EU's outermost regions to remain a priority of the future cohesion policy


On 12 May in Brussels, the European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, met the Presidents of the Outermost Regions (OR) and representatives of their member states (France, Spain and Portugal). The purpose of the meeting, chaired by Martinique, was to discuss the future of Outermost Regions economies and the attention they should continue to receive in the future cohesion policy after 2013.

Commissioner Johannes Hahn explained the main points of the Commission’s proposals to reform cohesion policy after 2013. "The future Cohesion Policy has to be as simple as possible, but without compromising on quality and performance. We need to focus on a more limited number of priorities to maximise the impact of European funds and we will also strengthen the performance of the policy through the introduction of conditions and incentives. In this context, we will of course pay special attention to the Outermost Regions", he said.

Concerning the budgetary allocations, the three Members States and all the Outermost Regions expressed their desire to see the current level of support maintained in the future, including the specific allocation which these regions receive to offset the additional costs linked to the specific challenges they face. These challenges include remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate, and economic dependence on a few products. The Commissioner expressed his readiness to support this request.  However, he stressed that this investment should not only serve to compensate day-to-day additional costs, but also to encourage economic diversification of these regions. This is a key factor for their future economic growth and welfare.

Debates on the future EU budget are underway and this is premature to say how much these regions will receive under cohesion policy after 2013. The Commissioner recognised that these negotiations will not be easy and that the Commission will have to make difficult choices in the context of budgetary restrictions. Nevertheless, he has reiterated his personal commitment to continue paying special attention to the Outermost Regions in view of their specific characteristics, which are recognised in the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union.

Commissioner Hahn also underlined that a better regional integration of these regions with their geographical neighbours could be a real growth factor and a development booster for the neighbouring countries. This would improve their accessibility and reduce the impact of their isolation from European mainland. The Commission will pay particular attention to the specific situation of Outermost Regions during the re-examination of the trans-European transport networks (TEN-T) guidelines as well as the EU's Marco Polo programme. Coordination between the European Development Fund (EDF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (two EU funds with different rules and objectives) will also be improved following the recent agreement with the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Andris Piebalgs and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.

Commissioner Hahn has also encouraged the Outermost Regions to pursue efforts to design 'smart specialisation strategies', which means to identify their greatest strengths and concentrate their resources on a few key priorities. They should conceive and develop innovative projects which can help them to realise their full potential.

With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union now has nine Outermost Regions: the four French overseas departments (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Martinique), two French overseas collectivities (Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin), the autonomous regions of Portugal (the Azores and Madeira) and the Spanish Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands.

More than € 5.9 billion have been allocated to the outermost regions for the period 2007-2013 under the Structural Funds. In addition, they benefit from a specific allocation of € 979 million to take into account the disadvantages they face, defined by Article 349 of the Treaty.

In 2012, the European Commission will present a new communication on the future EU strategy for the Outermost Regions.

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