Main challenges faced by EU islands, and mountainous and sparsely populated areas

EESC opinion: Main challenges faced by EU islands, and mountainous and sparsely populated areas

Key points


  • is convinced that there is a solid legal basis that obliges the EU to take action in order to support its islands, mountainous regions and sparsely populated areas, within the framework of EU cohesion policy;
  • calls on the EU Institutions, bodies and the Member States to incorporate, into the relevant EU cohesion policy documents, common priorities and actions based on coordinated exchanges of experience and expertise, covering all the types of regions mentioned in Art. 174 TFEU;
  • insists on purposefully applying the above provisions in their entirety, in order to address structural and geographical constraints and specific needs that hinder these regions' development;
  • believes in developing tailor-made and place-based opportunities, solutions and policy measures, and earmarking the corresponding funds for the EU's insular, mountainous and sparsely populated areas;
  • believes that it is of utmost importance to commit all actors, both at EU and national levels, to undertake efforts to assist the EU islands, mountainous areas and sparsely populated areas to meet the challenges they face. This commitment may take the form of a pact, along the same lines as the Urban Pact or the Rural Pact;
  • acknowledges that the main axis of the EU strategy for each of the three types of areas is their "disconnection" from the mainland and from centres of economic developments in their respective countries;
  • proposes adopting a coordinated and interactive method of drafting and implementing the relevant strategies, involving stakeholders from several policy sectors and different governance levels;
  • points out the lack of sufficient statistical data and impact assessments of EU sectorial policies in all three types of regions in question (islands, mountainous regions and sparsely populated areas);
  • recommends that for each category of regions, three preliminary sets of issues are included in the relevant strategies – economic issues, social issues and environmental issues that have strong territorial impacts on each of the types of regions concerned;
  • recommends that focus should be given on ensuring the competitiveness and attractiveness of the territories in question, taking into account any additional operating costs deriving from the regions' "handicaps";
  • believes that addressing social issues should entail strengthening good governance and promoting social cohesion and well-being in these regions' communities, by addressing constraints such as demographic challenges, related infrastructure, services and housing needs;
  • believes sustainable capacity building is a cross-cutting issue for all three types of regions in all the above sets of issues;
  • firmly believes and advocates that this entire exercise should involve direct and frank dialogue, including all relevant stakeholders where appropriate (Member States, regional and local authorities, social partners, and the populations).