The Commission is today presenting a new strategy for the outermost regions, those nine regions located thousands of kilometres from continental Europe, to help them fulfil their full potential.
For many years the EU has acknowledged the specific features common to the Azores, the Canary Islands, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Madeira, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint Martin, and has afforded them a special status. For the first time, however, the Commission is working with the Member States to establish customised support to help these regions build on their unique assets and create opportunities for their inhabitants.
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “I have always paid particular attention to the nine regions we call the outermost regions, which are first and foremost European regions, and which project Europe’s presence in the world. This strategy, which provides the basis for a renewed, strengthened and privileged partnership, is a new specific example of a Europe that protects, provides the means to act and offers equal opportunities to everyone.”
Commission Vice-President responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, said: “We want these regions to have easier access to the European fund for strategic investment, which is at the heart of the investment plan. A dedicated initiative with the European Investment Bank will help, with enhanced technical support, to make the planning and financing of projects more effective.”
The Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu, added: “The EU is helping these regions to overcome their difficulties, so that none of them feel isolated or left behind. They have many extraordinary assets, such as blue growth, space sciences and renewable energies, and we will also help them to reap the benefits of globalisation.”
The EU is committed to the outermost regions, together with the Member States.
The Commission will seek to shape policies that better reflect these regions’ realities and interests, particularly when negotiating trade or fisheries agreements.
For that purpose, a platform for dialogue will bring together the regions and their Member States, the European institutions and private stakeholders, who will meet to exchange views during the legislative process. The Commission will also establish, on request, special working groups on specific issues, such as making the best use of European funds or promoting employment.
The strategy stresses clearly that ensuring these regions’ prosperity is a shared responsibility among the regions, Europe and the Member States, which must show the political will to support these regions on the path to growth.
The EU helps these regions to capitalise on their strengths in a globalised economy
The strategy supports their full integration into their surrounding regions by means of joint projects with neighbouring countries, which could receive European funds in the future for the prevention of natural risks, waste management, transport or energy, to give some examples.
In order to promote innovation and investment, the EU will help the regions to participate in the Horizon 2020 research programme, with special coordination and support action. A new initiative will be created under the Juncker Plan with the aim of facilitating regions’ access to the European fund for strategic investments (EFSI), in particular via a single access point within the European Investment Advisory Hub.
Making use of the smart specialisation model, which has proved its worth, the strategy seeks to help the regions to build on their assets, supporting greater innovation in traditional sectors such as fisheries and agri-food. To that end the Commission will provide for the POSEI programmes to continue beyond 2020 and will assess whether State aid can be used to support the renewal of small-scale fishing fleets.
The EU is working to create equal opportunities for everybody in these regions
In order to promote the acquisition of skills and mobility, Europe will give young people in these regions a financial boost to enable more of them to participate in the Erasmus programme and in the European Solidarity Corps.Furthermore, better transport links are crucial to these regions’ economic development and to their inhabitants’ quality of life. The Commission will launch a study to identify their connection needs and, where justified, undertakes to co-finance ports and airports.
The EU protects these regions from the effects of climate change
Extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Irma, have demonstrated that these regions need help in tackling the effects of climate change. The EU will incorporate the challenges facing them into its LIFE programme and its strategy on adaptation to climate change, which is currently being evaluated with a view to possible revision. In order to support the reconstruction efforts in Saint-Martin/Sint-Maarten, the Commission is currently considering the best way to combine different European funds.
Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union acknowledges the special characteristics of the outermost regions and affords them a special status.
In 2004, the Commission presented a first strategy aimed at shaping the partnership between the European institutions and these regions. That strategy is now being renewed in order to tackle persistent challenges, such as high unemployment rates, particularly among young people, greater vulnerability to the effects of climate change and a dependence on economic sectors which have not incorporated innovative processes.
Most of the measures under this strategy respond specifically to requests made by the presidents of the outermost regions in a memorandum submitted to President Juncker at the 4th Forum of the Outermost Regions in Brussels in March 2017.
ADB Provides $360 Million for Rolling Stock to Boost Bangladesh Railway
The Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved loans totaling $360 million to buy modern rolling stock and support reform in Bangladesh Railway to help promote a shift from roads to rail.
“Railways in Bangladesh potentially offer a cheaper, safer, and more fuel-efficient means of transport of goods and passengers than roads, but have been held back by lack of investment and aging and unreliable rolling stock,” said Tsuneyuki Sakai, an ADB Senior Transport Specialist. “The ADB Railway Rolling Stock Operations Improvement Project will boost the operational performance of Bangladesh Railway by introducing new technology, equipment, and processes that will be cleaner and more efficient, cutting carbon dioxide emissions.”
Historically, railways enjoyed a monopoly as a carrier and transported most commodities. However, its market share has dropped because of inadequate investment in railway infrastructure and rolling stock over an extended period. This has resulted in unreliable freight operations and uncomfortable experiences for passengers. Most rolling stock is more than 30 years old, and much is past the end of its economic life. Maintenance facilities have also not improved over time and are not adequately equipped.
Under its Seventh Five-Year Plan for fiscal years 2016-2020, the government has placed special emphasis on railway development, setting targets to increase the market share to 15% in freight transport and 10% in passenger movements by 2020.
Bangladesh Railway has also been operating at a loss, its operating costs about double what it makes from revenue. Under the railway reform supported by ADB, the government has taken steps to boost revenue by raising the level of passenger and freight tariffs that have remained unchanged for decades. An increase in the operational capacity through new rolling stock is needed to generate more revenue.
Starting with a Railway Sector Improvement Program in 2006, ADB has provided four loans to the government for railway development totaling $2.81 billion. Three loans invested in network improvement in key sections of the railway, with two targeting enhanced South Asian subregional connectivity. The Railway Reform Project under the 2006 program introduced financial reforms and an enterprise resource planning information technology (IT) system. A loan approved in 2015 is also procuring rolling stock and maintenance equipment, for which work is ongoing to 2020.
