Archive for People
ESIN is proud to announce that we will collaborate with INSULEUR and EESC in organizing a Public Hearing on Entrepreneurship on Islands in Brussels on June,2
It is a follow-up of the “Smart Island” and “Inclusive Island” initiatives adopted by the EESC and the opinion on “Entrepreneurship on Islands: contributing towards territorial cohesion”, to be adopted by the Committee of Regions next May.
Background: As we esiners know, most of our SMEs are micro-enterprises – with fewer than ten employees – which produce and produce a large part of the economic value in islands. Craft professions – carpenter, butcher, baker, roofer, metal worker or information technician – are at the heart of islands communities. They produce mainly within their local base, ensure jobs and vocational training for young and old, and make an essential contribution to innovation in the European economy. Craft and small enterprises face particular problems due to their small size and limited resources. The globalisation of the economy and enlargements of the EU have also considerably changed the challenges that these enterprises face. Starting up a new business and getting the required capital is a challenge, as is finding the right kind of finance to expand an established business. Due to their limited resources and remoteness they suffer more from red tape and administrative burdens than mainland enterprises.
Objective: the public hearing will examine if existing policies and tools to support SMEs are sufficient for insular SMEs or some new tools or mechanism, mentioned also in the opinions, are needed to help these companies to tackle obstacles and participate on a equal foot in the integration process and assure therefore a level playing field.
The program is attached.
At the EESC Public Hearing 7th of February, Croatian MEP Tonino Picula mentioned that the islands of Europe, if grouped together, would rank as Europe’s ninth nation. I double-checked him, making a table based on Wikipedia, from which I excluded islands that are nations (Great Britain, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta) but included all the remaining 2.136 ones, summing up their areas and their populations.
The result is a complex, widespread, divided, illusive island nation with an area of 454,753 km2 and with 18,889,077 inhabitants. Were it a nation, it would population-wise place itself after Romania but before Kazakstan. Counting by area, it would rank as the 4th nation of Europe, just after Norway. Assuming humans are more important than land, the islands of Europe grouped together would rank as the number 11 among the 50 sovereign states of Europe. Were it a nation, it might be called ISLANDIA.
Is this 11th nation of Europe different from the other 28 nations of Europe? Yes: it has some very valuable assets: (1) shores, that attract hundreds of millions of tourists every year; (2) seas, that contain tides, waves, oil, gas, fish, motorways of the seas as well as more ordinary waterways; (3) unrivalled natural and cultural heritages.
This 11th imaginary nation also has an invisible obstacle surrounding it: remoteness – a permanent handicap causing extra costs for its small-scale societies, enterprises and inhabitants. There are 671 ro-pax ferries connecting the islands with the mainland. On the one thousand smaller islands, 38% of the total energy spent is used for sea transports, larger islands somewhat less. To reengineer these sea transport systems would be an economical, ecological and social revolution.
On January 30, island Mayors Spyridon Galinos (Lesbos) and Giusi Nicolini (Lampedusa and Linosa) received the Olof Palme prize 2016.
Both are in Stockholm to receive the prize, hailed for their inspiring leadership, for having saved thousands of refugees and for showing it is more important to protect people than the protect borders.
Nicolini and Galinos tells of the often overcrowded inflatables with terrified, frozen passengers who started coming to their islands. In Lampedusa it culminated in connection with the Arab Spring, in 2011 when over 25,000 people arrived in two months. In Lesbos, the first boats came in winter 2014-2015.
The lack of timely support from their own governments and the EU forced the two mayors to organise care for thousands of refugees – and at the same time calm their local communities. Spyridon Galinos did not sleep many hours a night during the first ten months of 2015, when approximately 400,000 fugitives came ashore on Lesbos. slept.
– We had to stay calm. I spoke a lot with my islanders about wars and conflicts leading to situations which are not the refugees’ fault, says Galinos. Much of what we saw was shocking: mothers with small children and people cried and kissed the ground. But knowing that we saved lives gave us power.
