Category Archives: islands and the EU

Overcoming Barriers to Economic Development – A Remote Island Perspective

Overcoming Barriers to Economic Development –            A Remote Island Perspective

A seminar organised by the Committee of Regions  and Shetland Island Council

9 September 2016, Lerwick, Shetland

Seminar objectives met

The objective of the seminar was  to create a greater un- derstanding of peripheral issues faced by islands and other remote communities and thus to draw evidence of the state of play of Cohesion in the EU.

Remote islands and communities have a range of structural circumstances that are difficult for policymakers to grasp unless they are experienced directly.

Presentations by Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles Councils  included an examination of the barriers and opportunities to pursue economic development strategies in their remote communities.

By meeting local experts and local community groups dealing with matters such as sustainable economic development, social inclusion, environmental protection, the seminar provided first-hand information on the enablers and barriers that such communities face in achieving sustainable economic development and Territorial Cohesion.

Islands have their own geographical specificities

In her presentation, Ilona Raugze from the ESPON EGTC explained how ESPON’s work on areas such as islands with geographical specificities brought a new understanding of their challenges.

The 2011 Euroisland study showed that

  • Islands have a below average connectivity
  • islands are below the European GDP average
  • economic convergence is slower
  • job and career opportunity are low
  • Low quality and high cost of services

Insularity has to be considered as a permanent, natural feature that affects negatively, directly and indirectly, islands’ attractiveness and subsequently places obstacles to their performance in terms of sustainable development. 

Insularity creates unequal opportunities between these territories and the rest of the European Union.

EU should stress on attractiveness parameters in order to address the different characteristics and costs of insularity by a differentiated policy.

The 2012 Geospec showed that  general characteristics for island territories were

  • Social capital – “closely-knit communities”
  • High value of natural capital
  • Preserved history and culture and biodiversity
  • Goods and services that do not receive market pricing (air purification, hazard prevention, groundwater recharge, bioremediation of waste and pollutants, recreation)
  • Renewable energies (hydropower, offshore wind, wave, tidal energies, biomass, solar energy)
  • Higher vulnerability to climate change (islands – sea level rise, storms, extreme temperatures, flooding)

The Geospec study concluded that recognising diversity was very important in policy making: an integrated place-based approach is needed since geographic specificity is only one of many factors influencing the performance of any given territory. Understanding specific processes to inform policy-making is more important than benchmarking. And the focus should be on potentials rather than on relative performance.

New policy recommendations emerged

1/ Recognising diversity in policy-making

  • 
European debates on cohesion and competitiveness need to focus on different models of growth and development rather than convergence or divergence of regional performance
  • Supporting development strategies that respect territorial potential is more valid than attaching particular funding to lines of geographic conditions

  2/ Recognising diversity in policy-making

  • 
European debates on cohesion and competitiveness need to focus on different models of growth and development rather than convergence or divergence of regional performance
  • Supporting development strategies that respect territorial potential is more valid than attaching particular funding lines to geographic conditions

3/ Fields of action

  • 
Policy measures should be tailored to local potentials and challenges. 
There should be a balance of measures to compensate for permanent handicaps and measures to promote the assets (“territorial capital”)

For example:

  • Seasonality in employment (tourism) to be integrated with other employment opportunities (multi-activity)
  • Overcoming physical remoteness by developing new ICT solutions to ensure accessibility of services, learning opportunities, e- democracy etc.
  • Investment in alternative energy sources
  • Encouraging young people to return after university studies
  • Branding, self-perception
  • Niche products (aquaculture specialised in seed mussels)

4/ Territorial cooperation practices need to show that territory matters

  • Dealing with geographic specificities is often about creating new types of connections between areas 
- Within regions
- Across regional and national boundaries
  • Compensating for imbalances in flows
  • Creating alliances through which actors can strengthen the 
robustness and resilience of their local communities
  • Gaining greater weight (critical mass) in economic and political systems dominated by main urban areas
  • Building of mutual trust and social capital

5/ Vision for the European Territory 2050

  • European visions for the future should not be territorially blind
  • Unleash regional diversity and endogenous development: 
- Targeted policy steps have to be successful to tackle issues faced by areas characterised by a specific permanent geographic or demographic handicap
  • A New Governance Approach:
- New planning and territorial cooperation initiatives are needed
  • Accessibility is regarded as a necessary condition for economic growth, having a direct impact on the attractiveness of regions for businesses and people

Need for new sustainability indicators 

ESIN has long argued that to overcome these barriers, the EU does need to understand the smaller island situation in greater details.

