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EU local and regional leaders call for increased support for outermost regions  

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the additional pressure triggered by Russia's war against Ukraine and an increasing number of natural disasters make it of urgent importance to deploy a renewed and ambitious support strategy for Europe's outermost regions – This is the key message delivered by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) during its 8 February plenary session.

The five million EU citizens who live in outermost regions – Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Mayotte, Saint-Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands – face a range of specific vulnerabilities, owing to the geographic characteristics, remoteness and isolation of these territories. These challenges have been compounded by a succession of natural disasters, increasingly frequent due to climate crisis, by the pandemic of COVID-19 as well as by the war against Ukraine, which risks now undermining their recovery.

The President of the European Committee of the Regions, Vasco Alves Cordeiro , who is himself from the Azores and a member of its regional parliament, said: "The EU's outermost regions are very rich territories, which bring together great challenges, great opportunities and great assets for the EU, but they also face difficulties in moving forward with other parts of Europe. The renewed Strategy for these regions presented by the European Commission puts the focus on the needs of people living in the outermost regions and on economic recovery and sustainable and inclusive growth. The Committee of the Regions has been a strong advocate of a proper and dedicated attention to these regions. From the Committee, we will continue to jointly defend an EU strategy for the outermost regions, that takes into account their specificities, promotes their attributes and also brings their populations and institutions closer to the common development project that is the EU."

In this context, the opinion drafted by Pedro de Faria e Castro (PT/EPP), Undersecretary of the Presidency of the Azores Regional Government, urges the EU to update the support policies and investment tools for European regions located in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, South America and the Indian Ocean.

According to the rapporteur Pedro de Faria e Castro (PT - EPP), “ the outermost regions are territories which, in the current geopolitical framework and systemic changes in the European and international economy, offer a wealth of opportunities to the EU. It is impossible to capitalise on this potential without addressing the structural weaknesses and constraints of these territories, which require European policies to be adapted. This is the essence of Article 349. Only a policy adjusted to the specific characteristics of the ORs will enable structural and sustainable development, that brings hope to their populations. This opinion is a further decisive step towards providing the responses, which are essential in order to face up to the challenging times in which we live .”

Portuguese MEP, Álvaro Amaro (PT/EPP) stated: "This EU strategy is crucial for the outermost regions, either by the diagnosis made or by correctly contextualizing the complex economic, social, and political moment we are experiencing. The position of the European Parliament reinforces the negotiating capacity of the outermost regions and the respective Member States, both for a review of the current Financial Framework and for the Post-2027.For the benefit of EU outermost regions, it is the EU's job to safeguard differentiated and properly financed measures, creating more specific European programs similar to POSEI-Agriculture. Other essential areas should replicate its model."

The CoR's opinion draws attention to the urgent need to address the significant social and economic inequalities of the outermost regions relative to mainland Europe and calls on the European Commission to support these regions in the process of convergence with the rest of the European Union.

Given the outermost regions' greater vulnerability due to their remoteness and isolation from European mainland, obligations to meet the new targets on emissions and fuel taxation arising from the Fit for 55 package risk having a disruptive impact on remote regions' economies and societies. The Committee therefore urges policies to promote the energy autonomy of these regions, through targeted support and the development of policies that allow for an appropriate and affordable transition from the current dependence on fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources.

In their recommendations, EU regional and local leaders also stress the role of outermost regions in strengthening the maritime dimension of the European Union, which has the world’s largest maritime area, with an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of more than 25 million km2. The EU's EEZ offers the prospect of major economic opportunities in the coming years. In this light, the CoR welcomes the Commission's commitment to review the reporting procedure requirements and the provisions allowing state aid for the renewal of the fishing fleet in these regions.

In proposals related to the tourism sector, which plays a critical role in the development of the outermost regions and has a major impact on their economic growth, employment and regional development, the Committee requests the European Commission to step up the development of a European tourism policy that provides for the creation of a European Tourism Agency, supports the green and digital transition of European tourist destinations and accelerates the economic recovery from the pandemic of this strategic sector.

Finally, the CoR calls for pragmatic and tailored solutions to be adopted as a matter of urgency, systematically applying Article 349 of the TFEU, in order to avoid the objective of economic, social and sustainable recovery being undermined.

Background:

Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) recognises the vulnerabilities of outermost regions and the permanent structural constraints that these regions face.

The EU's outermost regions are: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Mayotte, Saint-Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands.

CoR members will discuss further the implementation of the EU Strategy on the Outermost Regions at a seminar in the Canary Islands on 7 March.

Contact:

Name: Ângela Machado

Tel. +32 0475 413158

angela.machado@cor.europa.eu

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