European Small Islands Federation

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Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

This quote, often (falsely) attributed to Winston Churchill, fits well to special advisor Brendan Devlin’s ambitions for the meeting arranged in Brussels on the 5-6th of March 2018. The topic was the clean energy for EU Islands Initiative, the purpose was to listen to the islanders and Brendan Devlin has a particular interest in the EU islands’ potential for faster decarbonisation.

DG ENER’s vision is to speed up the EU countries’ move from fossil fuel dependency and they are starting with the islands.

15 million

Setting up a secretariat

Anna Colucci, Head of unit DG ENER opened the meeting which was attended by about 30 participants, representing both islands and EU institutions. How can we make the decarbonizing of all European the islands work? was the question asked, considering that islands are now seen as innovation leaders in this field. The Commission will set up a Clean Energy Islands Secretariat in Brussels. The 2 year secretariat with a budget of 2 millions will carry out benchmarking studies, awareness rasing and capacity building for islands decarbonization plans.

After this period, the intention is to replace the secretariat with an Island Facility through a tender or call within Horizon 2020 which will be worth 10 Millions euros.

A holistic view on energy

It was stressed that the energy concept covers energy in a broad and holistic perspective: it means heating, cooling, electricity, transport on islands and to and from islands as well as blue energy.  It is important not isolate energy from other issues, but to find and use synergies. “Good solutions are welcomed, not only future solutions”, said Brendan Devlin . “What is better might not be what is best, it has to be better than today´s situation.” Highlighting best practice being very important, to that end, presentations from the island of Öland’s biogas scheme and the ambitious wind and desalination schemes in the Canaries were made which elicited very good feedback.

Speakers from DG ENER, DG REGIO, DG CLIMA, DG INNOVATION AND RESEARCH DG ENVIRONMENT, all contributed their various perspectives, including simplification for administrations for new projects (where ESIN has been active) and the obligatory task for member states to have a One-Place-Stop for contacts/new projects.

Small islands are included

The issue of the smaller islands not being visible at NUTS level is taken into consideration as within the NUTs area definition there are only 700 islands when there in fact are 2,000 more, making a total of 2,700.

Denis & Camille.jpg

Denis Bredin and Camille Dressler, ESIN

What do islands want?

The islands were asked what were their main issues:

– ESIN, represented by chairman Camille Dressler and Denis Bredin from AIP/France, said the smaller island communities perspective is really important, making sure smaller renewable energy suppliers had access to the market and were able to reap the benefits locally.

– From the Netherlands, how to involve the user side of the energy issues was the question, It was not all about the supplier.

– The Balearic islands explained their plans for the further development of their ecotourism tax and a goal of total decarbonization by 2050 hampered by lack of national political will.

– The Greek islands would like DG ENER to consider microfinance and project consultation for smaller projects not just big ones as in Horizon2020 as a number of islands are very small and do not have the resources to participate in large projects.

– Storage was the main issue for the Azores.

– Cyprus wanted to see more cooperation between citizens and local authorities.

– The Faroes islands want to decarbonize their fishing fleet.

We appreciated DG ENER’s will to sit down and listen. This two-way discussion was promising, and another meeting is planned after the summer which will include a travel budget. In the meantime, DG ENER wants to hear from as many islands associations and organisations as possible.

There is a difference between listening and just waiting for your turn to speak. Thank you Brendan.

Brendan Devlin

Brendan Devlin, DG ENER

Congratulations Estonia


100 years ago the peace talks between Soviet Russia and the German Empire collapsed and the Germans accupied mainland Estonia (but not the islands). The Estonian National Council Maapäev issued an Estonian Declaration of Independence on 23 February, 1918. It was read to the people from the balcony of the Endla Theatre in Pärnu at eight o’clock in the evening but not until next morning, Estonia was publicly proclaimed as an independent and democratic republic. It was the 24 February 2018.

There was not yet a happy ending, however. Next day, German troops entered Tallinn. The German authorities recognised neither the provisional government, nor its claim for Estonia’s independence, counting them as a self-styled group usurping sovereign rights of the German-Baltic nobility.

Imperial germany was crushed in the First World War and Estonian was free from 1920. With  the outbreak of the Second World War, Estonia was invaded first by Soviet and then by Germany and then by Soviet again, who made it a Soviet Union until 1991.

Estonia is a strange country: they sing a lot, they don’t go to church, there much more women than men (100/84) and they have 800 islands more than hitherto believed. The official number of Estonian islands now stands at 2,355 if you count islands in lakes.

This is one third more than previously believed and due to improved survey methods showing that Estonia has a total of 2,355 islands and islets, instead of the previously held 1,521.

However, only 318 of these are larger than 1 hectare, or 10,000 square meters.

Agnes Jürjens from the Land Board says improved technology allowed researchers to succesfully map small, previously unaccounted for islets and holms. “In addition, the ground has risen in northern and western Estonia, and the changing water level, as well as storms, can also alter the coastline,” she explained.

