EU Desk Curaçao
Curaçao’s EU desk, that has been established to help grant seekers with their acquisition of funding from European donors, can be considered a unique example for all Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT). Shereeta Ramcharan, who is one of the officers in charge of the bureau, shares this opinion with Sylvie Millot, who is the Head of OCT sector of the EU Commission. The EU desk was opened last December and is part of the services offered by the Division of Foreign Economic Cooperation of the Ministry of Economic Development (MEO).
The main objective of the desk is to support grant requests from the so-called thematic funds from the European Union (EU). These are the non-development funds from the EU. The EU has several grants and other funding possibilities for its ‘oversees countries and territories’. The procurement process for these funds tend to be quite complicated which may impede an effective use of the opportunities. This has inspired the Division of Foreign Economic Cooperation of the MEO to come up with a practical solution. A simple and transparent structure was developed, where officers with extensive experience with the EU funding system, work in teams with members of other government departments to make the best use of the existing knowledge and capacity. Employees of the International Division coordinate the desk and guide working groups on the thematic areas; energy, international trade, entrepreneurship, development of small & medium sized enterprises, innovation and social economy. The goal of this joint effort is clear; to increase the success rate of grant seekers in Curaçao.
Ramcharan is very positive about this project. She has experience in this field as of 2006. The desk also counts on the know-how of Richard Cardose who retired in 2014 but was called back in 2017 to help with the set up and implementation. In an interview with REACH, Ramcharan and Cardose explain the importance of having this desk.
“Triggering the use of EU funds is included in the Business plan of the MEO. This Ministry has the capacity in-house and it belongs to the responsibility of the Division of Foreign Economic Cooperation” explains Ramcharan. According to her, Trade and Development Cooperation are nowadays integrated, based on the notion that trade leads to enhancement of development aid. The EU funding for projects and organizations was originally coordinated by the government department of development cooperation.
There was some confusion after the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010, where this task would continue. The organization of the EU desk at the Division of Foreign Economic Cooperation makes sense as it ensures the best use of the existing knowledge within the government and incites effectiveness and efficiency. This set-up also concurs with a research that showed the need to have a solid infrastructure to manage the funds and the information about the funds.
Cardose explains that the grant seeker often has to work together with partnering organizations. In most cases they have to place a ‘call for proposal’ with the grant seeking organization(s) taking care of 20% of the costs. The remaining 80% can be financed through the European thematic funds. The request can be submitted by several entities such as natural persons, private entities and academia. The reality is that there should be more collaboration between organizations to make better use of these funds. The EU desk wants to increase this.
According to Ramcharan in many cases it is an art to identify a call that Curaçao can be eligible for. When the desk receives the requests from the local organizations, they send it to the relevant working group. This method safeguards the best use of the existing capacity and at the same time improves capacity building within the ministries and the organizations. Capacity building is an important factor for improvement of the service and continuity of the desk.
The desk officers therefore receive online training and support for their work. They also team up with the Dutch Enterprise Agency (RVO), to uncover the possibilities for trade development support for Curaçao’s businesses. In April the EU desk employees attended a mission to the EU office in Brussel to gain more knowledge about the European funding possibilities.
The EU representatives were very impressed with Curaçao’s approach. According to the Head of the OCT Sector, Sylvie Millot, this is an effective structure and can serve as a unique example for all OCT’s. Shereeta Ramcharan and the Director of the Division of Foreign Economic Cooperation, Vanessa Toré, who was the motor behind the establishment of the EU desk, have been appointed the National Contact Points for the EU thematic funds. Organizations and persons that want to make use of the EU thematic funds can approach them and they will redirect their grant requests.
The EU Desk was officially launched in December 2018 and has since then received several requests for support. Its objective is to give more information about the existence of the funds, to help with identification of the calls for proposals and to guide and help with the procedures.
The support offered by the EU Desk increases the chances for the grant seeker. This on its turn helps the capacity building within the EU Desk and within the organization that is submitting the request. The organizations can approach the desk for information and support. The desk will be organizing workshops and information sessions for interested entities. It also has a Facebook page, EU desk Curaçao.
The Foreign Economic Cooperation Division within the Ministry of Economic Development of Curaçao is in charge with a number of tasks:
Foreign Direct Investment
International Trade and International Business
CONTACT EU DESK
T. +5999 462 1444 # 181
A. Pletterijweg 43 AmiDos Building, 5th floor