Europe hors l’Europe

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.

5 thoughts on “Europe hors l’Europe

  1. 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.

    Residents of the British Caribbean islands don’t; there’s been complaints, particularly from Montserrat, about Montserratians’ inability to enjoy the same rights of mobility as Gibraltarians or Falklanders, with hints of racism. The Dutch Caribbean islanders, on the other hand, do have unrestricted rights of migration to the metropole.

    The European Union’s relationship to the world just beyond its likely frontiers is something it really is going to have to think of. Israel, for instance, the Maghreb, and Ukraine. The Wider Europe Initiative might not go far enough.

  2. My understanding is that since the passage of the British Overseas Territories Act of 2002, there are to be British citizens and British Overseas Territories citizens. All other statuses – British Overseas citizen, British Dependent Territory citizens, British Protected persons, etc – are abolished. Both categories of British citizen have the right to abode in the UK, but British citizens do not automatically have any right to reside in dependent territories. I had understood that the High Court gave them all the right to abode in the UK anyway in 2000.

    I think one place the EU might act productively is to say that all EU members must offer the right to abode in their EU member territories to all persons who are citizens of areas under their jurisdiction, even if that right isn’t reciprocal. Make it clear once and for all that in Europe there is only one kind of citizen.

    I think that if the EU members aren’t going to be equally integrated within the EU, it makes little sense to demand that all states outside the EU be treated equally either. Turkey, Israel, most of northern Africa, the European non-members, Russia, Dubai – in each case, I think it makes some sense to say that there exists a relationship that isn’t just international business as usual and try to negotiate something that works reasonably well for everyone.

  3. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) could serve as an “EU light”. Perhaps also an interesting model for the UK. 😉

  4. In the EU, there is the concept of ultra-peripheral areas. Those are outlying territories that are considered as part of the EU: the Canaries, the Azores, Madeira and the four French DOMs Martinique, Guadeloupe, R?union and French Guiana. Greenland voted to leave the EU in 1985. The Faeroes have never been part of the EU. The other French, British and Dutch territories are not a part of the EU, but I guess that the French and Dutch territories are de facto within the Schengen area. They also get extra money from the EU. On the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, there is an ongoing discussion about three options: total independence (for each of the separate islands), integration in the EU (by becoming a part of the Netherlands, a kind of overseas province) or keeping the status-quo (the current “status aparte” with autonomy on internal affairs).

  5. Peter, you have to go through customs when you enter France from St-Martin, and I think you do when you come in from Guadeloupe and Martinique. I’m not sure they are covered by the Schengen Treaty. I know that you need a separate visa to visit Aruba – a Dutch visa doesn’t cut it.

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