To be an island should not be a problem but a pillar of development!
This was the strong message delivered by CPMR President Vasco Cordeiro (and President of Azores Government) on 9 March 2017. He also said: “we must speak very clearly and very loudly about the islands’ needs.”
The CPMR Island Commission’s AGM 2017 was hosted on Gozo, Malta’s smaller island, and brought together island regions from the North to the South of Europe to look at the future of Cohesion Policy post-2020.
Islands must think globally and act locally
As an observer member, the European Small Islands Federation, represented by its chair, Camille Dressler, also chair of the Scottish Islands Federation, was extremely pleased to see some very strong principles being reiterated by the minister for Gozo in particular
- Islands must think globally and act locally
- One size does not dictate all nor add value to a nation.
- It is important to bridge the gap between the EU and policies
- It is crucial to get rid of bureaucratic barriers and help micro, small and medium size enterprises through changes to State Aid rules for islands and a rise in De minimis level at least in line with inflation.
- The Cohesion Policy, as a fundamental pillar of EU construction, must act as a forward looking policy bringing EU citizens together
- There must be a new way to look at shipping issues
- There should be social policies for the islands
- There should be special funding packages for the islands
- To serve the islands adequately, there must be a place-based approach to the EU Development and Territorial Cohesion Policy.
The future of the EU and the islands
Eleni Marianou, the CPMR islands Commission secretary, was very clear on what had to be done in response to Mr Juncker’s White paper:
- The CPMR needs to make a response to the EU White Paper and respond to the key challenges of competitiveness, investment and Territorial Cohesion.
- It needs a strong voice and think of target audiences: EU institutions, National governments, EU Regions, Citizens and Young People.
- Response includes making the case for EU cooperation based on CPMR principles of balanced Territorial Principles, solidarity between the EU and its regions, championing the position of regions in EU policy-making.
- CPMR needs to prepare for a strong lobbying campaign prior to and during the EU parliamentary elections in 2018- 2019
The islands’s access to the Single Market is not equal to that of other regions.
The presentation by Ioannis Spillanis from the University of Aegean Island and Local development laboratory made the following points:
- 3.4 %of EU population live on islands. Their access to the Single market is NOT equal to the access enjoyed by other parts of the EU.
- Insularity has a negative aspect on businesses and people and Brexit will make it worse by reducing the number of islands in the EU and the overall funding share.
- EU Sectoral policies are without differentiation
- For the islands to realise their potential, EU policies need to include insularity clauses.
- For this reason, a new island typology is needed. Current indicators are woefully inadequate: new indicators are required to describe the islands situation as the classification used in NUTS2 and NUTS3 is not good enough. (NUTS 3 islands are drowned in the NUTS2 areas)
- To achieve the EU’s principles of Territorial Cohesion and Sustainability, the development model needs to be changed to include Equal opportunities for the islands and Green island policies.
Entreprise on islands needs an innovative approach from the EU
INSULEUR president Georgios Benetos showed how islands are left behind from the business point of view:
- No economy of scale for the islands
- Added costs of insularity need to be taken into account
- Access to credit and finance is more complicated on islands
Fundamental changes in the way the EU could support the islands:
- VAT should be lower as it is already on some islands (Corsica, Heligoland) whereas there is no VAT in the Faroe islands.
- There should be a lower level of taxation for islands to help small and medium enterprises as well as micro-enterprises.
Islands need support as well as a Can Do approach
MEP Myriam Dalli who is involved in supporting Blue Growth projects, agreed that islands do need support, and the way to get it was to demonstrate a Can Do approach.
Islands at the forefront of renewable revolution
The presentation by the Western Isles Council showed how the islands could become Energy Positive Islands by investing in their potential for renewables. Bornholm ‘s vice mayor presented the island Bright Green Future. Kostas Komninos built on that concept by presenting the Smart Island Initiative to be launched in Brussels on 28 March.
Corsica to lead on post 2020 negotiations and insularity clause
Gilles Simeoni, President of the Executive Council of Corsica, was unanimously elected as President of the CPMR Islands Commission (CPMR-IC).
Following his election, President Simeoni said: “The months and years to come will be decisive not only for our islands but also for Europe, in the context of a very marked internal and international crisis”.
He identified the need to put islands at the heart of Cohesion Policy and suggested that an insularity clause should appear in transport, tax policies, waste management and energy.
From a purely Scottish Point of view, it was gratifying to discuss with Mr Simeoni how the Corsican team had come to Scotland to meet with Cal Mac to look at the way they are structured and with a view to replicate the C-Mal and Cal Mac model!
The CPMR IC position
The CPMR Islands Commission, which represents all of Europe’s island regions, has reiterated that islands and outermost regions are unique because of their remoteness.
The Islands Commission has called for the termination of the traditional perception that islands are too different from one another to justify policy measures at EU level.
While debate on post-2020 policies is emerging, island regions across Europe have called for the EU to develop a strong post-2020 Cohesion Policy with a robust territorial dimension which would earmark specific funding to assist island and outermost regions reach the EU objectives.
The CPMR-IC would welcome a constructive dialogue with the European Commission in 2017 ahead of the legislative proposals for post-2020 Cohesion Policy.
Furthermore, it has urged the European Institutions to correct the glaring exclusion of islands from the legal recognition of different territorial typologies that is currently being debated.
Click here to access the speeches and presentations made at the Gozo 2017 AGM.