Both the chair of ESIN, Bengt Almkvist and the chair of S.I.F., Camille Dressler who attended the seminar stressed the need to use a more refined set of indicators that are used at present.

The ESPON Territorial Impact Assessment (TIA)  tool presented by Mrs Raugze was suggested as a simplified, evidence-based procedure and a user-friendly methodology combining expert knowledge gathered in a workshop with an Excel tool and standardised indicators that could show possible impacts in maps at NUTS 2 level.

Participants all agreed on the need for an improved framework for dialogue between the European, national, regional and local levels, making it possible to reflect unique patterns of opportunity and challenges in each territory. This was felt to be particularly relevant to the island situation.

This framework required

  • A general method for the assessment of local situations
  • Support to the formulation of development models adapted to 
local conditions
  • Better access to data of local development conditions
  • Improved quantitative and qualitative analyses of local situations
  • Alternative methods for analyses at the NUTS 2 and 3 levels
  • “Smarter” indicators going beyond the current focus on GDP

Through presentations and discussions with local actors, the seminar reached its goal of informing the ongoing assessment of the application of the EU objective of Territorial Cohesion as well as the thinking on the future shape of EU programmes and the future of EU Cohesion policy.

Europe, in or out? A few facts

In or out? Here are a few facts that speak for themselves.

Rural development in Scotland: €1.68 billions

The Rural Development Programme (RDP) for Scotland (UK) was formally adopted by the European Commission on 26th May 2015, outlining Scotland’s priorities for using the € 1.68 billion of public money that is available for the 7-year period 2014-2020 (€ 844
million from the EU budget, including € 335 million transferred from the envelope for CAP direct payments, and € 489 million of national co-funding plus € 12 million of additional national funding top-ups).
A central priority of the Scottish RDP is restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry. Approximately 80% of the total funding is allocated to
this priority, targeting more than 6 million hectares
of agricultural and forestry area through environmental land management targeted to specific biodiversity, water
management and soil erosion objectives.
In addition, restructuring and modernisation grants covering roughly 16% of Scottish agricultural holdings will be available with a view to boosting the productivity of farming and forestry and thereby creating economic growth and more jobs.
Support for LEADER is expected to create over 550 jobs in rural areas.
Moreover, almost 13 000 training places will be created to foster innovation, knowledge transfer,co-operation, more sustainable farming practices and stronger rural businesses.
Support for Rural Development is the 2nd Pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy.
It provides Member States with an envelope of EU funding to manage nationally or regionally under multi-annual, co-funded programmes. In total, 118 programmes are foreseen in all 28 Member States.
The new RD Regulation for the period 2014-2020
addresses six economic, environmental and social priorities for the EU, and programmes contain clear targets setting out what is to be achieved.
Member State highlighting its broad strategy for EU-funded structural investment.
Read more about RD in Scotland  here.
A few questions now:  
Is working together with the EU  and within the EU for a better rural economy in Scotland and its islands a good or a bad idea?  Where would the money for all this  come from if the UK leaves the EU? Would the UK central government be committed to spend as much on rural development after Brexit? Would it spell out its priorities as clearly?
You decide!

 

 

 

Orkney’s Big Hit

Orkney’s naval past is very much in the spotlight at the moment.  However its future as a local hydrogen economy is also firmly in focus, with the recent launch of the ‘BIG HIT’ hydrogen project.

