There are seven "outermost regions": Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Réunion (the four French overseas departments), the Canaries (Spain), and the Azores and Madeira (Portugal). In contrast to the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT), which have a statute of association with Member States, the OR are an integral part of the European Union (EU) and must apply its laws and obligations. The OR are distinguished by their low population density and considerable distance from mainland Europe, their insularity and small land mass (with the exception of Guyana), adverse climate and terrain and an economic dependence on a small number of products. Their specific location makes them European bridgeheads for developing trade relations with third countries in their respective geographical areas (Atlantic, Caribbean and Indian Ocean) and enables the EU to have the world's largest maritime territory with an exclusive economic zone covering 25 million km².
Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) enables specific and adapted measures to be applied to the OR, which take into account the characteristics and specific constraints these regions have in complying with the European Treaties.
Article 355(6) of the TFEU enables the European Council, acting on the initiative of the Member States concerned, to adopt a decision amending the status in relation to the Union of a Danish, French or Dutch country or territory (this was the case with St Barthélémy which demonstrated its desire to have its OR status removed in order to become an OCT in 2012).
For the 2007-2013 programming period the OR benefit from EU financial assistance of EUR 7.84 billion which is predominantly invested in economic and social infrastructures, new information and communication technologies and in research and development.