The CPMR Islands Commission has been working intensively these past months in a wide variety of policy areas in order to best defend the interests of its island members. Here is a short recap of what has been achieved so far as well as fresh news on its upcoming activities and events for 2020:
- Cooperation with EU institutions
The Islands Commission is pleased with the start of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU since January 2020, as this Member State is already highly concerned with the specific situation of islands territories. The IC therefore expects to develop valuable synergies with the Presidency in the next 5 months, notably in the field of energy transition. Indeed, this will be a core priority area of the programme of the Croatian Presidency, which will put in the spotlight the initiative ‘Clean Energy for EU islands’ – a political Declaration adopted 3 years ago during the Maltese Presidency. In addition, the IC will use this timely opportunity to advocate for a White Paper on Article 174 of the Treaty, which states that particular attention has to be paid to specific territories of the EU such as islands. More than ten years after the publication of the Green Paper on territorial cohesion by the European Commission, the aim of this White Paper would be to identify, complement and improve all existing measures and arrangements targeting the specific territories of the EU and to provide a more detailed categorisation of EU islands.
In the Committee of the Regions, the Insular Regions Intergroup, chaired by Gaetano Armao, Vice-President of Sicily Region, issued on 8th January 2020 a ‘Manifesto for European islands’. The Islands Commission strongly supports this initiative aiming at raising awareness on the structural disadvantages faced by island regions and the ‘particular attention’ that these territories and its inhabitants should deserve, as per Article 174 of the EU Treaty. The Manifesto echoes back some of the key political requests from the Islands Commission such as the launch of a White Paper on territorial cohesion, the need to focus on territorial discontinuity and accessibility of EU islands within the EU transport policy or to ensure that all island territories across the EU enjoy the same development opportunities.
Within this context, the Islands Commission has also been regularly in contact with officials from the European Commission (DG REGIO, DG ENVI, DG ENER) these past months and organised several brainstorm meetings in order to set the path towards a ‘Structured dialogue’ between island regions and the European Commission for the year ahead. It will report back on the outcome of these meetings to its members in due time.
- Cohesion Policy
The Islands Commission Secretariat has produced a new technical note on the use of integrated territorial tools in island regions ‘Territorial tools of Cohesion Policy in EU islands: many challenges, untapped opportunities? ‘, which is now accessible through CPMR Members’ area. The IC thanks all its Member Regions that kindly accepted to participate in this study for their valuable contributions!
In the last months, the IC Secretariat followed very closely the developments of the post-2020 Cohesion Policy negotiations, with the support of the CPMR Secretariat. It noted the progress made by the co-legislators who reached a provisional common understanding on some parts of the Common Provisions Regulation, ERDF/Cohesion Fund Regulation and European Territorial Cooperation Regulation at the end of December 2019. At this stage, the IC has identified very specific issues that are still a major source of concern for its Member Regions:
- Overall, the very few considerations of any EU specific areas mentioned in Article 174 of the Treaty such as islands, except for EU outermost regions, which are covered by Article 349.
- The weakening of the provisions on territorial development and of the role of regions in the implementation of territorial strategies (art. 22-23, 28 CPR; art. 8 ERDF)
- Co-legislators remain undecided on whether thematic concentration of ESI funds should apply at national or regional level (art.3, ERDF). In any case, for the Islands Commission, the new thematic concentration requirements should ensure that all island regions benefit from the maximum level of flexibility so that the use of EU funds is tailored-made to match their specific needs.
- In the European Territorial Cooperation Regulation, the Islands Commission welcomes the broad consensus between the European Parliament and the Council to bring back maritime cross-border cooperation within the first strand of Interreg, but warns its members of the inclusion of a new amendment reinstating the limit of 150km between maritime border regions to determine the eligibility for maritime cross-border cooperation (art. 4, ETC). This limit currently prevents some island regions from participating in cross-border cooperation programmes (e.g. Balearic Islands or Corisca/Lazio) and the proposed wording by co-legislators could leave room for such interpretation.
The Islands Commission will continue to follow attentively the progress of the interinstitutional negotiations on these specific issues and will report back to its members accordingly, while focusing more specifically in the next months, in coordination with the CPMR Secretariat, on the start of the programming phase of the new 2021-2027 operational programmes in island regions.
On transport, the IC Secretariat has been particularly involved in the issue of the implementation of EU DIRECTIVE 2016/802 of 11 May 2016 (IMO2020) relating to a reduction in the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels. The Directive requires that as of 1 January 2020 Member States shall take necessary measures to restrict the use of marine fuels containing sulphur in their territorial seas, which could have a significant socio-economic impact for island regions that rely heavily on maritime transport. The IC participated in a meeting held on 18 December 2019 in DG MOVE to raise the specific concerns of its Member Regions and to explore the possibility of compensatory measures for islands.
As part of the transferability activities of the CIVITAS DESTINATIONS project, which aims at testing and evaluating integrated measures for enhancing sustainable mobility in cities facing a high touristic demand, a 2nd round of Call for Applications in now open to benefit from the Replication Funding Award Programme. This programme has a budget of 20.000€ to fund the replication of an action by up to two CPMR Member Regions. The rules for applicants and the application form are available here. The deadline for submission of application for funding is the 7th February 2020. Contact persons: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The next Annual General Assembly of the Islands Commission will take place on 28-30 April in Santa Maria, Azores (PT). More information on the draft programme and practicalities to follow soon.
- The IC is delighted with the renewal of the SEARICA intergroup of the European Parliament, chaired by MEP Tonino Picula (S&D, HR) and the appointment of MEP François Alfonsi (Greens/EFA, FR) as Vice-Chair for islands. The CPMR Secretariat and the IC are already working on a possible event focusing on the island dimension of EU policies, to be held in Strasbourg (FR) during the plenary week of 11-15 May (tbc).
- As part of its activities on circular economy and waste management, the IC has recently launched a call for expressions of interest for a technical study visit in the island of Bornholm (DK), co-organised with BOFA, the waste management agency of Bornholm. This visit could take place between end of May and early June 2020, to be discussed with interested Member Regions. For more information, please contact the IC Secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.