Aruba is a Dutch Overseas Country and Territory (OCT) and one of the 3 constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean region together with Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Aruba is an island with a population of around 100 000 (2022). Over 85% of the Aruban gross national product is earned through tourism and related activities.
EU cooperation with Aruba is set in the Decision on the Overseas Association including Greenland (DOAG) of 2021, which aims to support the government in its efforts to promote sustainable development.
For the 2021-27 period, the priority is on the digital sector (€14.2 million), where the focus is on improving resilience and governance of the island through digitalisation via the E-Government roadmap. Since 2018 the E-government agenda is a major policy priority for Aruba.
Digital accessibility of government services is aligned to the DOAG’s goals and objectives and is one of the top priorities of the EU, linked to the EU strategy shaping Europe’s digital future. Developing digital networks and infrastructures is aligned to the Green Deal objectives on achieving climate-neutrality and enhancing circular economy as well as to the Global Gateway investment priority on digital, making the EU an exclusive partner of Aruba.
The EU contributed to the new science faculty at the University of Aruba through SISSTEM: Sustainable Island Solutions through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programme. SISSTEM provides students with three important new learning opportunities:
- Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) bachelor programme
- Master programme in ‘sustainability’
- PhD research and innovation programme.
The partnership with one of the best universities of Europe, the Catholic University of Leuven, is also hugely beneficial, allowing Aruba to play an increased role not only nationally, but also regionally, serving as a beacon of science throughout the Caribbean region and beyond, and attracting foreign students.
Cooperation with Aruba is channelled mainly through territorial cooperation programmes (which focused on higher education in the previous programming period, and on digitalisation for 2021-27).
In addition, Aruba benefits from regional cooperation through the Caribbean regional programme RESEMBID (€42.67 million) on resilience, sustainable energy, and marine biodiversity and, from the 2021-27, through the Caribbean regional programme (€21 million) on the sustainable management of Caribbean OCT’s natural capital. For the 2021-27 period the regional Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for Caribbean OCTs, adopted in November 2022, focuses on strategic themes of intervention of biodiversity, water management and food security. Caribbean OCTs can also participate in the Caribbean INTERREG programme for 2021-27.
Aruba benefits from the Green Overseas-GO thematic programme (€17.8 million)on sustainable energy and enhanced resilience to climate change, which consists of technical assistance, studies, pilot projects and trainings for beneficiaries, individually and in thematic clusters.
Aruba is eligible for the DOAG’s dedicated intra-regional envelop for all OCTs for the period 2021-27 (€15 million). Intra-regional cooperation is a vital aspect of the EU's approach to OCTs, promoting closer ties and collaboration notably with neighbouring countries, outermost regions, and regional organisations through pilot actions.
OCTs, including Aruba, can also take part in other EU funding programmes such as TAIEX/Twinning, InvestEU, LIFE, Horizon Europe, and Erasmus+. Along with other Dutch OCTs, Aruba has become increasingly successful in Erasmus+ with an increased number of projects (33 projects during the 2014-201 period). OCTs can also benefit from the thematic part and rapid response actions of the NDICI, as well as from the Humanitarian Aid Instrument.
Finally, youth from Aruba are participating in the OCT-Youth Network which aims to increase the ties between young people living in OCTs and the European Union and enhance knowledge and involvement of young people in EU-OCT partnership.