Published On: Wed, Dec 20th, 2023

St. Maarten hardly makes use of European support funds

PHILIPSBURG — There are twenty European funds St. Maarten could call on for financial assistance, it appears from a letter State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen (Kingdom Relations) sent to the Dutch parliament. Currently there is however just one project in the pipeline: the preparation for a joint waste water treatment facility with the French side of the island. The EU has €1.15 million $1.26 million) available for it.

Among the twenty European funds are Digital Europe, the European Social Fund and Invest EU. St. Maarten and other kingdom-islands in the Caribbean make only limited use of these funds, Van Huffelen wrote. The reasons are a lack of knowledge about the funds, lacking skills in writing proposals and implementing project and a lack of cooperation with other LGOs (OCTs, Overseas Countries and Territories). The complexity of EU-procedures, mandatory cooperation partners and mandatory co-financing are also stumbling blocks.

The funds the islands do use at the moment are “relatively accessible” and do not require co-financing, according to Van Huffelen.

In April of this year, Edison Rijna was appointed as special envoy for Caribbean Netherlands for EU funds, UN funds and economic cooperation with Latin-America. St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao are not a part of this deal because of their autonomous status. However, if they want, they can also use the expertise and assistance of the special envoy.

Rijna booked a first success with the admission of the BES islands to the 30 for 2030-program. This offers intensive support from the European Commission for a period of three years with the objective of having the islands use one hundred percent renewable energy by 2030.

European funds also have €13 million ($14.8 million) available for unforeseen expenditures to finance for instance repairs after hurricanes and earthquakes and for migration challenges. The islands have not called on this money for assistance yet.

St. Maarten can also apply to two other funds for financing: the Civil Protection Mechanism (via the Netherlands) and NDICI-Europe, the Neighborhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument. It has a budget of €79.5 billion ($87.5 billion) and aims to support countries to overcome long-term developmental challenges.

The EU made €7 million ($7.7 million) from its 2014-2020 budget available to St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma struck in 2017.