This major EU-funded project builds on the CES-led Surf ‘n’Turf project which is creating an opportunity for the community-owned wind turbine on Eday to generate power which would otherwise be impossible owing to the constraints on the Orkney grid. BIG HIT extends this idea to include local members Shapinsay Development Trust along with existing partners EMEC, ITM Power, Orkney Islands Council and Orkney College and new partners from elsewhere in Europe. Surf ‘n’ Turf, funded through the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund is progressing well.

The BIG HIT project in Orkney stands for ‘Building Innovative Green Hydrogen Systems in an Isolated Territory’ and is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 joint project.   The project, led by Aragon Hydrogen Foundation in Spain, sees us partner community member, Shapinsay Development Trust, and other partners, EMEC, Orkney Islands Council, as well as Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association, ITM (UK) and a number of international partners.

The BIG HIT launch took place in Kirkwall recently and welcomed partners from seven European countries, meeting face-to-face for the first time and hearing how community-owned renewables can produce clean hydrogen for road transport and heating public buildings.

BIG HIT is funded through €5m (around £4m) from the European Commission’s Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking.  Its aim is to install and demonstrate the viability of a supply chain for hydrogen in an island territory.  Many of the technical challenges in making hydrogen from renewable electricity have already been overcome by Surf ‘n’ Turf, a project in which CES is leading, and has already attracted Scottish Government investment of £1.2m.

EU resolution on islands signals positive change

NEW EU resolution on islands passed on 4 February 2016

Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) recognises the special nature of island territories. However, very few concrete EU measures have aimed to support islands to date. Several insular regions and municipalities call for the development of an ‘insular dimension’ in EU policies, and for EU regional policy to take insularity factors, that affect them disproportionately, into account. They also claim that due to the European Commission’s established method of regional funding – based on GDP – certain islands and insular territories are severely penalised.

The Scottish Islands Federation hopes this may change if the measures proposed by the new resolution on islands  (see  below) are implemented:   the resolution calls  for new statistical indicators besides GDP  that can reflect the economic and social vulnerability arising from being an island territory.  An island desk, special financial instruments aimed at islands, an agenda for the islands, a White paper to monitor the situation,  a European Year for Islands and Mountains are amongst other welcome proposals to ensure that the island situation is considered as it should.

However, such resolutions have to be supported by all EU member states. Therein lie the problem of the Scottish Islands: the UK government cares little for its island territories and will care even less if voters decide to leave the EU.

European Parliament resolution of 4 February 2016 on the special situation of islands (2015/3014(RSP))

