Alfred Sant includes Gozo’s special circumstances in resolution on island regions’ insularity

Alfred Sant MEP

A Resolution on the insularity of island regions at the European Parliament has been amended by Maltese MEP Alfred Sant to address Gozitans’ concerns that the island’s special circumstances warrant special treatment.  In an explanation of vote, Dr. Sant highlighted the significant problems that arise for islands like Gozo without a national capital, attached to an island state. “Here, given the double insularity, depopulation persists even when economic growth prevails. Purely quantitative measures fail to account for this problem. “I refer to the island of Gozo. Even now, with economic growth running at over 4 per cent per annum in the Maltese islands, young people in Gozo tell you they have no future in their island.” said Dr. Sant.

Dr. Sant said that depopulation in small EU islands will become irreversible unless exceptional measures are allowed which do not necessarily comply with wider EU rules and policies. “These would involve a deeper economic intervention of the public sector in partnership with private business to create new enterprises, new jobs especially for young people. Digital ventures, financial services, artisanal and farming enterprises and health services could all be targeted to reverse depopulation, both when the national economy is performing healthily and when it is weak.”

The resolution, approved by the European Parliament, states that Island regions have common and specific characteristics and features that clearly distinguish them from mainland regions such as certain permanent handicaps which require particular attention. It refers to the fact that EU islands are also peripheral regions situated on the EU’s external borders and are particularly vulnerable to the challenges which Europe is currently facing. It states that intensive tourism concentrated only in certain periods of the year and not effectively planned might entail risks for the environmentally sustainable development of island region. It calls for better connectivity through maritime routes, improved access to ports and better air transport services. It asks at the Commission to launch an in-depth study/analysis on the extra costs incurred as a result of being islands, in terms of the transport system for people and goods, energy supply and access to markets, in particular for SMEs. It stresses furthermore, that the digital capacity is a vital means of counterbalancing the connectivity handicaps of island regions.