Thirty-ninth Report of Session 2012-13 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


10   Strategy for the outermost regions of the EU

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COM(12) 287

Commission Communication: The outermost regions of the European Union — towards a partnership for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth

Legal base
DepartmentBusiness, Innovation and Skills
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 26 March 2013
Previous Committee ReportHC 86-xi (2012-13), chapter 6 (5 September 2012)
Discussion in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared

Background

10.1  Since 1999, the EU has recognised the specific circumstances of its outermost regions[35] resulting from their remoteness, small size, and economic dependence on a small number of products, and, since 2004, action to address these problems has been based on improving accessibility and competitiveness, and promoting integration with neighbouring regions. Since 2008, there has also been an additional focus on making the most of such assets as their potential for tourism and as a source of renewable energy, the opportunities they provide for the development of space, astrophysics and satellite activities, their importance to global biodiversity, and their capacity to spread EU influence in neighbouring regions.

10.2  This Commission Communication sets out how it can work with the outermost regions to create growth there, whilst taking into account each region's special characteristics and allowing it to design its own approach. In particular, it says that there needs to be greater emphasis on creating jobs, as well as a comprehensive approach to climate action, and it suggests that the renewed strategy should involve improved accessibility to the single market; increased competitiveness through modernisation and diversification; strengthening regional integration; reinforcing the social dimension; and main-streaming climate action into all relevant policies. This in turn would involve action in a number of areas, including Cohesion policy; continuing support through the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF); the development of traditional sectors, such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism, alongside increased support for emerging sectors; developing entrepreneurship; integration into the single market through the development of trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks, the digital single market, the adaptation of EU state aid and public procurement rules, specific taxation and customs regimes, better information, improved education and skills, consumer policy and health; and protecting the environment. The strategy's external dimension would also play a key part in areas such as trade and fisheries, new and more efficient air and maritime routes, local energy markets, improved electronic communication networks, and increased labour mobility.

10.3  As we noted in our Report of 5 September 2012, the Government supported this renewed strategy in principle, but had noted that the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-20 had not yet been agreed, whereas the Commission's proposals had included a co-financing rate of 85% for the outermost regions under the Cohesion Fund regardless of economic situation, and an increased allocation under the ERDF, thereby placing additional pressure on the EU budget at a time when there was a need for restraint. Consequently, it would want to ensure that the proposed arrangements were adopted within a framework of budgetary restraint called for in the current economic climate. In view of this, we said that, although the document did not in itself raise any issues which required further consideration, we thought it right to hold the document under scrutiny, pending further information on the actual level of EU expenditure to be devoted to this area.

Minister's letter of 26 March

10.4  We have now received from the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise (Michael Fallon) a letter of 26 March, drawing attention to the agreement reached by the February 2013 European Council on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework for 2014-20, and to its implications for the strategy set out in this Communication. He says that the outermost regions will be subject to the same allocation criteria for the Structural and Cohesion funds as other EU regions, and that there will be a slight reduction from €40 to €30 in the special provisions under which they have received additional funding per inhabitant. He adds that the overall budget for European Territorial cooperation for 2014-20 will be broadly similar to funding levels in 2007-13, and that the Government is content with these arrangements.

Conclusion

10.5  We are grateful to the Minister for this update, and we are now content to clear this document.


35   Currently defined in the TFEU as the four French overseas departments and regions (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Reunion) and one overseas territory (St Martin); the two autonomous Portuguese regions (the Azores and Madeira); and one Spanish autonomous Community (the Canary Islands). Back


 
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