This latest project seeks to address the investment and modernization needs of Bangladesh Railway. It will procure 40 broad gauge locomotives, 125 luggage vans, and 1,000 wagons for freight trains for use on major lines of the rail network. The rolling stock will introduce auxiliary power units (APU) to Bangladesh Railway, to significantly reduce diesel consumption when the locomotives are idling. The project will also draw up investment plans for urgently required maintenance facilities, establish training programs for the drivers, and run the enterprise-wide IT system.
The total cost of the project is $453.37 million, of which $93.37 will be met by the government. It is due for completion around the end of June 2022.
Accompanying the loans is a technical assistance grant of $500,000 to devise a training scheme for drivers in the use of the APU and recommend potential approaches to achieving overall energy efficiency. ADB will administer the grant, to be provided by the Asian Clean Energy Fund under the Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility, established by the Government of Japan.
Helping Armenia Thrive
Despite being a landlocked country with few natural resources, Armenia has come a long way since independence in 1991, with all major socio-economic indicators drastically improved.
The Asian Development Bank now is supporting Armenia in its effort to expand its private sector, diversify its economy, cut red tape, and gain access to new markets, says Shane Rosenthal, Country Director for Armenia at the Asian Development Bank.
What is Armenia’s current state of the economy?
Since independence in 1991, Armenia has come a long way. Gross domestic product per capita has increased ten-fold in the country, in large part because of smart decisions about investment and because of good connections with its main trading partner, Russia.
We now have a country where the electricity is reliable, where most of the population has access to clean water, where business is beginning to thrive, not least because it is possible to register a business in a short amount of time. It’s possible to go to a bank and get a loan.
This economy needs to diversify into new products, into new markets. That may mean Europe, it may mean other Eurasian economic union members, and increasingly, it may mean looking eastward, toward Asia.
What role does ADB play in Armenia’s development?
ADB has focused on what it does best vis-a-vis other development partners in Armenia. And that, for us, means infrastructure.
Infrastructure in terms of connectivity, helping upgrade the national highway system so that cargo and people can reach neighboring countries more quickly, more reliably.
It means making the cities more livable with improved water supply.
How can the private sector support Armenia’s development?
Going forward it’s important to understand that Armenia’s growth can no longer depend on the public sector to play the leading role. The private sector needs to be the one that takes this country forward. And that means diversification. It means ease of doing business, and it means access to new markets.
ADB is going to focus increasingly on a balanced portfolio, between the public and private sectors. It’s clear that Armenia’s future will depend on the role that the private sector plays. And there, Armenia has many advantages: a strong financial system, a strong diaspora, with very good connections around the world, and a very strong educational base.
Three steps to end discrimination of migrant workers and improve their health
Authors: Afsar Syed Mohammad and Margherita Licata
When migrant workers leave their home, many encounter abuse and violence on their journey and discrimination once they arrive. This can be because of their status as migrants but also because of their ethnicity, sex, religion, and HIV status.
They often struggle to find decent work, which means they can end up in poor living and working conditions, which in turn affects their health. Female migrants are more likely to be vulnerable to exploitation and violence, which exposes them to the risk of HIV and other health issues.
Research has shown that migrant workers – particularly those who are in an irregular situation – often fail to access health services because of poverty, language and cultural barriers, lack of health insurance, as well as fear of job loss and deportation. It means that by the time they see a doctor, their illness has become all too serious.
Against this background, a newly launched ILO publication looks at the interplay between migration policies and those relating to broader health goals in countries of origin, transit and destination. Its key recommendation is that HIV and health policies should be integrated into the entire labour migration process.
So what can be done to ensure that migrant workers have better access to decent work, health and HIV services? The report recommends a three-pronged approach.
1) End discriminatory practices
Migrants face obstacles in accessing decent work, health as well as social protection. Whenever migrants are denied their rights, they tend to live and work in the shadows. They become vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and marginalization.
Discriminatory practices such as mandatory HIV testing of migrants for employment have proved to be ineffective. On the contrary, it is a violation of their rights. It disrupts access to health care and increases migrants’ vulnerability to HIV infection.
2) Set up an integrated response
It is essential to develop a response that does not just pile up ad-hoc policies one after another. Instead there needs to be an integrated and coordinated response that leads to decent work and health outcomes for migrants, including more effective HIV responses.
Right to entry does not mean the right to work for women in many countries. In such cases, women are left with no option but irregular migration which further exposes them to various forms of abuse, exploitation and risks such as HIV.
Gender-responsive migration policies would help address existing inequalities between men and women migrants, while at the same time improve their health.
3) Focus on migrant workers’ rights
There are no quick-fix solutions but discrimination and inequalities relating to HIV and health can be reduced if we focus on migrants’ rights and if we take a global approach. The report especially insists on the following priorities:
- There is a need to target different groups of migrant workers for HIV prevention, care and treatment, depending on the specific risks that they face. For example, risks are different depending on whether they are low skilled or high skilled workers.
- Effective responses to HIV for migrant workers should be integrated into fair recruitment initiatives, encouraging fair business practices to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and equal access to health services.
- Health programmes and HIV prevention for migrants must be disassociated from immigration enforcement.
- Inclusion, participation and freedom of association among migrant workers are essential pillars for effective actions on migration, health and HIV.
- Migration and health policies and practices, in particular those relating to HIV and AIDS, should address inequalities between women and men. A gender analysis is needed from the start for all policies and practices relevant to migration and health.
*Margherita Licata, Technical Specialist Gender, Equality and Diversity and ILOAIDS Branch
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