A Dutch overseas territory located in the Caribbean north of Venezuela, Bonaire’s total area is 294 km², its population numbers around 19,500, and its main economic driver is the tourism sector. In October 2010, with the dismantlement of the Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire became a ‘special municipality’ of the Netherlands.
In Bonaire, the executive power rests with the governing council, headed by the island governor who gets appointed by the King of the Netherlands. The governing council decides on the local economy and infrastructure, but the central Dutch government retained regal functions and decides on the main policies. In 2018, Bonaire signed an agreement with the Dutch government allowing for more central supervision, while keeping the island council in place.
Bonaire’s economy is mainly based on tourism and the oil industry, and highly dependent on imports. The local government struggles to create better socio-economic conditions for young people. And, like the rest of the region, the island is often affected by devastating natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
The island’s relations with its neighbour Venezuela are contentious: Venezuela authorities accuse Bonaire of harbouring smugglers, while Bonaire has very limited capacities to cope with the massive Venezuelan migration. Venezuelan oil refineries and storage facilities based in Bonaire provide many jobs and the island also depends on Venezuela for fresh produce, fish, and tourists.
The EU’s relations with Bonaire are framed by the articles 198-204 of the Treaty of the functioning of the EU (TFEU), which foresees that the EU’s association with overseas countries and territories (OCTs) should help promote OCTs’ economic and social development and establish close economic relations between them and with the EU.
The Council’s decision on the association of OCTs with the EU (2013) deepened this idea, speaking of a ‘reciprocal partnership’ to support OCTs’ sustainable development, based on areas of mutual interest.
With each European Development Fund (EDF) programming period, the EU’s bilateral cooperation with Bonaire evolved in terms of supported sectors. For example, under the 10th EDF (2007-2013), the focus was on sewerage and sanitation, while under the current 11th EDF (2014-2020), the focus has shifted towards education and social development for young people, to be in line with the priorities of Bonaire’s government. In both cases, the implementation modality is budget support
With a budget of €3 million, we supported the implementation of the Bonaire Soil and Water Management Plan 2016-2020, which facilitates the development and implementation of sustainable water and sanitation policies, preserving the coral reefs.
Bilateral cooperation under the 11th EDF (2014-2020), in alignment with Bonaire’s master plan for strategic development and with a budget of €3.95 million, aims to support young people in Bonaire through:
- better access to quality education
- better employment opportunities
- improved social policies
Other regional cooperation programmes which Sint Eustatius also benefits from include:
- a €18 million all-OCTs thematic programme facilitating and promoting the sustainable management of OCTs’ natural resources by giving them the necessary tools and information to address climate change and sustainable energy
- a €40 million Caribbean regional programme seeking sustainable energy solutions at regional level to promote economies of scale, addressing the degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems, and building resilience through adaptation projects
Our cooperation with Bonaire is always in close coordination with the Dutch representation in Aruba and the Government of the Netherlands.