The situation is different today. EU agreement with Turkey has resulted in fewer boats coming to Lesbos. 5500 migrants on the island is manageable and Galinos is proud of the accommodation which local forces operate. Nicolini has gone a round with her own government to get the neighboring islands of Lampedusa and Linosa recognized as the first reception centers, where no refugees should stay longer than a week. Both warn that the number of unaccompanied children is high.
Both are critical of the restrictive refugee policies in the EU and the “moral dark time” that prevails. At present they rely on working locally and through a network of European mayors who seems to have their hearts in the right place.
Camille Dressler, chairperson of ESIN, lives on the small island of Eigg (30 km2, 80 residents). “I was living in France studying English, and my boyfriend’s mother found us this place on Eigg for a winter let so we came to spend the winter here to study, write and paint!”
The islanders took ownership of Eigg in 1997. Looking back on her time as a director of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, she said “Before the buyout we were just surviving. After the buyout, we could look ahead and build a solid future. Ten years later, we have put together the first renewable energy system that integrated sun, wind and water and our young people are coming back. This just shows what can be done if you give power to the community.”
Camille is devoted to community empowerment and community energy, as well as heritage and the arts. She is studying energy arts such as qi gong and dao yin yoga, also writing and making arty crafty things. A Gaelic learner, she has established a small croft museum modelled on the Spinster House she visited in the island of Huksara, on one of the ESIN inter island trips to Finland. She has also created a bilingual crofting trail to go with it. Her first project was a shoe-string presentation of the island’s history, geology and wildlife in the the island’s former shop, involving the island children in creating the artwork as part of the Eigg Primary school Green flags. Having spent much time recording the older inhabitants of Eigg, she became the island historian, writing the tale of her island: “Eigg. The Story of an island” published in 1998, from which I quote: …”a new sort of Gall has come to the land of the Gaidheal. I am one of them”…
As a Director she helped build the organisation that owns and runs the Isle of Eigg, experiencing at first hand the benefits of working in a co-operative way. She has seen the role that creative thinking and learning as a group can have in improving community dynamics.
Now, she is the chair of the Scottish Islands Federation, representing the Small Isles Community Council (the islands of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna) on its board. She was also elected as Chair of the European Small Islands Federation in September 2016 for which we are very happy.
You must be brave to live on such a small, remote island as Eigg, you must be brave to go all the way to Brussels with your propositions, and you need to be witty to overcome the people who disregard such propositions with the ever-prevalent buzzkill phrase, “it can’t be done.”
It can be done. We can do it. Camille and her fellow islanders proved it. On Saturday 21 January, they were marching in solidarity with the US women, the Eigg march being the second smallest in the world wide event!
On the French islands Ouessant (Ushant), the new year begins well as little Leane was born on 3rd of January. She shook up her parents, the medical services and the island statistics to become the first baby to be born on the island of Ouessant for a good thirty years.
The future mom ouessantine was about to take the Monday 16:30 boat to Brest, in anticipation of her imminent delivery, not wanting to quit her job at the local supermarket too early. The unborn baby decided otherwise while her mother was still on the Stiff landing stage.
The firefighters and the island doctor were called, the future mother was placed in the fire truck and taken to the airfield, waiting for the arrival of the airborne mainland medical services. It was there that Leane was born, around 5.45 pm. “It was in the open air and everyone brought blankets,” says an islander.
The last birth on the island dates back to June 18, 1986. A little girl, too. And, wink of fate, the brother of the young mother, born on October 6, 1985, was the penultimate birth to Ouessant. He was born at the motherhood of the island, which has since been transformed into a youth hostel.2017 is starting off well on Ouessant which just got its 879th inhabitant. Happy New Year!
Which books, songs or poems have had the strongest influence on our common image of what an island is?
Is it Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe”, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” or Ernest Hemingway’s “Islands in the Stream”? Is it Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” or Enid Blyton’s “Five on a Treasure Island”? Is it Paul Simon’s “I am a rock, I am an island” or is it John Donne’s “No man is an island”? Is it Jules Verne’s “l’Ile Mysterieuse”, Walt Disney/Carl Barks’ “Floating Island” or Hergé’s “L’Ile Noir”?
Which literary contribution has had most influence on the human concept of an “island”?