The opinion contributes to the new strategy presented by the European Commission and includes recommendations focusing on economic growth, competitiveness and jobs. The Committee supports the protection of sensitive products and greater investment in strategic sector such as renewable energy and the blue economy. The assembly backs the system of subsidies rather than financial tools, and warns of the impact of Brexit on the outermost regions given the high level of interlinkage with the United Kingdom. At a time when the next multiannual financial framework is under negotiation, the Committee regrets that the European Commission has failed to address the impact of cohesion policy on the outermost regions (ORs) in its new strategy.
The Assembly of the EU's cities and regions today unanimously adopted the opinion drawn up by Fernando Clavijo, president of the Canary Islands Towards full implementation of the renewed European Strategy for the Outermost Regions.
President Clavijo argued that "in view of the difficult challenges such as climate change, recurrent crisis in the global economy, migration flows and Brexit, it is crucial to coordinate efforts between the ORs in order to defend our place in the European Union both today and in the future. We are convinced that the Commission's new strategy should enable us to tackle the challenge of systematically applying Article 349 TFEU - the article that governs our territories - with the aim of reconciling three goals in a single approach: equal opportunities, competitiveness and external reach".
The Committee supports the president of the Canary Islands in all the key points of the opinion. With regard to funding, the assembly of EU cities and regions emphasises that financial tools cannot be a substitute for subsidies, and supports easier access for the ORs to the European Fund for Strategic Investments to develop infrastructure for clean energies, the circular economy and the blue economy, which offer great potential to the these regions. The assembly also supports calling for a specific allocation under the European Social Fund (ESF).
Turning to trade policy, the Committee supports the protection of sensitive products. With respect to banana imports, the Committee identifies a need to extend the stabilisation mechanism beyond 2020 as part of the bilateral agreements signed with the Latin American countries. The Committee welcomes the possibility of granting state aid for the construction of new fishing boats, and sees the adoption of support measures to allow financing of traditional and artisanal fishing vessels in the ORs as essential.
The Committee also supports President Clavijo with regard to the introduction of a specific programme to uphold biodiversity and adapt to climate change, and recommends that it be managed directly by the European Commission in partnership with the relevant regions. The ORs enjoy exceptional biodiversity, accounting for close to 80% of Europe's biodiversity. The Committee welcomes the fact that the LIFE environmental protection programme for 2018-2020 contains a chapter dedicated to waste management in the ORs.
The Committee regrets that the new communication does not address the issues of key importance for the outermost regions, such as the impact of cohesion policy, specific adjustments in the areas of social and employment policy, transport policy, or the future of special tax and customs regimes for the ORs.
Looking to the future, President Clavijo pointed out that "we undeniably have untapped potential. We will be following the implementation of the European Commission's new proposals very closely, to make sure that they match the needs and expectations of our outermost islands and regions".
As well as the autonomous region of the Canary Islands, the outermost regions comprise six French overseas communities (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint Martin) and two autonomous Portuguese regions (the Azores and Madeira).
Canary Islands – Facts and figures, 24 October 2017, European Commission.
Between November 2017 and the end of 2018, the Canary Islands is holding the chair of the Conference of Presidents of the Outermost Regions (CPOR).
The EU's outermost regions experience disadvantageous conditions such as remoteness, a lack of various resources, dependency and particular vulnerability to weather events and global warming. These challenges demand specific measures. The ORs come under Article 349 of the TFEU, which provides for such specific measures in trade, agricultural and fisheries policies, together with access to structural funds to offset the geographic, economic and social obstacles they face.
Communication from the Commission, 17 October 2017: A stronger and renewed strategic partnership with the EU's outermost regions.
European Commission, 24 October 2017: The Outermost Regions: European lands In the world - A privileged, renewed and strengthened partnership.
European Parliament, 19 January 2018: Outermost regions of the EU: A stronger and renewed partnership.
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