EESC calls for tailored pacts to support remote EU regions

In an opinion adopted at its plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has proposed a strategy to address socio-economic challenges facing the EU's islands, mountainous regions, and sparsely populated areas. The EESC is calling for EU action to be taken through cohesion policy, emphasising the need for tailored strategies, reliable data, and specific mechanisms for sustainable growth.

The EU's remote regions face multifaceted challenges – a range of economic, social, environmental, and governance hurdles stalling their progress. Isolated islands grapple with higher costs due to isolation, impacting their development. Climate change poses environmental risks to mountainous areas, affecting key sectors like tourism and industries. Meanwhile, sparsely populated zones confront declining populations and limited accessibility, requiring inventive growth strategies.

Each classification has its distinct geographical, demographic, and developmental characteristics, presenting unique challenges that require tailored approaches and policies for their sustainable growth and development within the EU, explains rapporteur Ioannis Vardakastanis. We are calling for cohesive action at EU level to ensure territorial solidarity, recognising regional uniqueness and aiming to prevent any area from being marginalised

In this own-initiative opinion, the EESC points out that a strong legal basis exists in EU primary law, and urges the EU to act under cohesion policy. The Committee suggests incorporating shared goals into EU cohesion policy documents, and aiming for coordinated exchanges of know-how to turn plans into practical strategies.

The EESC proposes earmarking specific funds for these regions and suggests mechanisms such as an "Islands Pact", "Mountainous Areas Pact", or "Sparsely Populated Areas Pact". These would tailor strategies to each area's unique challenges, mirroring the successful Urban and Rural Pacts.

To address the economic challenges, the EESC recommends addressing the additional operational costs, improving connectivity, and enhancing State aid flexibility. Social issues require a focus on job creation, skills development, and community-building while preserving local culture. Environmental concerns require a prioritisation of energy security, biodiversity preservation, and circular economy solutions.

Accurate data and capacity-building are crucial for informed decisions and tailored solutions. The EESC encourages active participation and dialogue across the EU and national levels, and with local stakeholders. This will ensure better co-ownership and informed policy-making, reflecting the specific circumstances of these distinct areas within the European Union.

Read the opinion