An initiative report by GUE/NGL ‘s Younous Omarjee that calls on the Council to better integrate the EU’s remote outermost regions such as Guadaloupe, Martinique, the Azores and the Canary Islands, and to uphold EU solidarity has been debated by MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday evening.
This report comes just a few months ahead of the Commission’s new policies for the outermost regions.
Even though these outermost regions are fully integrated into the Union through the Treaty’s Article 349, in reality, their developments and potential are often handicapped by the remote locations, small size, difficult terrain and limited economic development.
Omarjee’s report thus calls on the EU to ensure that the outermost regions enjoy the all-round benefits of being part of the Union through customs and non-discriminatory trade policies and access to EU horizontal programmes. At the same time, the MEP put forward proposals to improve agriculture, fisheries, employment, research and environmental policies for outermost regions.
Speaking at the plenary, Omarjee said:
“What we need for the outermost regions are specific, effective and rapid measures for employment of young people, for fisheries, for access of the outermost regions to all of the EU’s horizontal programmes and trans-European networks of energy and communications.”
“What we are asking for is not an increase in budgetary term, but simply the implementation of policies which are better adapted to the specific situation of the outermost regions as authorised by Article 349 in the EU Treaty,” the Rapporteur argued.
“Personally, the issue at heart is the cross-cutting approach in achieving coherence of EU policies. It is simply wrong that whilst significant efforts are made in terms of the Commission’s Cohesion Policy, some of these benefits are then cancelled out by policies put in place by other parts of the Commission which refuse to fully apply Article 349,” said Omarjee.
“My report therefore calls for a change in terms of trade policies and free trade agreements which often devastate the outermost regions’ fragile economies.”
“To conclude, our concerns for the Cohesion Policy beyond 2020 include the watering down of the objectives of EU solidarity if financial instruments were to replace the subsidies that we currently have.
This will have a major impact upon the outermost regions – and will merely exacerbate the fundamental problems that exist in what are already the EU’s least developed regions,” Omarjee concluded.
Also speaking at the plenary in support of this report, Spanish MEP Ángela Vallina said,
“Outermost regions may have particular vulnerabilities but they also have great potential if proper policies are carried out.”
“The Commission should continue the existing programmes, and develop further strategies and funds that will protect the outermost territories and its people,” Vallina surmised.