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.

ESIN 2016 conference will focus on the need for island sustainability indicators

Small Islands Atlas and Sustainability indicators

There has been a long discussion within ESIN about the need for a better understanding of the Smaller islands position at the level of the EU commission.

For this reason, ESIN vice-president Christian Pleijel and University of South Wales PhD student and self-confessed nissologist Neil Lodwick have teemed up for the first presentation of the conference which will also look at island labelling and the possibility of starting a ZeroWaste Island EU programme ( see full programme below)

They have worked on  the concept of an Atlas of the Small Islands of Europe which will look at the islands from the point of view of a set of sustainability indicators dealing with social, economic, governance and environmental aspects of island life.

Read more about it on the ESIN website.

This is largely in response to the European Parliament resolution of February 4th 2016 on the special situation of islands, as ESIN is concerned that the smaller islands are not included in the NUTS 2 and NUTS 3 description.

The present statistical indicators are also  the subject of detailed criticism by the Committee of Region, who has identified the need for more adapted and subtle statistical instruments.

What is the S.I.F. and ESIN position on the need for better indicators?

S.I.F chair Camille Dressler who has largely coordinated the programme for this year’s ESIN AGM conference in Brussels on 27 September 2016, has secured the attendance of Olivier Heiden, a European statistics specialist from the Committee of Regions to lead the panel discussion about sustainability indicators.

This is what she wrote to Mr Heiden in response to his interest in leading the discussion:

“In the document COTER – VI/009, (indicators for territorial development, GDP and beyond- 10-11 February 2016), the  following comments echo very well the opinion we have in ESIN that the present statistical indicators do not address the situation of territories such as the islands archipelagoes members of the European Small Islands Federation.

We agree in the first instance that a number of EU instruments are still based on an excessively narrow economic measure, and that eligibility decisions are basically blind to social and environmental and territorial aspects across European regions.

As many of our islands are not included in the NUTS2 or NUTS 3 areas, we too question what is the ability of NUTS level 2 to reflect real communities and real geographies when the NUTS areas are purely statistical geographies based on population rather than reflecting real boundaries or functional geographical areas such as islands.

And since NUTS are also used to date to allocate EU Structural Funds, we also agree that “their use to formulate and evaluate the territorial impact of EU cohesion, transport, environment and other policies has a pervasive effect which results in EU policies being out of step with the situation on the ground” and failing to reflect in particular the situation of islands that are members of ESIN.

For this reason, we agree that “currently the regionalisation of Europe 2020 indicators is not satisfactory, because only some of the indicators needed to track the Europe 2020 headline targets at regional level (NUTS level 2 and 3) are available.”

We would certainly support the Committee of the Regions proposal to “update regional statistics that would make it possible to build a synthetic Regional Progress Indicator.”

Our research shows it is indeed necessary to add specific data pertinent to islands that are not in the NUTS 2 or NUTS 3 classification in order to add to the weight carried by cohesion objectives.

We therefore support the Committee of Regions statement urging “the European Commission to include in the European statistical programme the measures needed for dealing with shortcomings in statistical information on territorial diversity and specific features in the EU, namely measures for compiling data and building up indicators on regions’ remoteness and isolation, so as to improve the process of devising and implementing European policies better adapted to regions affected by these phenomena” such as islands,” in keeping with the principle of territorial cohesion.””

ESIN AGM 2016 Conference programme

Date: Tuesday 27th September 2016     09.30 – 17.30

Venue: European Economic and Social Committee, Rue Belliard, 99, BRUSSELS, room JDE 63

Time Programme
9.00 Registration of participants
1 9.30 Introduction by ESIN president Bengt Almkvist

ESIN vice president Eleftherios Kechagioglou introduces conference sponsor president Georges Dassis (EESC).

ESIN President introduces Pierre Jean Coulon (EESC TEN president), Ioannis Latoudis (DG REGIO), Toni Piccula (SEARICA).