The news might come as further blow to neighboring Latvia, which has a famously low number of islands, officially at 1, and that too is man-made. Latvia did issue claims to Runö = Ruhnu at the beginning of last century, but the island, which lies closer to Latvia than Estonia, was added to Estonia in 1919.

One way to reach Estionian islands is on the ice roads used in winter. It is an unusual “fixed link” and a beautiful experience.


“Islands are closed systems in need of an integrated approach.”

Wioletta-2.jpgWhen in Favignana for the Greening the Islands 2017, we met with Wioletta Dunin-Majewska who is a Policy Coordinator at the European Commission’s DG Energy, and a colleague of Brendin Devlin, well-known for us at ESIN.

She made a presentation entitled “clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative”, which we would like to briefly retell:

The Clean Energy Package is DG Energy’s biggest package ever. It comprises 8 legislative proposals under discussion in the Council and the Parliament.

The goal is for the EU to become a low carbon economy via transition of its energy system by:

– putting energy efficiency first

– achieving global leadership in renewable energies

– providing a fair deal for consumers

This package was presented by commissioner Marie Donnelly during the FOP22 meeting in  Marrakech on 14th of November 2016. She said: ”islands are in the package”, and we could the Commission urged the Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Investment Bank to consider that “islands and island regions provide platforms for pilot initiatives on clean energy transition and can serve as showcases at international level” (Work Programme Annex dated 30.11.2016).

This was followed by the Malta Declaration on May 17, where the Commission and 14 member States agreed to launch the “Clean Energy for Islands” initiative which will accelerate the clean energy transition on EU’s 2,700 islands, help islands reduce dependency and costs of energy imports by using RES, embrace modern and innovative energy systems, and improve air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

At the Chania Inaugural Forum in Crete September 22, 2107, there was an overwhelming endorsement on highest ecehelon. The Package has thus move through the European political machine in just 10 months, which is a speed record.

The package is becoming more and more tangible. Islands are seen as innovation leaders. They can demonstrate how decarbonisation creates resilient energy systems, create new jobs and foster economic development.

The goal is ambitious: to decarbonise 1,000 island by 2030.

There will be a secretariat for the initiative to help launching decarbonisation plans on islands, host a stakeholder’s exchange platform, as well as organise yearly forums. An islands facility will be set up to support comprehensive energy transitions in preparatory and implementation phase under Horizon 2020, which will be the source of funding, both for making plans and to finance actions. DG Energy talks of a 2-directional approach: some 10 front-runners, and bottom-up partnership with national and regional organisations of islands.

Wioletta said: – “Islands are closed systems in need of an integrated approach.”

Favignanan Castle-1Favignana sunset

Hellenic Small Islands Network


Greek nature is abundant and rich, as reflected in the variety of local crops and goods produced on the small Greek islands. Their agro-food items —although produced in limited quantities— are distinguished by their high quality. These superior products can therefore be included in gourmet categories. Realistically, production and sales of local agro-grain products from many small Greek Islands have the potential for further development.

The Hellenic Network of Small Islands – HSIN – has begun to track local products of the small islands. Their goal is to map and promote local products to enhance our islands’ profile and to increase public awareness of the valuable resources our islands produce.

The transfer of know-how from other national or European regions —with similarly successful examples— is vital in the effort to in facilitate the selection of the right processes needed to strengthen the agro-food market sector.

The social economy of the small islands is crucial to this endeavor. HSIN has researched and conducted studies on this significant subject including: study of the institutional framework of social enterprises; microcredit development study for women; microcredit business office operating plan; social economy guide; social economy study; promotion of corporate social responsibility and sponsoring the social economy in island regions; planning study and monitoring system organization; study for the development and promotion of financial instruments with particular emphasis on microcredit; study recording business operations and third sector bodies in island regions; study for the creation of an observation center for the monitoring and recording of the social economy sector in the island regions; study for the creation of an island network – a social economy observation centre; organization of workshops on specialized topics for potential and existing entrepreneurs; training of potential and existing entrepreneurs etc. It is an implementation of one of the largest projects in the Equal development partnership, called Telemachos.

Another important factor for the agro-food chain of the smaller islands, is the development of production infrastructure, and packaging and sales to markets beyond the island. Today, in some small islands, production and distribution is still in its infancy and the involvement of the state should be apparent, lasting and supportive.


The Hellenic Small Island Network is a Non-Profit organization with members comprised mainly of island municipalities with a population of less than 5,000.

It was founded in 2007 and operates throughout Greece (North Aegean, South Aegean, Ionian, Argosaronic, Sporades islands etc).

The mission of HSIN is to develop the human and social resources of the islands. To this end, HSIN seeks to support the societies and municipalities of the small islands in all matters relating to their development, including Greek administration and the European Union.

HSIN are members of:

The Island Policy Council, which is under the authority of the Prime Minister

The Pan-European Federation of Small Island Networks.