The European Parliament,

  • –  having regard to Articles 174 and 175 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),
  • –  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013, on the European Regional Development Fund and on specific provisions concerning the Investment for growth and jobs goal and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006,
  • –  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006,
  • –  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005,
  • –  having regard to the Commission’s Sixth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion (COM(2014)0473),
  • –  having regard to the European Economic and Social Committee’s opinion on ‘Specific problems facing islands’ (1229/2011),
  • –  having regard to the question to the Commission on the insularity condition (O-000013/2016 – B8-0106/2016),
  • –  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,
  1. whereas islands, classified as NUTS-2 and NUTS-3 regions, have common and permanent specific features, which clearly distinguish them from mainland areas;
  2. whereas Article 174 of the TFEU recognises the permanent natural and geographical handicaps specific to the situation of islands;
  3. whereas the reduction in economic, social and environmental disparities between regions and polycentric harmonious development are the main objectives of cohesion policy, in close connection with achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy;
  4. whereas the economic crisis has impacted dramatically on the national and regional budgets of many Member States by limiting the availability of financing in many sectors and leading to a 20 % collapse of public investment; whereas, as also pointed out in the Sixth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion, the impact of the crisis has seriously affected the potential development of many disadvantaged regions, including islands; whereas the economic crisis has reversed the long-term trend of convergence of GDP and unemployment rates across the EU, resulting in increased poverty and social exclusion and preventing the achievement of the Union’s long-term objective of economic and territorial cohesion;
  5. whereas EU islands are also peripheral regions situated in some cases on the EU’s external borders and are particularly vulnerable to the challenges which Europe is currently facing, such as globalisation, demographic trends, climate change, energy supply and, especially for the southern areas, exposure to increasing migration flows;
  6. whereas European islands contribute to the diversity of the Union in both environmental terms (specific habitats and endemic species) and cultural terms (architectural heritage, sites, landscapes, agricultural and non-agricultural features and geographical identities);
  7. whereas European islands can contribute to strengthening sustainable development in the Union, given their high potential for producing energy from renewable sources due to specific exposure to wind streams, ocean swell and sunlight;
  8. whereas the accessibility of regions and connections within islands are key factors in making island areas more attractive for skilled workers and businesses; whereas there is a need to attract investment, to create new jobs and to reduce maritime and air transport costs for people and goods, in accordance with the principle of territorial continuity, while also making efforts to reduce emissions and pollution deriving from maritime and air transport;
  9. whereas agriculture, breeding and fisheries constitute an important element of local island economies, which are a source of supply for a significant part of the agro-industrial sector, and whereas these sectors suffer due to lack of accessibility, particularly for SMEs, a low level of product differentiation, and climate conditions;
  10. whereas intensive tourism is, for most islands, an important part of their local economy but tends normally to be concentrated only in certain periods of the year and not adequately planned outside the season, and this may entail risks for the environmentally sustainable development of island regions;
  1. Encourages the Commission to provide a clear definition of the type of geographical, natural and demographic permanent handicaps that insular regions can suffer from, with reference to Article 174 of the TFEU;
  2. Asks the Commission how it intends to implement the wording of Article 174 of the TFEU regarding the permanent handicaps of insular regions that hinder their natural development and prevent them from achieving economic, social and territorial cohesion;
  3. Recognises the importance of providing support to tackle the significant depopulation trend in island regions; recalls that certain handicaps are more difficult to cope with for islands, in proportion to their small size and their remoteness from the European continental coasts;
  4. Requests that the Commission launch an in-depth study/analysis on the extra costs incurred as a result of being islands, in terms of the transport system for people and goods, energy supply and access to markets, in particular for SMEs;
  5. Is of the opinion that islands should have a proper definition/categorisation that will take into account not only their differences and specificities but also their specific situation; invites the Commission, on the basis of Article 174 of the TFEU, which recognises the special situation of islands, to set up a homogeneous group made up of all island territories; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to take into account, besides GDP, other statistical indicators that can reflect the economic and social vulnerability arising from natural permanent handicaps;
  6. Recalls that, in accordance with Council Directive 2006/112/EC, certain European islands have been granted special tax arrangements as a counterbalance to their natural and demographic permanent handicaps; stresses the importance of those special tax arrangements for local communities and economies, and calls for their continuation, especially in those Member States that are under economic adjustment programmes;
  7. Recalls especially the need for better connectivity through maritime routes, improved access to ports and better air transport services; considers that particular emphasis should be placed on transport hubs, inter-modal transport and sustainable mobility; stresses also the need to support balanced territorial development of island regions by promoting innovation and competiveness in these regions, which are remote from the major administrative and economic centres and do not benefit from ease of access to transport, and by strengthening local production for local markets;
  8. Stresses that digital capacity is a vital means of counterbalancing the connectivity handicaps of island regions; emphasises that investments in infrastructure are required in order to ensure broadband access on islands and the full participation of islands in the digital single market;
  9. Recalls that many islands in the Mediterranean have seen huge numbers of migrants arriving and are having to deal with this situation; underlines the need for a holistic EU approach, which should include EU support and a joint effort by all Member States;
  10. Underlines the importance of providing education at all levels, where necessary also by making more use of distance education systems; recalls that islands are also facing serious

climate change impacts, with particularly serious consequences, including increasing numbers of natural hazards;

