Islands, mountains and sparsely populated areas: challenges and opportunities
The Workshop was a joint DG ENV, DG REGIO, DG ENER effort and was attended by a wide and diversified public mostly from mountains, islands and sparsely populated areas all over Europe and this made for a very rich debate.
Some key points from the discussion:
There are several possibilities in the Cohesion Policy and other EU policies to serve the needs of areas with geographical specificities. For example in the Cohesion Policy the use of integrated place-based approaches is particularly important.
There is no one-fits-all solution for these territories. Some Member States choose to provide funding via sectoral national programmes and others via tailor- made regional ones or via tailor-made local strategies.
Environment is generally a key priority for areas with geographical specificities. It is essential to find a good balance between environment/resource efficiency and socio-economic factors for growth and development.
Interreg programmes and Macro-Regional Strategies play an important role since a coordinated approach is required to deal with the challenges and foster the potential of areas with geographical specificities. For example, the mountain dimension is the core of the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region and is prominent in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (Carpathians).
“Clean Energy for EU Islands” and “Circular Economy-Territorial Cohesion-Insularity” are good examples of initiatives that show that territorial aware policies can better respond to the needs of areas with geographical strategies and this should be replicated for mountains and sparsely populated areas.
Transport connectivity is another cross-cutting issue that needs EU action to unleash the potential of these areas.
For the future, it is important to follow-up on the recent resolutions of the European Parliament on mountain areas and to make the best use of the future opportunities offered by the programming period post 2020 and of the existing tools.
In this regard, in the framework of the negotiations of the programming period post 2020, the Commission should encourage Member States to plan appropriate funding for the areas with geographical specificities in their Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes.
Take away message
The challenges faced by mountains, islands and sparsely populated areas are many, but there are also several opportunities and potential.
Cohesion policy funds, Macro-Regional Strategies and ad hoc initiatives, such as clean energy and circular economy for islands, are good examples illustrating these opportunities.
It is important that all the key players acting in these areas share best practices, join efforts and speak with one voice when it comes to important decisions affecting their areas: united they are stronger.
Gilda Carbone: There are multiple ways to serve the needs of areas with geographic specificities. Where there is a need there is a way! The place-based approach and the integrated approach are essential.
Marco Onida: Mountains are politically underrepresented and a very good case for cooperation.
Wioletta Dunin - Majewska: Tackling energy challenges on islands will directly and concretely benefit local populations, create local employment, tourism and at the same time contribute significantly to broader EU energy and climate policy goals.
- Policy, funding and cooperation tools are available in order to make circular economy in islands a reality
- A communication on areas with geographical specificities could be useful using the example of the Outermost regions strategy
- Impact assessments of new Commission initiatives should also cover territories with geographical specificities