Europe still remembers the hard times during the Covid pandemic, which obliged also politicians, at all levels, to manage the health and economic crisis with firm public policies. Decisions that also turned up citizens to scrutinize more european politicians, making them accountable for their decisions. Europeans now demand more solutions to respond to the new challenges: strengthening measures to prevent the outbreak of new pandemics, combating climate change, controlling inflation, and delivering programs to better answer the aging of the population and the urgency declining birth rate, addressing the demographic emergency.
After the European Commission communication, the European Committee of the Regions opinion, now the European Parliament approved, last June’s Strasbourg session, a resolution based on the Strategy for the Outermost Regions (OR) that due to its permanent constraints felt and will continue to feel all these challenges with more intensity than in the European continent.
The approved document, a very complete and valuable one, translates itself in an excellent compromise according the principles of economic and social cohesion of the Union. Made with the contribute of several Portuguese MEPs, from the EPP group, represented in committees of Regional Development, Budget, Transports and Tourism (where I proudly contributed with Madeira and Azores priorities as Portuguese OR) this Strategy points out the need of urgent EU action to foster these regions development, sustainable recovery and growth.
This strategy, replacing the one made in 2014, calls for enhanced cooperation between the EU and the OR to ensure their voices are heard and their interests are represented.
We asked for more systematic attention these nine region’s needs, and more commitment to boost their competitiveness. Also important is the fact that we reiterate that young people’s social situation is a key concern for outermost regions, with high levels of early school leaving, unemployment and brain drain.
We urged the Commission to enhance young people’s mobility opportunities, promote the blue and circular economies, and maintain the compensatory POSEI scheme in agriculture (we even ask for more financial support having into consideration that this envelope is not revised since 2009) while replicating it in fisheries, transport, tourism, energy and other sectors.
I must highlight the importance given in the report for a sustainable tourism policy as well as the need to strengthen these regions’ digital infrastructure and connectivity and their resilience to climate shocks. We have also called on the Commission to encourage the development of a truly EU tourism policy by creating a budget line for tourism in the next multiannual financial framework to support the tourism ecosystem. Europe must support truly OR specially when some of them have already accomplished their commitment on being more sustainable territories on an environmental, social, cultural and economic level. Assuring trust, security to the ones who visit as well as the ones who live in it. An excellent example of it is Madeira. Receiving awards consecutively as the Best Island Destination in the World and recently awarded with an international certification of “Sustainable Tourism Destination”.
The report underlines the OR unique assets, and the capacity for developing EU activities on space sciences in some of these regions (like the Azores), as well as we called for setting up a fund exclusively dedicated to EU space policy.
Let’s continue, at the European level, to work and to deliver instruments, programmes and financial support for better and wealthier Outermost Regions.