A new stage in the European strategy for the outermost regions
Brussels, 22 October 2008
Danuta Hübner, Commissioner for regional policy, is today presenting the communication "The outermost regions: an asset for Europe", which proposes a renewed strategy for the seven regions:the four French overseas departments, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Martinique, the Portuguese autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira and the Spanish Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands. The Commissioner is calling for the outermost regions (OR) to be considered as "regions of opportunity", rich in potential for the development of the Union as a whole. This change in approach could come about through the optimal use of all of the existing Community instruments, greater knowledge about the OR and strengthened partnership.
Danuta Hübner stressed that "Europe must rediscover its “hidden treasures” – the outermost regions!This new communication is a response to the expectations of the main players in these regions, expressed during the debate we initiated last year. It is also a follow-up to the call made by all of the Member States with close ties to the OR, which wanted to show how important these regions are for the European Union as a whole".
The OR have much to offer the European Union. They are located in areas of geostrategic significance for the European Union’s maritime dimension and neighbourhood policy. Because of their geographical and geomorphological characteristics they are the ideal location for experimentation in a number of fields, such as climate change. Their biodiversity and exceptional marine ecosystems present great potential for innovation in the areas of pharmaceuticals or agronomy. They also grow high-quality agricultural produce, such as teas, wines, rum, cheeses, fruit, flowers and ornamental plants.
The Commission therefore proposes:
- to ensure that optimal use is made of the €7.8 billion in Community investment available for these regions (under the ERDF, ESF, EAFRD, EFF and POSEI) over the period 2007-2013. This will also mean taking the fullest advantage of the opportunities offered by all of the Community programmes (particularly the 7th framework programme for research and development, the lifelong learning programme, etc.).
- to address the new challenges linked to climate change, demographic trends and migratory flows. This will entail:
launching a number of studies to increase knowledge and understanding of the specific impact on the economic and social cohesion of the outermost regions of certain phenomena, such as migration and demographic trends, climate change, the loss of biodiversity, the marine environment, etc.
encouraging the implementation of an integrated policy for the management of risks coastal areas (flooding, coastline erosion, vulnerability of people and property)
reinforcing regional integration (for instance, setting up short-distance maritime links)
providing start-up and investment assistance for young farmers
helping to promote the high-performing reputation of the agricultural and agri-food sectors.
- Strengthening the partnership between the European Union, the OR and their associated Member States. Commissioner Hübner proposes in particular that a “Forum for outermost Europe” be organised every two years in order to improve dialogue and raise awareness of the specific characteristics of the OR.
The special status of the seven outermost regions is defined by Article 299(2) of the EC Treaty, which refers to the disadvantages they face: remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate, and economic dependence on a few products.
On 12 September 2007, the Commission adopted a communication "Strategy for the Outermost Regions: Achievements and Future Prospects", which proposed in particular to launch a debate on the long-term challenges for these regions. With this communication, the Commission is responding to the public consultation and following up the call made by the European Council of December 2007.