On the occasion of the annual conference of the outermost regions, these nine territories located thousands of kilometres from the European continent, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Corina Crețu, Commissioner for Regional Policy, are demonstrating that the EU has kept its promise to these regions to help them to hold their own in a globalising world.
The attention paid to the specific needs of these regions in the Commission’s proposals for the next long-term EU budget for the period 2021-2027 is accompanied by initiatives to promote innovation, the circular economy and blue growth.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: You know about my attachment to the outermost regions, places where the natural resources and human wealth of our Union are concentrated. It is in those regions, laboratories of excellence and guardians of biodiversity, that the future of Europe begins. One year ago, in French Guiana, we renewed the partnership that unites us. Today, we have once again travelled the distance separating us to bring these regions new pledges of support.
The Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu, added: We can say today that we have kept our promises. In addition to the privileged position accorded to these outermost regions in our proposals for the next EU budget, the initiatives we are presenting today will help to improve the quality of life of local communities and bring economic opportunities for all.
A privileged position within the EU’s long-term budget plans
From cohesion policy to European investment in transport, via research and innovation and, of course, agricultural and fisheries policy, no fewer than 21 sector-specific proposals in the forthcoming EU budget will be taking into account the needs of the outermost regions – translating into financial terms the particular attention given to these regions by the Juncker Commission.
The option of using State aid to support the renewal of the small-vessel fishing fleet, whilst fishing sustainably
The Commission has amended the guidelines for State aid in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors so that new vessels can be bought in these regions, with higher aid rates for small and medium-sized vessels. This decision, which links State aid to respect for the sustainability of fish stocks, is good news for local communities.
Better access to the Juncker Plan and flourishing investment projects
With more than EUR 2.2 billion in additional investment mobilised by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in the outermost regions, the Juncker Plan has confirmed its strong overseas commitment. This month, the EFSI has further increased its support for Adie, the French microcredit association, to support entrepreneurship and small local businesses in the French outermost regions. The European Investment Advisory Hub (the “Hub”) has also drawn up plans to improve access to finance for businesses in these regions. The regions are invited to think about which financial instruments would be most effective in meeting their needs, and the Hub will be there to support them.
A new coordination and support role financed by the EU to promote research and innovation in these regions
In line with the undertakings in the new strategy, the Commission has this week launched the FORWARD project, with EUR 4.3 million from Horizon 2020, intended to support innovation in these regions.
Specifically, 24 partners from nine regions (governments, universities or development agencies) will together analyse their innovation systems and mobilise local stakeholders, including industry, around innovation strategies based on their specific strengths and with cohesion policy support. They will also strengthen the ties between their regions and European or international innovation networks, in order to enhance their participation in the future Horizon Europe research programme.
Tailored EU support, with the launch of two task forces in Réunion and the Canary Islands
Following a successful pilot in Réunion in the areas of energy autonomy and transition, this week the Commission will be launching a second task force to improve waste management and promote the circular economy in the Canary Islands. All the parties concerned – the regional and national governments, the Commission and the private sector – will be working together to tackle this major challenge to improve the quality of life in the archipelago.
The position of the outermost regions in the programmes financed by the forthcoming EU budget and these initiatives complement the direct, ongoing dialogue between the Juncker Commission and these nine regions. They symbolise an ever closer partnership at all levels and the Commission’s ongoing support in the field of innovation and sustainable development.
The nine outermost regions of the EU comprise six French overseas territories (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint-Martin), two autonomous Portuguese regions (the Azores and Madeira) and one autonomous Spanish community (the Canary Islands).
Despite progress over recent years, these regions face serious challenges: high unemployment, above all among young people, increased vulnerability to climate change, obstacles to growth due to the lack of infrastructure, and a dependence on economic sectors which have not sufficiently incorporated innovative processes.
In order to redouble its efforts and meet these challenges, the Commission last year presented a new strategy for a strengthened partnership between the EU, the regions and their Member States. The strategy was officially launched in French Guiana by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron.
This strategy instituted tailored support for these regions, with the Member States, to help them to use their unique assets, create opportunities for their populations and capitalise on globalisation.