What are the outermost regions?
The EU counts with nine outermost regions: French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion Island and Saint-Martin (France), Azores and Madeira (Portugal), and the Canary Islands (Spain). The outermost regions are islands, archipelagos and one land territory (French Guiana). They are located in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean basin, South America and the Indian Ocean and are home to 5 million EU citizens.
What are the assets of the outermost regions for the EU?
The outermost regions offer major assets to the EU: many of them have a young population, extensive maritime economic zones, unique biodiversity, rich renewable energy sources, location and climate suitable for space sciences and astrophysics activities, important space infrastructure and proximity to other continents. In addition, these regions are outposts of the EU with the untapped potential to reach out to surrounding countries and territories. They contribute to make the EU a global player.
What are the challenges that the outermost regions face?
The outermost regions face many permanent constraints to their development such as remoteness, insularity, small size, vulnerability to climate change, and economic dependence on a few sectors. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has hit their economies particularly hard. While these regions are quite different from one another, they have levels of unemployment and GDP significantly worse than EU and national averages. Youth unemployment is above 50% in the Canary Islands and Mayotte, and around 40% in Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Réunion, much higher than the EU average of 16.8%. GDP in purchasing power parity compared to the EU average ranged from 30% in Mayotte (EU lowest) or French Guiana (46%) to 76% (Martinique). (source: Eurostat).
The 8th Cohesion Report shows that
-the GDP per head in the outermost regions remained at the same level or even decreased between 2001-2019.
-employment rates were below the EU average in the outermost regions in 2020; unemployment rates in the Canary Islands and Mayotte were over three times higher than the EU average.
-the population growth rate is relatively high in most of the outermost regions. In Mayotte and French Guiana, the population grew rapidly between 2010 and 2020. In contrast, the population in the Azores, Madeira, Guadeloupe and Martinique decreased over the past decade.
-some of the largest shares of early leavers from education and training are in two outermost regions, the Azores and French Guiana, both with more than 25%.
Why a renewed Strategy for the outermost regions?
Article 349 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union provides for specific measures to support the outermost regions, including the tailored application of EU law and access to EU programmes.
Following the implementation of the 2017 Strategy, and given the new context in the aftermath of the pandemic, the Commission shaped a renewed Strategy prioritising place-based approaches and tailored support for the outermost regions across all EU policies.
The Strategy thus reflects the Commission's unwavering commitment towards these regions in line with article 349 of the Treaty.
How will this renewed Strategy address the challenges of the outermost regions?
The renewed Strategy will focus on five pillars:
-Putting people first - improving living conditions for people in the outermost regions, ensuring people's quality of life, addressing poverty and developing youth opportunities.
-Building on each regions' unique assets such as biodiversity, blue economy or research potential and by addressing their constraints.
-Supporting a sustainable, environmentally friendly and climate-neutral economic transformation grounded on a green and digital transition.
-Strengthening outermost regions' regional cooperation with neighbouring countries and territories.
-Strengthened partnership, support and dialogue with outermost regions via, among others, dedicated administrative capacity and awareness raising measures to step up these regions participation in EU programmes.
Why is ‘putting people first' the motto of this renewed Strategy?
The Strategy focuses on the social dimension of the outermost regions to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights and the EU Child Guarantee, and improve health. Young people living in the outermost regions need to have access to education and employment opportunities. Through its inclusion and diversity Strategy, the Commission helps young people from these regions participating in Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps. During the European Year of Youth 2022 various initiatives will empower young people, including a new initiative aimed exclusively at youth from the outermost regions. The Commission will launch a €1 million grant scheme empowering them to shape and implement projects at local level, with a specific attention to equality and inclusion.
What does the Strategy bring concretely to the outermost regions?
The new Strategy puts a strong emphasis on the social dimension in the outermost regions, by putting people first. The Commission will help these regions and their Member States improving access to housing, water, healthcare, transport, education and training.
The new Strategy also creates new opportunities with dedicated funding for the outermost regions. For example, it announces upcoming tailored calls for projects to support:
-youth (with a grant scheme for young people financed by the European Regional and Development Fund - ERDF)
-blue economy (through the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund)
-innovation (through the Interregional Innovation Investment initiative by the ERDF)
-research (through the Horizon Europe programme)
-biodiversity (through the LIFE programme).
Moreover, with the new Strategy, the Commission will provide tailored support to help the outermost regions using the wide array of opportunities created for them in EU funds and programmes in 2021-2027. For this purpose, the Commission will:
-create a new advisory support tool on demand to help the outermost regions making the most out of EU opportunities, to address their administrative capacity issues, help them shape regional development plans and identify synergies between EU funds and programmes and taking into account their specificities in future legislative proposals.
-organise workshops on EU programmes.
-strengthen dialogue and outreach towards the outermost regions on EU opportunities.
How does the Strategy respond to outermost regions proposals?
To shape the Strategy, the Commission launched a public consultation as well as targeted consultations and bilateral meetings with the outermost regions and their Member States. It took into account a Declaration by the outermost regions' Presidents of November 2021; a position paper of the outermost regions and their Member States of January 2022; and resolutions and opinions by the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.
The Strategy addresses the regions' proposals notably on social policies, health, State aid, energy, administrative capacity and the creation of dedicated calls for these regions. It will address social and health challenges in these regions through EU tools and funds. Moreover, the Commission commits itself to taking outermost regions' specificities into account in future policies and legislative proposals such as in the revision of State aid rules across sectors. To address administrative capacity challenges in the regions, the Commission will create a new advisory support tool to help shape regional development plans and make best use of EU funds and programmes.
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