Maritime Affairs

Sea basin strategy: seas around Europe's outermost regions

Sea basin strategy: seas around Europe's outermost regions

Sea basin strategy: seas around Europe's outermost regions

The European Union has 9 'outermost regions':

  • France: Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion, Saint-Martin & Mayotte
  • Portugal: Madeira & the Azores
  • Spain: the Canary Islands

They are an integral part of the European Union and must apply its laws, except where they are subject to specific rules.

An asset to Europe

The outermost regions face the following difficulties in terms of sustainable and harmonious development:

  • remoteness
  • the fact that they are islands
  • small size
  • difficult topography and climate
  • economic dependence on a small number of products.

EU policy therefore focuses on improving accessibility, increasing competitiveness and strengthening regional integration.

However, in the age of globalisation and research to improve competitiveness in Europe, the EU also needs to help develop those growth sectors where these regions have potential for specialisation and a strong comparative advantage.

The outermost regions also have certain advantages, being:

  • outposts of the European Union
  • ideal locations for experimentation to combat the effects of climate change
  • areas of remarkable biodiversity with a wealth of marine ecosystems
  • scientific bases for their geographical areas
  • regions with high-quality agricultural produce

Maritime dimension

The EU has the world's largest maritime territory, with an exclusive economic zone of 25m km². The outermost regions help legitimise the EU's policy of sustainable co-development of the oceans in 3 areas in particular:

  • Macaronesia
  • the Caribbean
  • the south-western Indian Ocean.

Located on shipping routes or straits, the outermost regions occupy an important position for trade and play a role in monitoring coastal waters (to combat illegal fishing, piracy or drug trafficking) and in improving transport security (e.g. oil transport in the Caribbean). They have abundant and relatively well-preserved fishery resources and rich biodiversity. Finally they are an ideal location for research into seabed mining and biotechnologies, particularly those exploiting specific marine resources (e.g. deep-sea hydrothermal springs, tropical ecosystems).

Maritime policy

In its 2008 communication 'The Outermost Regions: an asset for Europe', the Commission proposed the following maritime policy measures:

  • adapting the European Integrated Maritime Policy and the sectorial actions proposed in its action plan to the characteristics of the outermost regions
  • increasing knowledge of maritime affairs and the marine environment and the value of the services provided by marine ecosystems in these regions
  • creating research networks that enhance these regions' role as marine environment observatories for Europe
  • encouraging them to play a strategic role in maritime governance and monitoring
  • encouraging maritime links between these regions and neighbouring non-EU countries, to strengthen trade and cultural exchange.

Key documents

  • The Outermost Regions: an asset for Europe, Brussels, 17.10.2008, COM(2008) 642 final
  • Strategy for the Outermost Regions: Achievements and Future Prospects, Brussels, 12.9.2007, COM(2007) 507 final

Links to related policies

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