Brussels, 17 October 2013
Developing the Outermost Regions' full potential: Commissioner Hahn to discuss next steps
EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn will join the Presidents of Europe’s Outermost Regions later today as they gather for their annual conference on the French island of Reunion. Commissioner Hahn will welcome the Outermost Regions' commitment in providing Action Plans - first proposed by the Commission - on how they intend to make the best use of EU funds for 2014-2020. Later in the four-day visit, Commissioner Hahn will be travelling on to Mayotte which will gain Outermost Region status in January 2014.
The conference on October 18 is hosted by Didier Robert, President of the Regional Council of La Reunion, and current chair of the group of eight Outermost Regions (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Reunion, Martinique, the overseas Collectivity of St Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands). The governments of Spain, Portugal and France will be represented at the conference, as well as the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Commissioner Hahn said, "The action plans now being presented by the Outermost Regions are already proving a very useful exercise in strategic thinking and I am delighted that every one of the eight outermost regions, as well as Mayotte, which joins in January, will have one."
"In the context of the Action Plans, the regions have worked hard to bring forward growth and investment strategies for 2014-2020 - not just for funds under EU Regional Policy but for all the EU’s structural investment funds. Critically too the Action Plans have encouraged a shift in perception: we are no longer defining the Outermost Regions by their handicaps but by their many assets and advantages as well. Now, we need to make sure these plans feed into the Partnership Agreements and the programmes, and be careful not to take our foot off the gas."
On Mayotte which the Commissioner will visit for the first time, Commissioner added "I look forward to welcoming Mayotte as a member of the new family of Outermost Regions from January 2014. The key challenges ahead for Mayotte will be to accelerate preparations on how EU investments are to be used and to make sure there is the capacity to spend and administer the greatly increased funds available. This will be vital to help improve the lives of people living here and make the region more prosperous."
Three months after the Outermost Regions presented their regional strategic Action Plans for 2014-2020 to the Commission in Brussels, the La Reunion conference will build on these Action Plans and explore ways to link up other EU policies and funds for a more holistic approach in these territories.
On Thursday October 17, Commissioner Hahn will also give a keynote speech at the Conference of Regional Co-operation in the Indian Ocean Area. This is led by the French Overseas Minister, Victorin Lurel.
Co-operation programmes are of crucial importance for the Outermost Regions - reflected in the new EU Regional Policy which proposes that Member States give no less than a 50% rise to their Outermost Regions from their current allocation for European Territorial Co-operation programmes. On top of this, an extra €50million is proposed for 2014-2020 to support co-operation activities in the Outermost Regions.
The new regulations, still to be finalised with the European Parliament and Member States, also include other elements of special support for the Outermost regions: maintaining the special allocation which boosts the funds available to them; keeping the higher rate of co-financing at 85% for all of the Outermost Regions; and giving more choice how to focus investments. There are more flexible state aid rules as well particularly when it comes to the special allocation in the field of transport operating costs. In La Reunion and Mayotte Commissioner Hahn will be visiting projects supported by EU funds and the European Development fund as well as meeting local representatives and businesses Among the projects he will be visiting in Reunion is the CYROI-Cyclotron Biomedical Research platform a high-level technology project open to local, regional and European companies and laboratories and co-financed through the European Regional Development Fund.
The special status of the Outermost Regions is defined by Article 349 of the Treaty, which refers to the disadvantages they face: remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate, and economic dependence on a few products. But the Commission Communication of 20 June 2012 stressed the importance of being treated like other European regions in Europe, despite the obvious and particular challenges.
Under the current budget deal still to be confirmed by Parliament and Member States the regions will continue to benefit from the specific allocation for the Outermost Regions now at €30 per inhabitant for 2014-2020 (€927 million total). This is in addition to the overall allocation for the region.