Regional policy & outermost regions

The European Union counts nine Outermost Regions, which are geographically very distant from the European continent:

  • Guadeloupe and La Réunion, (2 French Regions)
  • Mayotte (1 French overseas department)
  • French Guiana and Martinique (2 French territorial collectivities)
  • Saint-Martin (1 French overseas collectivity)
  • Madeira and Azores (2 Portuguese autonomous regions)
  • Canary Islands (1 Spanish autonomous community)

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EU law and all the rights and duties associated with EU membership apply to the Outermost Regions, except for cases where there are specific measures or derogations. In accordance with Article 349 of the TFEU, these specific measures are designed to address the challenges faced by the Outermost Regions because of their remoteness, insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate, and economic dependence on a few products.

The Outermost Regions benefit from Cohesion Policy funding through the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.

The Commission has set out actions in favour of the Outermost regions within in a series of four Communications on the Outermost regions (2004, 2007, 2008 and 2012).
The latest Communication of 20 June 2012 (COM (2012) 287 final): "The outermost regions of the European Union: towards a partnership for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth", establishes five priorities for action in line with "Europe 2020" strategy and proposes a series of measures in different EU policies with a view to:

  • improving Outermost regions' accessibility to the single market,
  • increasing their competitiveness,
  • strengthening their regional integration within their respective geographic zones,
  • reinforcing the social dimension of their development including through measures for employment creation,
  • promoting climate change actions.

These actions are to be delivered in partnership. The national and regional authorities concerned drew up an action plan to maximise the potential of each outermost region and ensure that national rules and practices are adapted where necessary to reflect their needs. Meanwhile, the Commission commits to pursue efforts to strengthen the integration of the ORs in the single market and in their geographical environment.
By the end of 2017 at the latest, the Commission will review the implementation of each of the proposed measures and adopt a renewed strategy.

Action Plans:

  • Guadeloupe
  • Martinique
  • Guyane
  • St-Martin
  • La Réunion
  • Madeira
  • Azores
  • Canarias

The action plans form the basis of the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds programmes.

For all the outermost regions, these programmes and the Programme of Options Specifically Relating to Remoteness and Insularity (POSEI) provide financial support amounting to EUR 13 billion for the 2014-2020 period.

The Commission relies on a solid partnership with the outermost regions and the three Member States (France, Spain and Portugal) as well as with other EU institutions: the European Parliament under the impulsion of a cross-party group of the nine Member of the Parliament from the OR and the Council (a specific working group is convened as needed). The Commission cooperates also with the Committee of the regions and the European Economic Social Committee (e.g. a seminar on employment in the OR was organised jointly with the European Economic Social Committee in March 2016).

More Publications

The European Commission hosts the Fourth Forum of the Outermost Regions entitled "The Outermost Regions, European lands in the world: toward a renewed strategy" in Brussels on 30-31 March 2017 (Charlemagne Building, 170 rue de la Loi).

Fourth Forum of the Outermost Regions

Smart Regions' story : The Canary Islands

The Canary Islands region had an extremely high unemployment in the past years. The main problem was its isolation. Being located far away in the middle of the ocean, meant they had less opportunities for business activities and economic exchanges then other regions on the mainland. But once they started to see their unique remote location as an opportunity, and started to use the ocean as a new source of energy, the economic recovery kicked in. Now having a scientific and an industrial test site, funded by the EU, offers its users not only data and knowledge on oceanic parameters, but also offers services. This opportunity has been exploited in order to create economic growth and bring the Canary islands to the path of recovery and job creation. As Dominique Foray, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, explained: "Every region is able to identify some strategic domains where new opportunities can be identified and supported, to build competitive advantage for the future.