The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

A new pact for European Islands

Josianne Cutajar Sunday, 12 June 2022, 16:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

This week I was honoured with an overwhelming majority vote in favour of the Islands and Cohesion Policy Report, a file which I worked directly upon as a negotiator on behalf of the Socialists. We are pushing for the European Union to enter into a Pact with its Islands and adopt a strong strategy, including a specific impact assessment as to the effects that proposals and laws being put forward will have on islanders and citizens alike. This strong call emanates from the belief that the EU needs to start understanding the realities which insular regions face, when compared to the mainland and assist them not to fall behind.

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This week I made it clear at the European Parliament's plenary that the EU must do more for its islands. During the debates we had, I emphasised that while the Fit for 55 package contains essential ambitions and targets that we all need to achieve, it still does not give enough consideration and attention to the realities faced by our islands and the business emanating from them; these require adequate assistance so they too could achieve the environmental transition successfully.

Certain aspects of the Fit for 55 Package pose considerable concerns for islands and territories at the periphery, also due to their reliance on aviation and maritime transport; not as a choice of their own but because they are constrained to use these means of transport due to their geographical specificities. Accordingly, such matters need to be considered when developing policies and legislation for the whole of the Union. After all, European islands, too, are part of the EU and therefore the EU's policies and legislation should also consider their needs and those of their citizens. Indeed, we must strive for an environmental transition which does not leave people behind.

The challenges faced by islands have been neglected for far too long. I have experienced first-hand the geographical disadvantages of coming from an island member state. So too have fellow citizens that struggle with mobility and small businesses that bear the extra costs of insularity for their daily operations. From continued flexibility on state aid to supporting small businesses, from strengthening connectivity to promoting sustainable tourism; these are all concrete examples of how we can help our islands to successfully achieve the digital and, especially, the environmental targets that are being put forward.

Permanent disadvantages require permanent solutions. Concrete actions are thus needed to support insular regions in their current and future challenges, even more so since islands too deserve to compete on a level playing field with the better connected and more central parts of the Union.

Putting these regions on the EU's political agenda is the only way forward to enhance the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the most peripheral areas of the Union. It is the only way in which Maltese and Gozitans can feel as European as those living in Brussels, Paris and Berlin. The strong majority vote in favour of this report and the cross-party collaboration on it is a demonstration of the need that the EU starts paying special attention to our islands. This is ultimately a point of social justice with the Maltese, Gozitans and other islanders alike. I remain steadfast and committed to continue working hard in this regard.

 

Josianne Cutajar is a member of the European Parliament

 

 


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