I am back from my trip to Guadeloupe. This short trip, my first to the Outermost Regions in my new role, was very productive. It was a great opportunity to meet all the representatives of these regions. I am pleased with the discussions at the conference allowing for exchange of experience and good practices. I am glad with the dynamism triggered by the tripartite working groups. However, in spite of these positive outcomes, there is still a lot of work to be done in the coming years.
I must say that I was especially touched by the hospitality of the people that I have met in those 3 days. I come from Romania, which traditionally had limited relations with those regions. But I have seen that hospitality is not an empty word there. It is an impression that we belong to the same family, the same community.
The years to come will be crucial for the outermost regions on the road to further growth. I cannot change the remoteness or insularity of those regions, but I can help change their perspectives for economic and social development.
The first relevant objective is to work further along the 5 priority axes, which are accessibility, competitiveness, regional integration, reinforcement of the social dimension and addressing climate change. Each of the outermost regions has developed an action plan outlining their respective long-term strategies how they will use the EU tools to achieve those priorities. In particular, the fight against unemployment, further regional integration as well as the increase of the use of renewable energies to face climate change are key to their development.
Secondly, the potential of the Operational Programmes for the 2014-2020 period should be further exploited. For 2014-2020 more than EUR 6.6 billion of European Structural and Investment Funds are allocated to better equipping these nine regions to overcome economic and environmental difficulties and to make them more self-reliant by turning their disadvantages into real assets.
From my exchanges, discoveries and visits of these last days, I am convinced that all EU funds and instruments should be used to the fullest. I will continue working closely with those regions to ensure that EU funds are used in the most optimal way to diversify their economies, strengthen research, modernise tourism or protect their environment.
At the end of the term, in five years, I aim to come back with 9 success stories from those regions serving as good practices examples for other European regions.