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Conference on the Future of Europe: the EU won’t fill development gaps among territories without a clear strategy for islands

*Local and regional leaders of European islands stressed the need of more
particular consideration in the debates of the Conference on the Future of
Europe (COFE) as well as the lack of a long-term strategy for EU islands to
reduce regional disparities.*

The importance to include European islands’ inputs, needs and concerns in
the debate of the *Conference on the Future of Europe*
was highlighted by local and regional decision-makers at today’s event
“Cohesion our fundamental value – a contribution from European islands to
the Conference on the Future of Europe”, organised by the *European
Committee of the Regions* of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), in the framework of their work within the *#CohesionAlliance*
.
Representatives of islands from all over Europe explained their visions and
stressed that the EU should have a clear and consistent strategy for its
islands, which *are home to over 20.5 million inhabitants*, giving them the specific attention prescribed by the Treaties.

Opening the high-level conference, *Nathalie Sarrabezolles*
(FR/PES), Chair of the CoR Com

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“*Defending the principle of cohesion as a value – i.e. to defend its
inclusion in all European policies – also means ensuring that the European
Union is present in solidarity in all regions in order to help them realise
their potential, which is an extraordinary opportunity for the EU as a
whole*”*.*

*Rosario Sánchez Grau*, Regional Minister for Finance and External
Relations of Balearic Islands (ES), stated on behalf of the CPMR Islands
Commission Presidency: “*The long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas*
*published last year sets an inspiring precedent, and we call the European Commission
to follow suit. The idea to create a reference framework that could steer
future long-term policy addressing specific areas should be at the core of
an EU Strategy for the islands”.*

*Christian Solinas* (IT/ECR), President of the Sardinia Region and first signatory, on behalf
of a wide interregional island partnership, of a petition in support of the
today’s high-level conference, highlighted that “*there is no specific
strategy for the islands and no specific legal arrangements, similar to
those envisaged for the outermost regions, to respond to the challenges we
tackle on a daily basis, as government authorities. The homogeneous
application of the same rules to profoundly dissimilar territorial
situations is a violation of the substantive equality principles*.” He
therefore called on the CoR to make island regions’ voice heard in the
upcoming institutional debate. “

*By asking for a specific European legal
status, we are not asking for a condition of privilege, but for tools for
the economic and demographic survival of our territories*,” he said. *The Conference on the Future of Europe has been a tremendous opportunity
to gather views of citizens all over the EU on priorities and future
direction of the European Union.

The EU needs to listen to all people,
whoever they are, wherever they live*,” said *Kieran McCarthy*
(IE/EA), member of Cork City Council. He further emphasized that islands
have special needs and are facing specific challenges, structural
disadvantages and constraints. In order for citizens to fully reap the
benefits of the European integration, the EU must engage more with them*. *Mr
McCarthy is a member of *the delegation* of representatives of cities and regions to the Conference on the Future of Europe. regions *are home to over 20.5 million inhabitants*
(Eurostat, 2020), which represent 4.6% of the EU’s population. They belong
to 13 Member States. *Article 174 TFEU* defines island regions as being in need of particular attention in terms of
the Union aim to reduce disparities in development levels between the
various regions within and across Member States. *Article 349 TFEU*
creates a clear legal basis for special measures for outermost regions.

However, there is no common EU strategy for all islands so far. A necessary
step that the islands expect from COFE would therefore be the creation of
an initiative dedicated to their revitalisation, extending the scope beyond
the Mediterranean islands to the islands in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea
and the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Their specific challenges, but
also their assets and potential, need further attention in order to adapt
them to the specificities of each EU sea basin.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a citizen-driven debate and
discussion series that provides a unique and timely opportunity for
European citizens to discuss Europe’s challenges and priorities. The
Conference has entered its final phase, where work on the final outcomes is
underway. Visit the *COFE website*

The CoR supports European islands through its interregional group on
insularity by providing a platform for all islands to discuss ways to
ensure equal development opportunities. In addition, the *#CohesionAlliance
*
raises
awareness of the crucial role of cohesion policy for all regions and
cities, with the fundamental value of leaving no region and no person
behind.

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