2 10.00 Description of the Small Islands situation: The ESIN Atlas and islands sustainability indicators, ppt by Christian Plejiel and Neil Lodwick
3 10.30 Panel Discussion led by Oliver Heiden ( European Committee of the Regions (CoR)

“ There is a need for the EU to improve the description of the small islands situation as they are not included in the NUTS 3 and 4 classification”

Panel participants: Oliver Heiden Ioannis Latoudis (DG Regio), Yannis Vardakastanis (2017 Year of Disability), Bengt Almkvist (ESIN)

10.50 Coffee/tea break
4 11.00 Thematic Islands presentations: the top three issues (OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES) on each national islands federation’s agenda, led by Camille Dressler
5 11.55 Summing up on thematic issues: common strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities in reference to the Atlas by Christian Pleijel.
6 12.00 EESC’s perspective on islands by Pierre Jean Coulon (EESC TEN president)
7 12.15 Island Issues post 2020

Panel discussion led by Toni Piccula We are moving towards post 2020 and the European Commission is discussing how to act in the islands issue in the next program period 2021-2027.

– How will islands be earmarked for financing?

– Creation of an island desk to coordinate all island programs?

– How can the contract between the commission and island nations be strengthened, making it possible to reject programs that do not include islands?

Panel participants: Toni Piccula, Pierre Jean Coulon, Ioannis Latoudis, Bengt Almkvist

8 12.55 Summing up and conclusions by Bengt Almkvist
13.00 Buffet lunch in venue foyer
9 14.00 Towards a Zero Waste Islands Programme? by Ferran Rosa, Policy Officer, Zero Waste Europe .
10 14.30 Islands Product Labelling, presentation by Laurids Siig Christensen (The Small Island Food Network of Denmark) followed by debate.

Island Specialties, a registered trademark owned by the Small Island Food Network in Denmark, is a terroir-based brand, and permission to use the brand implies a positive impact of production on the island community.

Could this brand be used by island communities in other European countries? Discussion of the potential of this idea with the ESIN delegates.

15.30 Coffee/tea break
11 15.45 Island indicators: from general to local. Discussion led by Christian Pleijel and Neil Lodwick on two sets of indicators:

We have devised 10 common indicators for the islands, but we feel these need refining to take into account the individual island situation. How is this to be achieved?

12 16.45 Conclusions of the day by Bengt Almkvist
17.00 End of conference

Relevant links:

ESIN:    https://europeansmallislands.com/

EESC:                                       http://www.eesc.europa.eu/i=portal.en.home

European Network For Rural development http://enrd.ec.europa.eu/networks-and-networking/research-initiatives/research-institutions-dg-regio_en

DG REGIO                         http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/index_en.cfm

SEARICA:                                  http://searica.eu/en/

2017, Year of disability:


Eurostat:  http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat

The Small Island Food Network of Denmark: http://www.oe-specialiteter.dk/en/

Zero Waste Europe:        https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/

European Parliament resolution of February 4th 2016 on the special situation of islands: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2016-0049+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=GA

ESIN ATLAS can be found at the ESIN website: https://europeansmallislands.com/esif-structured-dialogue/

The Community Empowerment Act and coastal communities

The Community Empowerment Act and Coastal communities

At the Marine Communities Workshop  organised by Flora and Fauna International in  May 2016,  we heard the Scottish Community Alliance on the community empowerment agenda.

On the back of that presentation,  Fauna and Flora international thought it would be useful to review the Community Empowerment Act (Scotland) 2015 to see how it might apply to coastal communities and inshore waters.

The key points which the document attached explores include:

  • The CEA is all about local communities having a stronger role in local decision making;
  • This will be done through improving public services for communities through better community planning and other direct mechanisms for getting involved in local decision-making;
  • The CEA also directly empowers communities through the acquisition of land and buildings;
  • There are positive principles built into community planning and Community Planning Partnerships such as prioritising local needs and embedding communities in processes from the beginning to the end;
  • Participation Requests can be made to SNH and SEPA for environmental protection purposes;
  • Aligning with the Community Right to Buy Land, the use of the Crown Estate’s Local Management Agreements could be investigated for the purpose of leasing the seabed for nature conservation;
  • Coastal community groups seeking land or property as a base can explore Asset Transfer opportunities within council or publicly owned land;
  • Guidance and regulations are being prepared for each section of the Act. It is anticipated that the guidance for asset transfer and participation requests will be operational towards the end of 2016.
  • Participatory Budgeting isn’t included in the Act. Scottish Government is however investing heavily in its promotion.

These are useful starting points to interpreting the Act.

Let us know what you think!