OCTs are not part of the territory of the European Union, but given their special relations with four of the EU Members States (Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom), they have been associated to the EU since the founding Treaty of Rome in 1957. The purpose of the association, which is described under Part IV of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Articles 198 to 204 TFEU), is to “promote the economic and social development of the OCTs and to establish close economic relations between them and the Community as a whole”.
Detailed rules and procedures are provided for by the Council Decision of 27 November 2001 (amended in 2007) on the association of the OCTs with the European Community (2001/822/E), commonly referred to as the Overseas Association Decision (OAD).
Consultations have taken place since 2008 to modernise and update the legal framework governing the EU-OCT partnership. The Commission issued a Green Paper in 2008, followed by a Communication on 2009, which were echoed in 2011 by an OCT-Member State Joint Position Paper presented at the EU-OCT Forum in New Caledonia. The European Commission subsequently submitted in July 2012 its draft proposal for a Council decision on the new EU-OCT Association.
The previous OAD expired on 31 December 2013 and following an extensive consultation process, a new OAD governs EU-OCT relations as of 1st January 2014. Taking into account their specific challenges, the new OAD seeks to promote OCTs’ competitiveness, develop sustainable and resilient economies and foster strong partnerships in OCTs respective regions where possible.
Within the Commission, OCTs affairs are being managed by an OCT Task Force under the Deputy Director General for Development and Cooperation.