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Brussels, 6th May 2010

Commissioner Hahn attends ministerial conference on outermost regions in Gran Canaria (Spain)

The European Commissioner for regional policy, Johannes Hahn, will travel to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on 7 May to attend a ministerial conference on the outermost regions organised by the Spanish Presidency of the European Union. After this meeting, the nine outermost regions and their Member States (France, Portugal, Spain) will sign a memorandum outlining their common positions on the European Union's future strategy for the outermost regions up to 2020.

Johannes Hahn, who is the Commissioner responsible for coordinating issues relating to the outermost regions, said: "I would like to congratulate everyone on the months of hard work invested in bringing about these common proposals of the outermost regions and their governments. They will play a key role in fuelling the Commission's deliberations on the future strategy of the Union in this area. It is too soon to express an opinion on these ideas, but one thing is certain: these regions must be included in the new economic strategy of the European Union for the period to 2020 for their own benefit. Their great geographical and cultural diversity is also an enrichment for the whole of Europe."

2010 is an important year for the outermost regions as discussions on the future Community budget and the design of the new cohesion policy after 2013 have already kicked off. It will also be important to ensure that the outermost regions play a part in the new economic strategy for Europe (Europe 2020), for example, in the priorities set by the European Union for renewable energy sources.

In the period 2007-13, the outermost regions will benefit from Community investment totalling €7.8 billion under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund (ESF), European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and the Programme of Options Specifically Relating to Remoteness and Insularity (POSEI).

The agriculture, fisheries and tourism sectors are the main sources of employment for the four million or so inhabitants of these regions who, in many projects supported by the European Union, have already shown their ability to specialise in such cutting-edge sectors and to run pilot projects useful for the whole of the European Union. On the sidelines of the conference, Commissioner Hahn will visit the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). In 2009, the largest infrared optical telescope in the world (Gran Telescopio Canarias, GTC) was inaugurated on the summit of the Roque de los Muchachos (EU contribution: €38 million, or 70% of the total cost).

With the support of the cohesion policy, the outermost regions have also distinguished themselves in the fields of renewable energy (the multiple-purpose power station that helps generate electricity in Madeira), agri-foodstuffs (the PRAM agricultural and environmental research centre in Martinique), oceanography (the Department of Oceanography and Fisheries at the University of the Azores), biodiversity (the Guyafor project to better quantify the carbon storage capacity of the Amazon rainforest in French Guiana) and even risk prevention (the volcanological and seismological observatory in Guadeloupe). Cyclotron Réunion Indian Ocean (CYROI) manages a high-level technological platform for life sciences. It conducts research mainly into infectious diseases and obesity, with Community support of almost €14 million, or 60% of the cost of the project.

In three weeks' time, the discussions on the EU's post-2013 strategy for the outermost regions will continue at the First Forum for Outermost Europe on 27 and 28 May in Brussels. This event will provide a platform for exchanging information and experience and will allow the nine outermost regions to raise awareness of their special situation among the European institutions and all the Member States.

Note to publishers

With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union now has nine outermost regions: the four French overseas departments (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Martinique), two French overseas collectivities (Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin), the autonomous regions of Portugal (the Azores and Madeira) and the Spanish Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands.

Since 1999 the European Union has recognised the special situation of the outermost regions (their insularity, remoteness, small size and economic dependence) in relation to the other European regions.

In 2008, the Commission adopted a communication proposing a renewed European strategy for the outermost regions (IP/08/1569).

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