Regional policy & outermost regions

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

  • Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, La Réunion, Mayotte (5 French overseas departments)
  • 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. 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 Outermost Regions should not be confused with the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) which have a different legal status.

For more information: The effects of the Outermost Regions statute Français

On 25 June 2013, the Outermost Regions presented their Action Plans to the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy. Their Action Plans identify which specific characteristics and strengths they aim to capitalise on with a view to diversifying and modernising their economies.

The strategies are toolkits for 2014-2020: not only in the framework of Structural Funds, but they also have to show how the OR can benefit from EU policies more broadly. They set out the steps to be taken on the regions’ individual paths to fulfilling Europe2020 growth goals, addressing issues such as youth unemployment and boosting local competitiveness. Some of the principal themes covered in the Action Plans include:

  • Improved access to the EU single market – focusing in particular on: Transport networks, people mobility, maritime dimension and infrastructural needs;
  • Enhancing Competitiveness through economic modernisation and diversification focussing on agriculture, research & innovation and tourism;
  • Better Social development - job creation, boosting skills and qualifications with a sharp focus on youth, education and employment;
  • Mainstreaming climate change mitigation across all policies
  • Regional geographic integration;

Action Plans:

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

The modalities of the follow-up to the Action Plans presented by the OR on 25 June 2013 were discussed within the Commission services, the MS and the ORs. These exchanges led to the identification of working groups (WGs) that correspond largely to the objectives of the Communication COM(2012)287 and take into account the development needs and characteristics of each OR as identified in their respective Action Plans. These WGs are composed by staff members of the Commission's services and representatives/experts from the ORs and Member States, depending on the topics covered.

In 2014, 6 official meetings took place (beside other contacts such as visio-conferences) with discussions on several issues of relevant interest for the Outermost Regions, such as their specificities, EU horizontal programmes and initiatives, education, regional integration, economic partnership agreements, competitiveness of SMEs, ORs/OCTs/ACPs cooperation.

A particular focus was given to unemployment which is higher in the ORs. The debate on unemployment continued throughout 2015 and 2016: the ORs created a network dedicated to employment in fields with the greatest potential of generating new jobs such as the "green" and "blue" jobs and the Commission organised a technical Seminar on Employment of the ORs with the participation of experts from the Commission, the Member States (FR-ES-PT), the ORs and the civil society.

A seminar on employment in the outermost regions (OR) was held in Brussels on 9 and 10 March 2016. This Seminar was organised at the initiative of the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), in collaboration with these regions (La Réunion, Mayotte, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin, French Guiana, the Canary Islands, the Azores and Madeira).

These two working days brought together more than 130 persons, consisting of members of the ORs "employment network", experts and practitioners of civil society, representatives of regional and national administrations and of the EESC, of the national and regional Economic Committees and of the European Commission. They exchanged their experiences and made concrete proposals to stimulate employment and mobility in the 9 outermost regions.

This seminar supported the work of these regions, a network had been created in 2013 (formalized on 1st October 2014 at the OR FORUM), they prepared an urgent plan for employment in the ORs to support the creation and consolidation of "green and blue" jobs related to fishing, agriculture, production of renewable energy, protection of biodiversity etc., integrating an innovative social and environmental dimension.

The figures are particularly worrying: there are more than 20% of job seekers in Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana, 29% in La Réunion, 37 % in Mayotte, 15% in Madeira and 13% in the Azores.

These figures are even higher with regard to young people, more than 50% of them are unemployed in the French ORs and the Canaries, 40% in the Azores and 42% in Madeira.

New proposals and ideas emerged during the seminar in order to contribute to the development and economic growth of the ORs whose specificities are to be transformed into assets. The seminar discussed on ways to overcome the remoteness, insularity, certain structural handicaps in exploiting the European know-how and natural resources provided by an exceptional geographical environment: activities focused on sustainable development, green and blue economy, adequate training and facilitated mobility should allow the development of skilled jobs for all, especially for young people. The discussions also focused on the importance of strengthened relations with neighbouring states to develop complementarities, shared activities and skilled employment for young people in the outermost regions.

The seminar conclusions, both of the outermost regions and of the Commission paved the way for the coming months: a FORUM will be held in 2017 where representatives at the highest level in these regions, the three Member States concerned (Spain, France, Portugal) and the European institutions will discuss the situation of the outermost regions and will provide initial elements for the revision of the European strategy for the outermost regions: Communication from the Commission: The outermost regions of the European Union: towards a partnership for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, COM(2012)287

  • The Commission will continue to support these regions to develop job creating sectors in the "green and blue" economy as well as their relations with their neighbourhood.
  • By year-end 2017, the Commission will present a report assessing the strategy for the outermost regions and proposals for the future: employment and mobility, the development of green and blue economy and the integration of the regions in their neighbourhood area should be the main elements of this report.

The Seminar was organised in two sessions:

Two round tables were devoted to the following topics:

  • "Achievements and future prospects of EU action in favour of employment in the outermost regions"
  • " Employment in the outermost regions: Challenges and opportunities"

Three thematic workshops covered the following specific topics:

  • Workshop 1: Access of young people to labour market
    • Minutes of the workshop Français
    • Presentation by Evelyne Pichenot, Expert from the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council Français
    • Presentation "Les jeunes en Guyane" by Michel Henri Mattera, Regional Director for Enterprises, Competition, Consumption and Labour of the Government of Guyana Français
  • Workshop 2: Job-creating sectors, Urgent plan for blue and green jobs
    • Minutes of the workshop Français
    • Presentation "Emploi et croissance dans les zones rurales – Données et enjeux" by Georgios Mathoudakis, Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission Français
    • Presentation "Plan choc de création et de consolidation d’emplois verts et bleus dans les Régions Ultrapériphériques de l’Union Européenne" by Maria Teresa Covisa Rubia, Deputy Director for the promotion of social economy, Employment Service, Canary Islands Français
    • Presentation "Emplois verts: exploiter le potentiel de création d'emplois de l'économie circulaire" by Yvette Izabel, Directorate-General for Environement, European Commission Français
    • Presentation "Emplois et Croissance Bleue dans les RUPs" by Juan Ronco, Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission Français
    • Presentation "Martinique - Collecte et tri solidaire des textiles d’habillement, linges de maison et chaussures usagers: un exemple de filière innovante" by Viviane Capgras, Director of solidarity, expert from Martinique for the Network RUP –employ Français
    • Presentation by Séverine Nirlo, Deputy Director General in charge of training, education, mobility, culture and sports in La Réunion Français
    • Presentation "Réseau RUP emploi - Présentation de la Région Guadeloupe by Patrick Dumirier, Director General of Guadeloupe training Français
  • Workshop 3: Mobility in support of employment
    • Minutes of the workshop Français
    • Presentation by Jackie Morin, Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission Français
    • Presentation by Thierry Gombs, Deputy Director General of the human development cluster of Saint-Martin Français
    • Presentation by Jean-Étienne Antoinette, President of the Delegation for the Overseas of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council of France Français
    • Presentation by Fernando Redondo Rodríguez, President of the Economic and Social Committee of the Canary Islands Espagnol
    • Presentation by Frédérique Racon, Director of the Regional Public Operator on Training, Guyanas Français
    • Presentation by Ismaël Zoubert, Director of Vocational training and Insertion at the General Council of Mayotte Français


List of Particpants

Conference of the Presidents of the Outermost Regions – Guadeloupe 2/7 February 2015 English

Third Forum of the Outermost Regions