Brussels, 20 June 2012
The outermost regions: Commission unveils plan to support jobs and growth
Today the Commission adopts its communication on "The outermost regions of the European Union: towards a partnership for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth", which proposes a renewed strategy for eight regions: the four French overseas departments, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Martinique, the overseas Collectivity of St Martin; the Portuguese autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira and the Spanish Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands. The aim is to support the outermost regions (OR) realise their potential above all through diversification and modernisation of their economies. This means developing new practices in traditional sectors like agriculture or fisheries and exploiting the potential for developing new products arising from their biodiversity and marine ecosystems, as well as developing their potential as centre for climate and space research, astrophysics and renewable energy. The Communication also sets out how, across a very wide range of sectors, the Commission will be engaged to mitigate their permanent constraints, to ensure their full integration in the single market, and their improved integration in their geographical neighbourhoods.
Johannes Hahn said: "These regions are assets for the EU. Our aim is to help the OR become more self-reliant, economically more robust and better able to create sustainable jobs, to reduce the disparities with other EU regions".
As recognised in Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, important constraints will always remain, such as remoteness from Europe. But a concerted effort to reform, modernise and diversify their economies - which have been heavily affected by the global economic and financial crisis - will be the best way to ensure a more prosperous future for the OR.
"Each OR is different and distinctive ways forward need to be found for each one. The renewed strategy set out here outlines opportunities for all, but each region will need to design its own path to greater prosperity, according to its specific characteristics" the Commissioner added.
The OR have much to offer the European Union. Altogether, 4 million European citizens live in the Outermost Regions. They are located in areas of geostrategic significance for the European Union, and because of their geographical and geomorphological characteristics they are the ideal location for experimentation in a number of fields, such renewable energies, astrophysics and space research. Their biodiversity offers potential in sectors from health to tourism.
This Communication seeks to help the OR find their place in the many initiatives supporting delivery of Europe 2020, with much more comprehensive attention to their situation across the European policy spectrum than in the past.
They will continue to receive support in traditional areas like fishing and agriculture, (high-quality agricultural produce are grown, such as teas, wines, rum, cheeses, fruit, flowers and ornamental plants) but the Communication also sets out how to support maximisation of their potential in new sectors. It points to where they can find help, or where there are opportunities for them in EU policies on research, innovation, entrepreneurship and skills, to support areas as diverse as tourism and space research. The Communication also explains the support available to maintain the OR' special assets through protection of their environments.
The Commission therefore proposes concrete measures in several relevant fields and policies in order to:
All the outlined measures are to be delivered in partnership. The national and regional authorities concerned should maintain strong commitment to maximising the potential of each OR and ensure that national rules and practices are adapted where necessary to reflect the regional needs.
Commissioner Hahn proposes in particular that each OR together with their respective Member State draw up an Action Plan setting out, with targets and milestones, how they intend to implement the Europe 2020 agenda taking account of their individual situations, and the different instruments at their disposal.
Meanwhile, the Commission commits itself to pursue efforts to strengthen the integration of the OR in the single market and in their geographical environment. By the end of 2017 at the latest, the Commission will review implementation of each of the proposed measures.
The Presidents of all outermost regions will gather on the 2nd and 3rd July in Brussels for a forum to discuss a series of topics relevant for their regions, together with the European Commission. A press point will take place on Monday, 2nd July.
The special status of the eight outermost regions is defined by Article 349 of the TFEU, which refers to the disadvantages they face: remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate, and economic dependence on a few products.
Numerous projects supported by the European Union bear witness to the capacity of the OR to specialise in cutting-edge sectors and implement pilot projects that can benefit the Union as a whole. These include, in particular, innovative projects in the fields of:
Energy - the PLOCAN Consortium for experimentation with renewable energies in off-shore facilities off the Canary Islands; and a pilot plant in La Réunion aiming at producing biofuel from algae),
Observation and natural disaster prevention - The Centre of Volcanology and Geological Risk Assessment in the Azores; and the Project CARTAM-SAT in French Guiana, a dynamic mapping of the Amazonian region from satellites;
Sustainable tourism - the Whale Museum and the 3D whale project in Madeira
Agriculture and environment - in Martinique the FIBandCo initiative producing materials from unexploited resources in the cultivation of bananas; and the Phytobôkaz project developing and marketing healthcare products from plants used in Guadeloupian traditional medicine.
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