  1. Emphasises that, while islands face constraints, they also benefit from a territorial potential, which should be used as an opportunity for development, growth and job creation; stresses the importance of low tax and red tape reduction policies as key incentives for attracting investment; mentions, in this context, the development of sustainable tourism in addition to seasonal tourism, focusing on the promotion of cultural heritage and specific artisanal economic activities; stresses also the huge potential of ocean, wind and solar energy and the potential of islands to become important sources of alternative energy, to be as energy-autonomous as possible and, above all, to guarantee cheaper energy supplies for their inhabitants;
  2. Stresses, in this connection, the importance of using all possible synergies between the European Structural and Investment Funds and other Union instruments with a view to counterbalancing the handicaps of islands and enhancing their economic growth, job creation and sustainable development situation;
  3. Calls on the Commission to establish an ‘EU Strategic Framework for Islands’ with a view to linking up instruments that can have a major territorial impact;
  4. Calls on the Member States and regional and local authorities to play an important role in the development strategies of islands on the basis of a vertical approach that involves all levels of government, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, with a view to ensuring the sustainable development of EU islands;
  5. Suggests that the Commission establish an ‘islands desk’ linked to the Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) and made up of a small group of officials in order to coordinate and analyse issues relating to island regions;
  6. Calls on the Commission to submit a communication containing an ‘Agenda for EU Islands’ and, subsequently, a White Paper to monitor the development of islands, based on best practice and involving local, regional and national authorities and other relevant actors, including economic and social partners and representatives of civil society;
  7. Calls on the Commission to propose a European Year of Islands and Mountains;
  8. Invites the Commission to bear in mind the specific situation of islands when preparing the proposal for the next multiannual financial framework;
  9. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Committee of the Regions and the Member States.

New Island resolution voted on in EU parliament

New Island resolution voted on in EU parliament on 4 February 2016

MEPs urge the European Commission to take concrete steps to address the permanent handicaps that EU islands face and make full use of their potential,  in a resolution voted on Thursday. The text also stresses the unique difficulties that southern insular regions face due to the increased migration flows and asks that special tax regimes should continue.

MEPs list the actions that they want the Commission to take to address the unique and vulnerable situation of EU islands. The resolution calls on the Commission to:

  • set up “a homogenous group made up of all island territories”, based on EU Treaty Article 174, which recognises the permanent handicaps of insular regions,
  • take account of other statistical indicators, besides GDP, which will reflect the economic and social vulnerability of these regions,
  • launch an in-depth study/analysis in the extra costs incurred as a result of being an island (e.g. transport system, energy supply and access to markets),
  • establish an “EU Strategic Framework for Islands” which would link up instruments that could have a major territorial impact, and
  • submit a communication on an “Agenda for EU Islands” and subsequently a White Paper to monitor the development of islands.

Islands exposed to migration flows

Parliament stresses that EU islands are also peripheral regions on the EU’s external borders. The southern areas and the many Mediterranean islands are particularly exposed to increased migration flows. MEPs ask for an EU-wide approach, “which should include EU support and a joint effort by all member states”, to help them.

Special tax regimes should continue

MEPs approved an amendment stressing “the importance of special tax arrangements for local communities and economies”- some EU islands have been granted special tax arrangements to counterbalance their permanent natural and demographic handicaps – and “calling for their continuation, especially in those member states that are under economic adjustment programmes”.

Resolution on the role of regional authorities

In a separate resolution voted on Thursday, MEPs ask that regional and local authorities be given a bigger role in managing EU structural and investment funds in 2014-2020, to help boost their impact.

Successful end to SMILEGOV project

logothe-team

SMILEGOV Summary Report for Scottish Island Federation AGM December 2015, Terry Hegarty, SMILEGOV project officer

The Scottish Islands Federation (SIF) has recently completed involvement in a 30 month European project to support more effective approaches to strategic energy planning and development of sustainable energy projects on islands.

The SMILEGOV project’s acronym derives from ‘Smart Islands Governance’, a critical consideration for island communities aspiring to sustainability. The capacity of individual islands to comply with European energy targets widely depends upon collaborative planning and effective participatory engagement of key stakeholders. These typically include agencies of both local and central government, island community and business interests, land owners, energy companies, regulatory bodies and technology specialists.

