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EU Territories with special status

Disclaimer: This document provides guidance and is not a legally binding interpretation and shall therefore not be relied upon as legal advice.

EU Member States and their territories

At this moment the EU has 27 Member States, also referred to as the ‘EU 27’. Some of these EU 27 are historically connected to areas outside of Europe. In the appendix, you will find an overview of the Member States that have additional territories.

Member States with territories with special status

As mentioned in our article on which countries are a part of the EU, some countries are more than ‘just’ the Member States located in Europe. These ‘special territories’ have for historical, geographical, or political reasons, a special status within or outside the EU. 
 
There are 32 special territories of EU Member States. These can be distinguished into 3 different categories:
  1. Outermost Region of the Community (OMR)
  2. Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT)
  3. Special cases

1. Outermost Region (OMR)

Nine outermost regions are a part of the EU and are a part of the EU Single Market. The OMR is situated at a significant distance from the main Member States. As a result, the OMR is allowed to differentiate from certain EU policies.
 
In 2007, with the Treaty of Lisbon, the legal status of these OMR were confirmed. Currently, the OMR are:
France:
  • French Guiana
  • Guadaloupe
  • Martinique
  • Saint Martin
  • La Réunion
  • Mayotte
Portugal:
  • Azores
  • Madeira
Spain:
  • Canary Islands

These OMR are part of the EU. It is however important to note that in the first place, these OMR fall under the jurisdiction of their respective Member State.  Should, for example, France choose to leave the EU, the OMR leave too. See the appendix for an overview of territories that fall under the ‘EU Single Market’.

- The French overseas areas are under French law and are treated, for the most part, as integral parts of the French Republic. The currency is the Euro, but they are outside the Schengen Area and EU VAT area. 

- The Portugese OMR are, under Portuguese legislation, treated as autonomous regions. The Azores and Madeira deviate from the application of EU legislation in regards to taxation, fishing and transpiration. The Portugese OMR are inside the EU VAT area, but have a lower VAT than in the rest of Portugal. 

- The Spanish Canary Islands form autonomous communities under Spanish law. They are however outside the EU VAT area. 

2. Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT)

There are 13 Oversea Countries and Territories (OCT) regions. The OCT are not a part of the EU or the EU Single Market. This means that they can have their own product legislation. They do have the possibility to opt-in to certain EU legislation (see below).  The OCT are dependent territories that have a ‘special relationship’ with one of the member states of the EU. 

OCTA

The OCT together founded OCTA (Overseas Countries and Territories Association). The purpose of OCTA is to improve economic development and cooperation between the OCT and EU. Under EU legislation, the OCT have the opportunity to opt into EU provisions on certain freedom of movement for workers and freedom of establishment.  On 25 June 2008, a Cooperation Treaty was signed between the EU and OCTA. The OCTA contains detailed rules and procedures on for example education and training, public health, tourism and culture and digital accessibility (Decision (EU) 2021/1764), 

Currently, the 13 OCT of the European Union and their Member State are:

France:
  • French Polynesia
  • New Caledonia
  • Wallis-et-Fortuna
  • Saint-Barthélemy
  • Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon
  • French Southern and Antarctic Lands
Denmark:
  • Greenland 
Kingdom of the Netherlands:
  • Aruba
  • Bonaire
  • Curaçao
  • Saba
  • Sint Eustatius
  • Sint Maarten

3. Special cases

While the OCT have a strong connection with 3 EU Member States, 10 Member States have territories that have no special status. Their relationship with the EU is ad hoc arranged. Not all of them are a part of the EU or take part in the Single Market. The territories are as follows:

Cyprus:
  • UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus
Denmark:
  • Faroe Islands
Finland:
  • Åland
Germany:
  • Büsingen am Hochrhein
  • Heligoland
Greece:
  • Monastic Republic of Mount Athos
Italy:
  • Livigno
  • Campione d’Italia
Spain:
  • Melilla
  • Ceuta
See the appendix to the relationship with the EU: are they part of the EU and do they participate in the EU Single Market.

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