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Closer ties to European Union in the works

Premier Paula Cox is pushing for Bermuda to have direct formal links with the European Union through membership in the Overseas Countries and Territories Association. The OCTA brings together about two dozen territories with links to the United Kingdom, Holland, France and Denmark and is governed by EU regulations known as Overseas Association Decisions. Bermuda’s inclusion could come as early as July when the current OAD is updated. The overall purpose of the current association is to promote OCTs’ economic and social development and to develop economic relations between the OTCs and the EU. Members pay a fee to be included and are bound by basic principles such as democracy and human rights. In 2001, Bermuda turned down an invitation to be included in the arrangement because its original purpose was to give the territories access to developmental aid, according to a press release issued by Government yesterday. But the Association has now “furthered its remit” and is acknowledged as a means for the OCTs to “heighten their presence within the EU”. Premier Cox raised the issue of Bermuda’s membership in Brussels last week at a meeting between the EU and the OCTs. “I consider that deepening our engagement with the European Union was of national strategic advantage,” the Premier says in yesterday’s press release. “There is also the potential for collateral benefits by a closer collaboration, including the possibility of technical and functional assistance in fostering environmental initiatives and support of sustainable development projects. “I am pleased that Bermuda was able to participate in the constructive dialogue and this is consistent with furthering Bermuda’s national agenda.” Bermuda had been invited to the tenth OCT-EU Forum as an observer. And the Premier’s overture comes in time for a review of the OAD which is scheduled for July this year. “As the revised OAD’s submission to the EU Council is in July 2012, the inclusion of Bermuda would award us the opportunity for increased visibility within the EU,” states the Government release. “Through the London Office, consistent representation within OCTA will be essential to maintaining constant dialogue with the EU and uphold Bermuda’s interest and presence within Europe.” According to the press release, the OCTs pressed the European Commission to “support the awareness of OCTs within European institutions on issues such as Environment and Climate Change; Trade; Rights of OCT Citizens; Partnership with the EU; Territorial Strategies for Innovation and Regional Projects and Equal Treatment for all OCTs”. Kimberley Durrant, office manager of Bermuda’s London office said yesterday that the OCTA planned to open an office in Brussels and all OCTA members will have access to its resources “and that of the EU”.

Premier Paula Cox is pushing to have direct formal links between Bermuda and European Union.