Scotland offered a distinct model

Elsewhere in Europe, Municipal or Regional Authorities commonly lead development of sustainable energy projects and plans for islands. SIF has thus participated alongside 11 other networks spanning 163 island authorities throughout the Baltic, Mediterranean and Atlantic regions and beyond, nearly all represented by local government personnel. The ‘community NGO’ model for leading developments on Scottish islands with which SIF has worked is quite distinct and evidently of interest to some other consortium members, motivating a study group of Estonian Islanders to visit Mull in June 2015.

Parallel programmes of themed island energy workshops arranged and reported throughout Europe have effectively pooled information, knowledge and perspectives to enhance capacity for development of island energy plans and projects throughout SMILEGOV’s ‘clusters’.

Energy priorities for Islands

Energy priorities facing Islands were identified, drawn together and addressed, through SMILEGOV consultations and reports completed (or in the pipeline):

  • Mobility
  • Communication
  • Business Models
  • New Technologies
  • Smart Grids
  • Permit Processes
Identified constraints

In Scotland constraints facing island energy projects in Scotland notably include:

  • Grid constraints
  • Accessibility of data to inform plans
  • Planning constraints
  • Local capacity to lead developments
  • Consistency of government support
Best practice highlighted

Through SMILEGOV, difficulties, best practice and achievements have also been highlighted. See the SMILEGOV case studies of the project website at www.sustaianbleislands.eu.

SIF worked with Community Energy Scotland (CES) to monitor, support and report on progress of a number of individual energy projects within our cluster of Scottish Islands.

8 energy audits completed for Scottish islands

Inspired by SMILEGOV, and also supported by CES through Local Energy Scotland, SIF initiated a separate project to facilitate Island Energy Audits for participating Scottish islands. Each of eight resulting reports presents useful baseline data to inform more effective approaches to energy planning at island level. Follow up activity is already being pursued in the cases of Iona and The Small Isles

Islands as test beds 

Due to the generic nature of energy challenges facing islands, it is increasingly recognised in Scotland as elsewhere, that islands may serve as valuable test beds for emergent technologies, and proving grounds for more effective multilateral approaches to strategic local energy planning for sustainability.

 

 

New EU Intergroup for Islands as well as Seas, Rivers, and Coastal areas.

Kick off meeting for new EU Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal areas  Intergroup

At long last, there will be an Intergroup in the EU parliament that will look into Island issues specifically. although as part of a wider remit.

The Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas Intergroup of the European Parliament was proposed to Martin Schulz by the Presidents of the Political Groups and has been approved by the Conference of Presidents. It will carry on and further develop the work led under the Seas and Coastal Areas Intergroup, which the CPMR had strongly supported since 2010 acting as its Secretariat.

Gesine Meissner (DE-ALDE) is the new President of the Intergroup that met for the first time in Strasbourg on 15 January 2015.

Members of the Intergroup also voted for the Vice-Presidents responsible for thematic and geographic priorities that will include the sea basin strategies and the island dimension.

Different political groups and nationalities will contribute to the work of this renewed Intergroup that will carry on and further develop the work led under the Seas and Coastal Areas Intergroup.

In close cooperation with the CPMR, the Intergroup will promote an integrated approach to issues such as the relationship between blue growth and green growth, the European maritime industry. The attractiveness of maritime professions and the sustainable development of coastal areas will also be covered. Particular attention will also be given to the sea basin strategies and the island dimension.

“This is very good news for the whole of maritime Europe, to which the CPMR belongs, and a just recognition of the work led by members of the Seas and Coastal Areas Intergroup during the previous legislature. This shows that the European Parliament acknowledges how vitally important the seas and coastal regions are for the future of Europe. The Intergroup, working together with our maritime regions, will be able to put forward concrete proposals to the Commission and the Council to develop the tremendous potential of the sea in a more responsible and sustainable way,” stated Vasco Alves Cordeiro, President of the Regional Government of the Azores and CPMR President.

Camille Dressler, Scottish Islands Federation Chair says: “this is very good news, and means that we can start working with the Intergroup on the issues that are most important to ESIN and its members, and which we flagged up with our Island Champion Pledge initiative during last year’s  EU parliament elections.”