The Malta Independent 23 January 2021, Saturday

Insuleur General Assembly and Forum

Thursday, 31 October 2019, 10:07 Last update: about 2 years ago

On 24 and 25 October the Insuleur General Assembly and Forum were held at the Grand Hotel in Mġarr, Gozo. Foreign delegates from Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Jersey attended the events.

Insuleur is the network of the Insular Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the European Union. It was set up in the year 2000 with the primary objective of improving economic and social conditions in European insular regions. It continuously strives to even out the imbalances between continental and insular regions through: collaboration between members; formulating an integrated policy for the development of islands and collaborating with European Union institutions and non-governmental organisations which share the same aims, encouraging initiatives and projects targeted towards fostering economic development in insular regions, making information available and undertaking research activities to facilitate the aforementioned aims being carried out. Currently the GBC holds the presidency of Insuleur.

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During the General Assembly on 24 October which was reserved for Insuleur members only, themes such as Blue Growth and Islands, a proposal for revisions to the state aid framework to better target islands' needs, VAT regulations and islands and the issue of refugees, were discussed.

The theme for this year's Insuleur Forum on 25 October was the Digital Transformation of European Islands.

Daniel Borg, CEO of the Gozo Business Chamber opened the forum. Keynote speeches were made by Dr Justyne Caruana, Minister for Gozo, Constantine Michalos, executive vice president of Eurochambres and Juan Gual de Torrella Guasp, president of the Port Authority of the Balearic islands.

Keynote speakers included Linda Randall (Research Fellow/Nordregio), Tony Moretta (CEO/Digital Jersey), Jonathan Mizzi (chief Information officer/Ministry for Gozo), Elias Michelioudakis (Management consultant - Intramuros/European Commission - DG DIGIT), Josianne Cutajar (member of the European Parliament), Professor Theocharis Tsoutsos (director and founder/Renewable & Sustainable Energy Lab, Technical University of Crete), Alex Agius Saliba (member of the European Parliament), Christoph Riedmann (advisor Digital Agenda/Eurochambres), Michael Aim (head of Digital Transformation/French Chamber of Commerce and Industry Network), Giannis Roussos (president/Cyclades Chamber of Commerce), Vassilis Salapats (head of ICT Department/Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Dana Farrugia (CEO/Tech Malta), Dr George Vital Zammit (senior lecturer/University of Malta), Alfred Sant (member of the European Parliament) and Dr Samuel Azzopardi (EPP coordinator NAT Commission, member CIVEX and COTER Commissions/European Committee of the Regions) and Antoni Vicens (director general of External Relations/Balearic Islands Government).

The three panels during the Forum discussed:

 Insular Economies and Digitalisation;

 Insular Chambers' Initiatives for the Digitalisation of Insular Economies and SMEs and

 Towards a Digitalisation Strategy for EU Islands.

The respective panels were moderated by Dr Jonathan Mintoff (Gozo Business Chamber), Henri Malosse (30th president of the European Economic and Social Committee, advisor of the Association of the French Chambers of Commerce) and Dr Gordon Cordina (E-Cubed Islands).

A statement of conclusions and Intent on Developing a Common Digitalisation Strategy for EU islands was formulated as a result of the outcome of the forum. This statement recognised the importance and potential of digitalisation for insular economies where digitalisation can serve as a roadmap "to tackle the difficulties that are generally associated with their geographical isolation by developing stronger links with the main centres of economic activity, developing innovative products and services and diversify business activity".

On the basis of its proceedings the conference recommended that EU islands:

 Educate the community;

 Develop a clear understanding of the digitalisation process so that the critical elements are in place;

 Introduce changes in curricula to upskill their human resources;

 Ensure equality of opportunity;

 Find a delicate balance to allow for sustainable innovation and introduce legislation in order to protect sensitive ecosystems and ensure digital security;

 Transform insular Chambers and SMEs through the exploitation of new and innovative technologies;

 Develop place-based strategies to take concrete actions and promote their territorial potential based on a bottom-up approach.

The forum was concluded by Joseph Borg, president of Insuleur and the Gozo Business Chamber. He highlighted the importance for islands to unite in order to make their voices heard at a European level.


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