since Brexit), the Member States to which they are linked and the European Union (EU). Organized alternately in Brussels or in an OCT, these two events, which had brought the partners together in French Polynesia in 2019, were held this year by videoconference.
Towards a Modernized Partnership
A few days after his election as head of OCTA, New Caledonia intervened at the end of the session, at around 6:30 on Friday morning. Delivered by the head of the Regional Cooperation and External Relations Department (SCRRE), François Behue, on behalf of President Santa, and in the presence of the head of the EU office for the Pacific OCTs, Pierre-Henri Hellepute, it was an opportunity to outline the priorities of the New Caledonian mandate for the coming year. "This moment should be a new beginning for the partnership between the EU and the members of the OCTA, who have just agreed on the imminent launch of work on their 2021-2027 strategy," stressed the SCRRE Head. Subject to the finalization of negotiations, from January 1, 2021 the EU-OCT relationship will indeed be framed by a new Overseas Association Decision. This OAD, which will include Greenland, provides a budget of 500 million euros for the OCTs, for the period 2021-2027.
"Taking into account the mutual interests of the EU and our territories, the mandate of the OCTA presidency will focus its current efforts on economic recovery in the OCTs," announced the representative of New Caledonia. A point of view aligned with the position of the European Commissioner in charge of international partnerships. Jutta Urpilainen has indeed confirmed that she shares "the vision of a greener, more inclusive and more sustainable future that will enable us to face the economic, social and environmental challenges we are facing. Our cooperation over the period 2021-2027 will focus on building resilience in the OCTs, building on our shared priorities: the Green Pact, digitalization, growth, jobs and education."
The priority sectors of the next territorial and regional envelopes, which will be determined precisely in 2021, will therefore be in line with the guidelines defined by the European Commission.
Financial Support to Respond to the Health Crisis
In order to help New Caledonia fight against Covid-19, the European Commission has allowed the accelerated disbursement of the 4th tranche of the European Development Fund for employment and integration in 2020, and has granted an additional exceptional aid of 850,000 euros. It also redirected 10 million euros into the "all OCTs" thematic program, which should start in 2021.
In addition, in view of the impact on the private sector, a facility dedicated to local financial intermediaries in New Caledonia and French Polynesia has been set up by the European Investment Bank (EIB) for a total amount of nearly 36 million euros. Through this facility, local banks can access additional external sources of financing. The Banque calédonienne d'investissement (BCI), which has already benefited from this type of support in the past, has renewed its interest in this tool for supporting very small businesses and individual entrepreneurs, particularly in the bush and on the islands.