The European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC), which took place in Brussels from 7 to 10 October 2019, is a key moment for the CPMR Islands Commission to voice the interests of its island member regions to representatives of EU institutions.
In that respect, the Islands Commission was represented in a workshop focusing on ‘Mediterranean insularity: challenges and future’, with the participation of Gilles Simeoni, President of the CPMR Islands Commission and President of the Executive Council of Corsica, Justyne Caruana, Minister for Gozo, Francesca Lluch Armengol Socias, President of the Balearic Islands and Eleni Marianou, CPMR Secretary-General, who moderated the debate. Mrs. Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis, Executive Councilor of the Executive Council of Corsica and Rapporteur of the Committee of the Regions on the future European Territorial Cooperation attended the workshop, as well as MEPs François Alfonsi (Greens/FR), Alex Agius Saliba (S&D/MT) and Josianne Cutajar (S&D/MT).
Discussions focused on specific issues related to insularity in the Mediterranean basin, such as connectivity gaps and the effects of climate change. At the conclusion of the session, Gilles Simeoni, Justyne Caruana and Francesca Lluch Armengol Socias signed a joint political Declaration on the need to pay particular attention to Mediterranean islands and to design more flexible EU policies to adapt them to the specificities of islands, in particular regarding state aids. On this occasion, Gilles Simeoni said “We are European, island and Mediterranean citizens. For us, the Mediterranean area is a strategic priority. We are not asking to breach EU law but only to implement the existing European legislative provisions enshrined in Article 174 of the Treaty which state that specific conditions require specific solutions.”
In addition, the Islands Commission was once again partner in a workshop organised by DG Regional and Urban Policy (REGIO) of the European Commission, together with territorial associations Euromontana and North Sweden European Office: ‘Europe closer to citizens of islands, mountains, and sparsely populated areas’. The workshop aimed at discussing the post-2020 Cohesion Policy and how it can concretely be implemented in the various specific territories of the EU. It focused on the use of integrated territorial strategies and territorial tools in Cohesion Policy programmes, in light of the new Commission’s proposal for the post-2020 programming period. In its proposal, the new ‘Policy Objective 5’ of Cohesion Policy ‘Europe closer to citizens’ has a specific objective dedicated to the integrated territorial development of ‘non-urban territories’ such as islands and puts a strong emphasis on the promotion of territorial tools, namely Territorial Investments (ITIs), Community-Led Local Development (CLLD) or other types of existing territorial tools at national level. It was presented in detail by the European Commission (here) to help to manage authorities and practitioners for the upcoming preparation of the new generation of Cohesion Policy programmes for 2021-2027.
The Islands Commission was represented by CPMR Secretary General Eleni Marianou who stated that “The proposal from the European Commission to reinforce the territorial dimension of post-2020 Cohesion Policy is a step in the right direction, however, islands and other types of specific EU territories should not be relegated to lower sub-objectives but be fully addressed and recognised in all levels of the policy.” Indeed, she stressed that for the current 2014-2020 programming period there is a very low take-up of territorial tools among CPMR Island Member Regions, among which were highlighted the complexity of the rules and often the lack of time and available human resources within small local and regional administrations.
The CPMR Islands Commission is, therefore, suggesting for the post-2020 programming period to set up a specific support desk or unit within DG REGIO to provide tailored-made support and guidance to island managing authorities. This ‘one-stop-shop’ for islands should also enhance coordination between all the relevant European Commission services and therefore between key EU sectoral policies for islands (Cohesion Policy, Energy, Climate, Competition, etc.). Ms Marianou added: “Beyond Cohesion Policy, we need a much stronger political recognition of the territories mentioned in Article 174 of the Treaty at EU level, this is why we are asking the European Commission to launch a White Paper on Territorial Cohesion as soon as possible, with concrete proposals and measures targeting EU specific territories in a cross-cutting and integrated way.”