Published On: Wed, Oct 23rd, 2019

European Commission waiting on St Maarten to present plan

PHILIPSBURG — A breakthrough in the joint wastewater management program for St. Maarten and St. Martin is long overdue. While government secured some 6.1 million from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), and €7 million is waiting to be secured, steps need to be taken to move the Sewage Project another step closer to reality.

Exactly six months ago Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops announced that he expected a breakthrough in the sewage treatment plant project. Knops made the announcement on April 23rd during a general debate in the second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. He said the project was on the agenda of a meeting with the World Bank.

The funds necessary have been available since 2008, when the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) for Overseas Countries and Territories was established (OCTs). The St. Maarten government has failed to take the steps necessary to establish, with the European Community, the cooperation program provided for under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA).

The European Development Fund (EDF) is an intergovernmental fund outside the EU budget, but most of its resources are managed by the European Commission (EC). It is registered as an international NGO under Belgian law. The EDF provides regional funding in the Caribbean for a total of €40 million, known as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as well as territorial programs for the twelve OCTs in the Caribbean that are each entitled to a different amount of money, depending on land size, population and urgencies.

The 10th EDF continued until 2014. That year the 11th EDF was established, with higher contributions of the EU member states and a different set of rules. Most changes compared to the 10th EDF are financial ones. The European Committee has chosen budget financing over project financing. Beneficiaries now receive portions of the total fund available to them, according to the progress made. With each milestone a new grant is signed off.

Under the 11th EDF, Sint Maarten is allocated €7 million. The European Commission  proposed to continue the Sewage Treatment Plant Project under the 10th EDF and assist the Government in ensuring proficient waste water treatment and protect the marine biodiversity of the island.

Sint Maarten is also one of the beneficiaries of a €15 million programme under the 10th EDF regional envelope for the Caribbean OCTs which focuses on stimulating the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The programme is enhancing economic competitiveness and lessening social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. In  2014 former Prime Minister of St. Maarten Sarah Wescot-Williams was nominated as the Caribbean Regional Authorizing Officer for the Dutch and British Caribbean Overseas Country’s and Territories of the European Union (COCT). This role as regional authorizing officer meant that coordination of the Caribbean-wide project would be done by St. Maarten.

The Government of St. Maarten has little time left to map out sustainable projects for funding as the 11th EDF ends in 2020. It is uncertain if there will be a 12th EDF. The Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA), a twenty-year old treaty between the European Union (EU) and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, will expire in February 2020.

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