BRUSSELS:— On February 23rd the 16th OCTA – EU Forum will be held in Brussels, leading up to the forum there will be political and technical meetings with the European Commission and other Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) of the EU. The Sint Maarten delegation headed by Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin attended 2 meetings on Monday. The first meeting was held at the EU Directorate of Development Cooperation and consisted of a trilateral discussion on the ongoing progress of EU funded programmes. The second meeting consisted of discussions among the Kingdom Partners on the relationship between the EU and the other Dutch OCTs after 2020 and was held at the office of the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands in Brussels.
During the trilateral meeting, Prime Minister Romeo Marlin had the opportunity to present four points. The 10th EDF Territorial Project, which confirms the finalization of the programming of a Dutch Quarter sewerage and public infrastructure project. The contract for the works will be signed on Wednesday, February 20th to the tune of 4.7 million Euro. This signing ensures that the execution phase will begin in 2018.
Second on the agenda was the 11th EDF Territorial Cooperation Project that consists of three joint projects between the Governments of Sint Maarten and St. Martin. These 3 projects include a wastewater treatment plant to be established on the Dutch Side with wastewater pipes running from both sides of the island to the plant. The second project will entail a cleanup and economic development of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The third project will cover the connecting of a drainage system runoff to the French Belle Plaine area to avoid possible flooding in those low lying areas.
Agenda point three addressed 11th EDF – B Envelope which is a request by the Government of Sint Maarten in relation to the recovery after hurricanes Irma and Maria. A request for 10 million euro to build adequate, affordable and sustainable housing is pending and was further explained to the European Commission. Beneficiaries of this housing will include vulnerable groups such as the elderly, single-parent families and low-income earners that may have been displaced after the passing of Hurricane Irma. Locally, the Council of Ministers has signed off on the Housing Project which will lead to the project being prepared and ultimately proposed to the European Union. This housing project will aid in the reconstruction efforts.
The final and fourth agenda targeted unused funds of the 10th EDF Regional Programme. An amount of 2-3 million euros has not been used and the European Commission is looking into the possibility to reactivate this sum for a sub-regional project to aid Small & Medium Enterprises. These are considered the backbone of the economic prosperity in most islands, and it is intended to use the funds for building resilience across the small business sector. The project will be a shared effort by the OCTs that are suffering damages from the 2017 hurricane season.
The meeting at the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands highlighted the debate on the relationship of the Dutch OCTs with the EU after the end of the current financial framework of the EU. The discussion centered around how The Netherlands can include the OCTs in the negotiations on the future financial cooperation between the Kingdom Partners and the EU. Important was the issue of Brexit and how this affects the position of the Dutch OCTs in the post-2020 negotiations. Politically, the Prime Minister of Curacao, Eugene Ruggenaath, spoke on behalf of the Dutch OCT’s by presenting a unified position among the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in looking for a mutually beneficial partnership between the latter and the EU.