EESC’s proposal to support islands, mountainous, and sparsely populated regions

Mar 20, 2024

Author: Miranda García (AEIDL)

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has put forth a strategy to provide support for Europe’s unique territories, including islands, mountainous regions, and sparsely populated areas. Recognising the distinct challenges these regions face, from geographical constraints to limited development opportunities, the EESC’s proposal calls for a cohesive action plan within the EU Cohesion Policy framework to ensure no region is left behind.

Highlighting the urgent need for territorial solidarity, the EESC emphasizes the importance of recognising the uniqueness of each region and preventing marginalisation in terms of development and opportunities. The strategy, grounded in Articles 174 and 175 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), outlines a legal obligation for the EU to act in support of these regions, and to take a tailored approach to address their specific needs.

The EESC’s proposal includes the creation of a pact for islands, mountainous areas, and sparsely populated regions, along the same lines as the Urban Pact or the Rural Pact, in which an EU strategy for each of these types of regions may be developed, taking into account the specificities of each type. These would involve EU bodies, member states, and stakeholders in translating policies into concrete actions. The focus is on leveraging the unique landscapes, cultural heritage, and communities of these areas, reversing their ‘handicaps’ to fully exploit their potential.

The strategy gives special attention to mountain regions, acknowledging their diversity and the challenges they face, such as climate change impacts, biodiversity preservation, and economic diversification. It proposes improved connectivity and the development of sustainable tourism and agriculture as key drivers for these regions, alongside enhanced protection of natural resources and heritage.

For islands and sparsely populated areas, the strategy suggests addressing the economic, social, and environmental challenges through innovation, better connectivity, and the promotion of renewable energy sources, aiming to improve living conditions, economic competitiveness, and environmental sustainability.

Furthermore, the EESC proposes adopting a coordinated and interactive method for the development and implementation of these strategies, involving stakeholders from several policy sectors and different governance levels. This approach is designed to facilitate the exchange of experiences, the sharing of best practices, and the leveraging of existing knowledge and research. The objective is to identify common challenges, define goals, and propose actions, including criteria for assessing the results of the strategies.

However, the proposed method underscores the lack of sufficient statistical data and impact assessments for islands, mountainous regions and sparsely populated areas, highlighting the need for accurate, timely data to inform effective policy-making.

In a way to contribute to the future of mountain areas, MOVING is organising a Scientific Conference in Córdoba from March 19 to 21. This event is set to explore the transformative potential of mountains and their value chains in fostering resilient and sustainable futures. This meeting aims to delve deeper into developing a “policy roadmap” that will be unveiled at the Final Conference in June. This roadmap is expected to outline concrete strategies and innovative measures to support these regions, with an emphasis on the post-2027 programming period.