Article no. 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union grants to the Outermost Regions (ORs) a regime of exceptionality that considers their specificities and constraints related to their geographical position (climate and difficult orography, huge economic dependency)
When defining European policies, the European Commission and the two co-legislators are obliged to consider this article and, where appropriate, derogate or exempt the ORs accordingly.
As can be understood, in terms of transport, there are many constraints, and their inhabitants suffer from natural (perennial or perpetual) limitations affecting their mobility, accessibility, and connectivity, with direct implications on the prices of imported products and the competitiveness of their exports.
At the same time, its main economic activity is tourism, whose performance is strongly correlated with existing connectivity, particularly in terms of regularity and price.
The legislative proposals referring to the Fit For 55 package clearly show the need for exceptions at various levels: carbon emission taxes (ETS), sustainable fuels for aviation and maritime sectors, infrastructure, among others. In most cases, these are not exemptions but only derogations that allow legislative implementation only when the market, through economies of scale, allows it.
Small economies without a favourable commercial dimension will be heavily penalized if there is no transition period during which these regions are exempt—otherwise, both asymmetries and constraints soar up affecting mostly local population and enterprises based in these regions. Alongside these derogations, the EU’s efforts should be directed toward strengthening financial support and compensation. Europe has this obligation of solidarity, enshrined by the Treaty, in an article that political decisions must not trivialized.
In the current strategy for the European Outermost Regions, the Commission is aware of these needs, but it should go further. That is why the TRAN Committee in the European Parliament presented an opinion that calls for an impact study to assess, in the social, economic, and environmental aspects, the implementation of those measures covering the Fit For 55 package: what effects will the ETS mechanism have on tourism? How will sustainable fuel affect the maritime sector and freight transport to and from these regions? Is it possible to build or renovate new infrastructure or not? Is there economic viability in providing alternative fuel? Given the recent energy and fuel costs, what is their effect on prices charged to the final consumer?
With responses based on consistent data, the co-legislators and the Commission can assess the best measure to apply: exemptions, derogations, or increase the financial support – facilitating access to existing funds, either through technical monitoring or by reducing the bureaucracy of the rules. This does not mean that ORs are asking for more than others or not assuming commitments to achieve the Green Deal/Fit For 55 targets.
The ORs are fragile regions from an environmental point of view but also an economic and social point of view. Any legislation will have complex predicted implications, which is why the EU needs to consider these specificities, avoiding the temptation to impose indiscriminate policies or to compare what is not comparable.