A Dutch overseas territory located in the Caribbean, Sint Eustatius’ total area is 21 km², its population numbers around 3,300, and its main economic driver is the oil sector. In October 2010, with the dismantlement of the Netherlands Antilles, Sint Eustatius became a ‘special municipality’ of the Netherlands.
In Sint Eustatius, the executive power used to rest with the governing council, headed by the island governor appointed by the King of the Netherlands. But, in 2018, a report concluding to gross neglect of duties from the governing council led the central Dutch government to rule in favour of State intervention. The last general elections in Sint Eustatius took place in 2015 and the Dutch government does not foresee any new election until it deems the local administrative and political system ready (expected no later than 2021).
Sint Eustatius’ economy is service-based and mainly dependent on the oil sector and tourism, which makes it highly vulnerable to external economic shocks. The island’s main employers are the government and an American oil company, to which many other companies provide services, reinforcing the importance of this company in the local economy. Moreover, Sint Eustatius, like the rest of the region, is often affected by devastating natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
The EU’s relations with Sint Eustatius 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 Sint Eustatius evolved both in terms of supported sectors and implementation modalities. For example, under the 10th EDF (2007-2013), the focus was on infrastructure (harbour expansion) through project support, while under the current 11th EDF (2014-2020), the focus has shifted towards renewable energy through sector reform contracts (form of budget support).
Aside from bilateral support, Sint Eustatius also benefits from EDF regional projects in the Caribbean, some of which have proved successful, for example, in:
- stimulating small business and innovation
- reducing dependence on fossil fuels and developing renewable energy
- protecting marine biodiversity and better managing protected areas
- reinforcing resilience to natural disasters
Bilateral cooperation under the 11th EDF (2014-2020), in alignment with Sint Eustatius’ national development strategy and with a budget of €2.45 million, aims to:
- support the sustainable diversification of Sint Eustatius’ energy supply, with the installation of a solar plant
- ensure an efficient and reliable electricity supply and reinforce disaster prevention, through the undergrounding of part of the electricity network
- assist the local government in implementing its new energy policy, protecting consumers, and promoting private investments in sustainable energy
The harbour expansion works foreseen under the 10th EDF (2007-2013) finally started in October 2018. Infrastructural improvement of the port of Sint Eustatius shall protect the island from further erosion and bring new economic opportunities.
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 Sint Eustatius is always in close coordination with the Dutch representation in Aruba and the Government of the Netherlands.