OCTA Chairman, Premier of the British Virgin Islands, Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE and OCTA Outgoing Chairman, Stéphane Artano, President of the Territorial Council of Saint-Pierre-and-Miquelon
1. The Ministerial Conference is the centerpiece of the OCTA Chairman mandate. What was your overall expectation of the 2013 Ministerial conference and the Forum, and did it meet your expectations?
My expectation was that as a body we would adopt measures to strengthen OCTA’s ability to advance OCTs’ interests in the European Union and among the EU Outermost Regions and ACP. This was critically important as we begin a new era of OCT-EU relations under a revised Overseas Association Decision.
We achieved this goal by expanding the mandate of the Chairman to represent OCTA in discussions with the EU and other partners and the introduction of a Board of Chairman to support the Chair’s efforts through consultation and collective representation.
2. What can we expect from our new OCTA Chairman; what will be your priorities in the mandate, what will BVI want to focus on?
I have set out four priority areas for my Chairmanship under the theme ‘Unlocking the value of the OCTs.’ They are programming, political visibility, partnership and participation. These areas are related directly to the OCT sustainable development agenda in which innovation, competitiveness and green growth are the main pillars.
Programming is essential because it is the actual process by which we implement projects that can help us achieve the transformation of our societies that we desire. In this regard the Territorial Strategies for Innovation projects stands out as programming exercise that will strategically position the OCTs to advance in multiple sectors driven by innovation. I want to help ensure its successful roll out.
I also intend to help drive dialogue on programming under the 11th EDF. It is extremely important that we move quickly to identify our territorial and regional priorities and propose projects in 2014 to ensure their timely and smooth implementation over the course of the 2014-2020 period.
Political visibility is essential to advancing the OCT agenda in the EU. We require greater political visibility in the European Parliament and the European Commission if we are to successfully have our interests met.
As Chairman I am going to spearhead the establishment of an OCT European Parliament Parliamentary Group (EPPG) that can give a greater voice to OCTs in that body.
As a part of my chairmanship, I will travel to Brussels to meet with key officials in the European Commission to discuss OCT matters. I will also work with OCTA to raise awareness in key Directorate Generals to sensitise them to our needs.
Where it concerns partnerships, I am of the view that we as OCTs need to build strategic partnerships for sustainable development. In addition to the EU, there would be great value in partnering with the EU Outermost Regions and ACP Group of States where we face common challenges. I will reach out to leaders and officials in these two groups to explore how we can cooperate on common issues, particularly at regional level.
Internationally I also will pursue a stronger relationship between OCTA and the Global Islands Partnership that is a recognised partnership under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. GLISPA provides a far-reaching network and effective platform for cooperation between islands on environmental conservation at global level.
OCT participation in EU horizontal and non-EDF programmes is an important issue and something that OCTA has fought for that is now reflected in the new OAD. I will support OCTA’s ongoing efforts to ensure that OCTs are granted the access to these programmes that they deserve. Access to the LIFE programme is a top priority.
3. What is your opinion on the new steering structure (Board of OCTA Chairmen)? Has the introduction of the board bring any improvements to the organization?
The introduction of the Board of Chairman was a significant step forward for OCTA. We desperately needed more OCT political engagement with the EU at the highest level. The Board will give greater weight to our dialogue with the EU and other partners. In the EU, there is an established recognition of political leadership so it was incumbent that we took this step. It will also provide OCTA with continuity since the Vice Chairman holds a seat on the Board and will serve as Chairman at the end of the current Chairman’s term.
4. What are the latest developments in the policy dialogue with the EU high-level representatives (Commissioner Piebalgs, MEPs)?
The new OAD has now entered into force and provides a basis for renewed policy dialogue in the spirit of a more balanced partnership. The Decision itself was a product in part of dialogue between the OCTs, EU and Member States. I am looking forward to picking up on this dialogue under our new framework, which I will initiate during my visit to Brussels sometime in the first half of the year. Under my Chairmanship the process will culminate with the 13th OCT-EU Forum in the BVI in late 2014.