PART I - SITUATION AND TRENDS
3 Territorial cohesion: towards a more balanced development
3.5. Areas with specific geographical features
Mountainous areas, coastal and maritime regions, islands and archipelagos
form an important part of the Union and are even more significant in some
Member States. Most of the ultra-peripheral regions are islands. These,
however, do not form a distinct geo-morphological area as such, but are
treated as a group of 7 regions listed in the Treaty and recognised as
having a number of inherent disadvantages, particularly because of the
problem of accessibility caused by their remoteness from other parts of
While the regions identified as being entitled to structural assistance
from the Structural Funds are defined in terms of administrative and socio-economic
criteria, the geo-morphological areas are distinguished in terms of their
physical features. These are not always easy to define and often there
is no commonly-accepted definition (urban, rural and so on). Moreover,
the features concerned are not always synonymous with structural problems.
The three main types of geo-morphological area are considered below.
Mountainous areas represent geographical barriers. Over time, activities
concentrated in the valleys which are natural passages, but today many
of these have become transport bottlenecks and the growth of traffic of
goods and people involves increasing risks to safety and the environment.
Areas such as the Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites, the Greek mountains, the
Highlands of Scotland and Fjällen in Sweden cover approximately 39%
of the EU land area. In many of these areas, economic activity is concentrated
in agriculture - on the land which is usable - tourism and other services.
The others have very little economic activity at all. While some mountainous
areas are economically viable and integrated into the rest of the EU economy,
most have problems, as witnessed by the fact that more than 95% of them
(in terms of land area) are eligible for assistance under Objectives 1
or 2 of the Structural Funds (Map 7 and Tables
A.13-A.14, in annex)
Coastal and maritime areas
Coastal areas are defined as those situated on the strip of land around
the coasts of the EU, which is of variable width depending on geographical
features and administrative boundaries. They include many large cities
(London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, the Hague, Dublin, Lisbon, Barcelona,
Marseilles, Rome, Naples and Athens) and cover a significant part of the
EU land area. Many of the areas are densely populated with a high level
of tourist activity, generating significant income but also substantial
environmental pressure, the reconciliation of which poses a serious challenge.
Other areas, however, are scarcely populated at all. The growth of maritime
traffic involves increasing risks to safety, the environment and conservation
of the coastline (See Table A.15: Coastal areas
in the European Union, in annex)
Islands are particularly important in the four Southern Member States,
three of which are cohesion countries, though there is also a large number
of islands in France, the UK and the three Nordic countries, many of them
eligible for Structural Funds support (Table A.16
and Table A.17, in annex).Indeed, nearly 95%
of the population of EU island regions is eligible for such support under
Objectives 1 or 2. In the case of the smaller islands, accessibility is
the main problem which makes it difficult to maintain economic activities
which are competitive and a young work force with a high level of education.
Accessibility is an even greater problem for ultra-peripheral regions.
The largest islands are much better integrated into the rest of the EU
economy, even if many are at present reliant on structural support to
catch up with other parts of the Union.
The areas identified above have marked differences in terms of their
economic and social characteristics. Regional policies for furthering
their development should continue to be aimed at strengthening relations
between different parts of the Union rather than take the form of isolated
measures specific to individual types of area. Nevertheless, such policies
should include cooperation programmes between areas of the same type,
which are tailored to their particular geographical features and which
can bring additional benefit.