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The outermost regions and the EU: a privileged, renewed and strengthened partnership

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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.

Background:

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.

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Climate change: Scientists warn over impact on food security and oceans

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UN climate scientists presented MEPs with new evidence on how climate change is affecting food production and oceans.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. In August, it presented a report on climate change and land and in September one on the oceans and cryosphere in a changing climate. The reports are the latest scientific input for the UN climate summit COP25 to be held in Madrid in December.

The scientists behind the reports presented their findings to Parliament’s environment, development and fisheries committees on Wednesday 6 November.

Food production and climate change a two-way street

Professor Jim Skea told MEPs climate change was exacerbating land degradation, such as erosion and pollution, which in turn affects infrastructure and people’s livelihoods. Better land management can help tackle climate change but it must be complemented by other action, he added.

Dr Jean-François Soussana noted that the food system accounts for between a fifth and a third of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. At the same time, climate change affects food security through declining crops of wheat and maize. He warned that in future the stability of our food supply would decrease further as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events increases.

Melting ice, rising seas

According to scientists, the rise in sea level is accelerating, mainly due to the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melting faster.

Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner warned that in a business as usual scenario the sea level is estimated to rise about five metres by 2300. In addition, in warming oceans marine life has access to less oxygen and nutrients, putting food security at risk for communities dependent on seafood.

Pörtner added: “To minimise the severity of the impact of climate change, every bit of warming matters, each year matters, each choice matters, and most importantly, political and societal will matters.”

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Cybersecurity: A Crucial Element of Socio-economic Stability and Prosperity

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Cybersecurity has become a key safeguard to future socio-economic prosperity and stability as industries are transitioning towards data- and technology-driven business models and governments grapple with the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. More than 80% believe that risk of cyberattacks will increase in the year ahead. With an estimated pricetag of $90 trillion worldwide, there is a rising imperative to safeguard individuals and businesses.

Under the theme Enabling Leadership for a Secure Digital Future, over 150 leaders and experts in the cybersecurity, policy, regulation and technology fields are meeting at the second annual World Economic Forum Annual Meeting on Cybersecurity in Geneva, Switzerland, to address three priorities: Strengthening global cooperation for digital trust and security, securing future digital networks and technology, and building skills and capabilities for the digital future.

Meeting participants include government representatives from G20 countries, civil society organizations and academia, and prominent cybersecurity leaders from companies representing a cross-section of industries in the private sector. Ten international organizations, 18 countries and over 20 specialized agencies are taking part.

“As the international organization for public-private cooperation, the World Economic Forum is leading a global effort to drive systemic change on the most pressing cybersecurity issues. We believe that this change will be most impactful if the private sector and the public sector work on solutions together,” said Alois Zwinggi, Head of the Centre for Cybersecurity.

Key sessions include preparing for future threats, how to secure smart cities, increasing security by replacing passwords and building cyber-resiliance. Leadership, governance and cooperation were key themes.

The Forum, as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is offering its Platform on Cybersecurity and Digital Trust to allow the participants to drive the cybersecurity agenda for the coming year, to share information on emerging cyber-threats, jointly assess the risks of emerging technologies and collaborate on urgent action to combat cybercrime.

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ADB to Help Improve Rural Water Supply, Sanitation in Kyrgyz Republic

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $27.4 million financing package to provide safe and reliable water supply and sanitation services to more than 64,000 people living in a mountainous rural area of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The program supports the government’s national goal of increasing access to safe water supplies from current levels of 40% to 90%, and for sanitation services from 10% to 70%, by 2026.

ADB’s assistance, comprised of a $13.7 million results-based loan and a $13.7 million grant from the Asian Development Fund, will improve water supply and sanitation infrastructure and facilities in the province of Naryn, where 29% of the population was living below the poverty line in 2017.

“Access to safe and reliable water supply and sanitation services is a basic human right and integral to the growth and development prospects of a developing country like the Kyrgyz Republic,” said ADB Senior Urban Development Specialist for Central and West Asia Mr. Jude Kohlhase. “We are committed to helping the people of the Kyrgyz Republic, especially in the province of Naryn, lead healthier and more productive lives.”

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation services in the Kyrgyz Republic’s rural areas remain minimal. Most of the country’s water supply and sanitation infrastructure is outdated, while poor water quality and sanitation costs the country over $100 million annually. Only about a quarter of rural households had piped water connections in 2014, while about 73% suffered from intermittent water supply. Only 10% of rural households have access to sanitation facilities.

The Naryn Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Development Program will include safe water sources, water storage, and treatment and disinfection systems; distribution networks for all 31 program villages; and gender-sensitive safe water and sanitation facilities in selected education and health facilities. The program will also pilot non-networked household sanitation solutions for remote areas.

The program will likewise strengthen institutional capacity of utility providers for better service delivery such as better financial management, while introducing gender-specific measures in their operations, including ensuring at least 20% female employment.

The total cost of the program is $32.9 million with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic contributing $5.5 million in financing. ADB is also providing a $225,000 technical assistance grant for the program, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2026. ADB will also provide an additional $2.5 million grant from a small expenditure financing facility to support program implementation, including verification of the program results.

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