Since I’m on the subject of things extra-European today, I note that Le Monde is reporting that there will be a referendum in Guadéloupe and Martinique in December over changing the status and government structure of France’s Caribbean colonies. France has a tradition of being a very centralised state, but the last 20 years or so have seen the end of the old regime. Powers are now devolved to regional governments, and the DOM-TOM’s are increasingly autonomous. Corsica’s little set-back recently is, I suspect, just a speedbump in the decline of the centralised French state.
What I would like to propose is the idea that maybe there needs to be some debate on the status of Europe’s extra-European areas as whole.
The current arrangement certainly seems excessively complicated. As I understand it (and I didn’t look it up so I may be wrong) Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, France and the UK all have areas which fall under their national sovereignty, but outside the EU. I think all the remaining Portuguese territories are within the EU, since Macao was handed over to China. Some areas are outside the EU for tax purposes, but able to obtain structural funds anyway. Some overseas areas enjoy special trading status with the EU, others are fully part of the EU, and still others are treated exactly the same as foreign states for trade purposes. Several have their own currencies, some tied to the Euro, some to the dollar. Three of Britain’s Caribbean colonies are part of a different economic union. I think citizens of all the remaining European overseas territories have the right to abode in the EU, although I’m not sure about Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles.
I hate to suggest it in these terms, but perhaps the EU ought to have some sort of colonial affairs office. Of course, we wouldn’t call it that. “External territories” might be the way to go. Still, it might make sense to outline whether people in these territories have the right to appeal before the ECJ, and just what terms they have to accept in order to get EU aid and structural funds.
I note, with some small amusement, that there is already a nation outside the EU that seems willing to accept that kind of pseudo-colonial status. Cape Verde wants access to European structural funds, and apparently Spain and Portugal are willing to entertain the idea. Since there already seems to be an Europe à deux vitesses within the EU, perhaps there is room for an Europe à trois vitesses. Perhaps there are other states that might be interested in a similar sort of deal? Like Cape Verde, much of northern Africa already has a currency bound to the Euro and “special relationships” with their former colonial powers, France in particular, and indirectly with the EU.
This leads me to think that maybe there needs to be a debate on the idea of a peripheral Europe? To some degree, it already exists in the overseas colonies and a few highly EU-dependent peripheral states. It would probably be impossible to avoid the label of colonialism, but considering how central the EU has become to some of these places’ economies, it just might be better to drag the whole thing out into the open.