On the eve of a crucial Conference in Tahiti starting 25th February 2019 to discuss a new Overseas Association Decision (OAD), I’m reminded of what Seneca said two millennia ago: “If you don’t know to which port you’re sailing, no wind is favorable.” At stake in Tahiti is our future with the EU.
Curaçao is an Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT), “associated”, not “integrated”, with the EU. The purpose of the association is according to the Lisbon Treaty: “promote economic and social development”. The OAD (LGO besluit) is a set of rules and regulations that governs the associate status.
What are our options with the EU? We could opt out (independence) like Greenland or become an integral part of the EU via The Netherlands (UPG). These choices however require mature discussions contrary to the emotional crap about ‘bags of cash from Brussels’ we saw before. Any “in” or “out” options need to be decided by a referendum and we don’t have a referendum law.
My article discusses some issues related to us continuing as OCT. How have we fared so far being an OCT? Did we get the desired development? I’ve yet to see a comprehensive data-driven report on this matter. Mind you, I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. We need to measure the impact our EU status has brought us so far and must set realistic target-based priorities for the future.
Many uncertainties remain however. (1) Will there be significant changes regarding EU’s financial support to OCTs? (2) What about Brexit and its (financial) consequences considering it’s a large netto contributor to the EU budget (around £ 10 billion). (3) EU wants OCTs to foster trade integration with their region but, will that benefit Curaçao since we don’t comply with the WTO? (4) Will the end of the Cotonou Agreement (relationship between the EU and its former independent colonies) in 2021 change the EU-OCT relationship? (5) We’ve seen that the EU is pursuing trade agreements with many parts of the world (including Canada, Mexico) which can impact our interests. Could we also participate once our WTO status is normalized?
Getting to a new EU-OCT relationship is not easy. Most importantly it mustn’t become a black box meaning only a few civil servants and Government calling the shots. It should be broadly discussed with private sector, nongovernment organizations and Parliament. Hopefully it will not take long before this realization sinks in.