The particularly vulnerable situation of the EU's outermost regions (ORs) is the focus of an opinion presented during the December plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions. The opinion, prepared by Ángel Víctor Torres Pérez (ES/PES), President of the Government of the Canary Islands, highlights the enormous negative impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on their labour markets and the massive challenge they face in managing the irregular migration flows coming from their immediate neighbourhood, and calls for a close partnership with and support for ORs and their unique assets.
The European Union includes nine outermost regions (ORs), which politically are part of the Member States France, Portugal and Spain but geographically are very distant from the European continent. Their remoteness, isolation and small size present a number of constraints that act as obstacles to their development. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and migration have had a particularly pronounced impact on outermost regions, which are heavily dependent on tourism and connectivity with other parts of the world.
"We have a unique opportunity for the development of the green economy, but the high dependence of the outermost regions on the outside makes us very vulnerable, and the pandemic only accentuates our differences. The European Commission must take account of this weakness and renew its strategy for the ORs", says rapporteur Ángel Víctor Torres Pérez (ES/PES), President of the Government of the Canary Islands.
"Outermost regions might be far geographically from the continent, but they are a crucial part of what the European Union is and represents: a Union that leaves no places and no people behind. Now, more than ever, as our territories are also impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, we call for attention to the particular challenges our territories have to face, both in the EU's policies but also with the new Recovery Plan. With tourism industry and aviation transports devastated by the pandemic, outermost regions need European solidarity more than ever", said Vasco Alves Cordeiro (PT/PES), First-Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions and member of the regional Parliament of the Azores.
The rapporteur welcomes the European Commission's commitment to paying particular attention to the ORs under the European Green Deal, taking into account their vulnerability and unique assets such as biodiversity and renewable energy sources. He furthermore advocates a tailor-made approach and support under the Asylum and Migration Fund as well as the EU recovery plan, given the fragility of these territories in various sectors.
"The new 2021-2027 budget must be used to respond to the current situation and prevent the social crisis and poverty in our territories from further worsening. Specific support for the tourism sector must be put in place as a matter of urgency, with the reactivation of connectivity at competitive prices and the unification of epidemiological criteria in order to recover mobility in an affordable and accessible way. Furthermore, as Europe's last frontiers, the ORs urge the Commission to develop a solidarity-based migration policy with specific measures through the Asylum and Migration Fund", said Mr Torres Pérez.
The rapporteur also welcomes the strengthened partnership between the European Commission, the Member States and the Conference of Presidents of the ORs, which has led to an ongoing dialogue to identify and solve problems. However, he finds it regrettable that the interim report on the implementation of the "stronger and renewed strategic partnership with the EU's ORs" does not include an in-depth assessment of the strategy for these regions. Nor does it take the opportunity to remedy the omission of a number of measures that are essential to their development, such as in cohesion policy and the EU's social pillar.
You can find the detailed recommendations for the blue economy, agriculture and rural development, biodiversity, the circular economy, climate change, energy transition, research and innovation, social affairs, employment, entrepreneurship, regional integration and migration here.
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