The Yacht Transport Council

The Project Management Team of the General Secretariat of the Aegean and Island Policy

The Bureau of the Council of Social Control of ERT (Greek Radio Broadcasting)

HSIN is a member of the Monitoring Committees NSRF 2007-2013 in the Regions of North Aegean, South Aegean, Ionian, Peloponnese and Western Greece. HSIN participates in the consultation of the New NSRF 2001-4-2020 as a social partner and member of the Monitoring Committees for the Ionian Region.

HSIN has implemented European programs, participated in legislative discussions in Parliament, and have shown our continuous presence since the Council’s founding. At European Union level, it has participated in actions and consultations concerning the small islands and have excellent cooperation with all the coordinating bodies of the European Commission and European Parliament.

HSIN is a registered member of the EU Transparency Register. Its delegations have often participated in various activities (conferences, seminars or meetings) in Brussels and continue to be a member – observer of key European bodies supporting island policy. It is an institutional interlocutor with the European Commission of Insular and Coastal Areas, Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions.

And, as the readers of this blog are well aware of. HSIN has the Vice-Presidency of ESIN – the European Federation of Small Islands, through its president Eleftherios Kechagioglou.


The 2017 3rd European Rural Parliament

A Rural Parliament is a forum established in the 1990’s to give the rural population of a nation a voice. First established in Sweden 28 years ago (1989), then in Swedish-speaking Finland (1990), Estonia (1996), Hungary (1998), Slovakia (2001), Netherlands (2005), Slovenia (2011), Romania (2012) and Scotland, whose first Rural Parliament was held in Oban in November 2014.


This is bottom-up politics, quite the opposite of big-scale European decision making processes we have been accustomed to since the forming of the European Union. A Rural Parliament is used to discuss and debate, to influence policy and practice. There is a rapidly growing number of local initiatives in both towns and countryside and there is need to strengthen the vitality and networks of rural areas throughout Europe. European Rural Parliament websites: and

The 3rd European Rural Parliament met at Venhorst, in the Netherlands, in late October. It was attended by 250 rural citizens from 40 countries, whereof inside the EU: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the four nations of the United Kingdom, and outside the EU: Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. Impressive!

European Rural Manifesto 2017   The Venhorst Declaration 2017

This Rural Parliament issued the Venhorst Declaration, calling for a new unified basis for funding of local development. This would bring together a significant slice of the four European Funds – Rural, Regional, Social and Maritime – into a fund for Community Led Local Development, managed in a unified way at European and national levels. These combined funds should then be deployed on a decentralised basis through LEADER groups and other local partnerships. This will generate the energy of local people and organisations working together, and encourage action suited to the very varied needs of each place.

The Declaration also focuses on other key current issues in rural Europe. Participants at Venhorst applauded the successful holding of the first European Rural Youth Parliament in August 2017 and urged public authorities to ensure that young people can take part in funded programmes.

ESIN took part in the 1st European Rural Parliament in Brussels 4 years ago. This year, we were represented by our Chair Camille Dressler.  For the next Parliament in 2 years time, we must make sure the islands have a strong presence, with for example as many islands as possible represented in the “market of initiatives” session. One way to ensure this happens would be to have ESIN involved as a partner organisation.

Camille 22 Oct

We found our favorite MEP

For a week, we have been voting through SurveyMonkey to find our favorite MEP. Now, we have a distinct winner to the MEPAwards, category “Regional Development”:


This is our written nomination:

This nomination is from an organisation, namely the European Small Islands Federation. We represent 359,000 islanders on 1,640 European islands. To have MEP’s who take a stand for the small islands of Europe is of utter importance to us. We need MEP’s who are not only fighting for their own (national) islands, but who are a watchdogs for all islands of Europe.

To find this person, we made a simple poll, see During a week, we collected votes from our members.

Tonino Picula got 42 out of 55 votes.

Let us quote three of the motivations: “Driving force behind some of the important structural changes in EU regarding all European islands”, “He is the one doing the most for all small islands” and “He is the only true and persistent islands MEP”.

This a man who does much for all islands, not only his Croatian ones. We ESIN are proud to nominate him as an outstanding developer of the region of the islands.

Our favourite MEP

I do I have I am 1

There are 751 members of the European Parliament – MEP’s. They were elected in 2014 and are now passing laws, deciding on international agreements, reviewing the work the Commssion is doing and proposing legislation. In Brussels, they are the voice of more than 500 million Europeans – old, young, men, women, urban, hillbillys, conservatives, radicals… but are they also the voice of the islanders?

The Parliament is actually asking us – the Europeans – to nominate an MEP that has made an outstanding contribution in an EU policy area. No later than November, 8.

Should ESIN nominate an MEP who has done much for the islands?

If so, who should it be?

Who is the islands watchdog in the European Parliament?

One way of judging MEPs is to look at the parliamentary questions raised by them. Since they were elected 2014, up until today the MEPs have raised thousands and thousands of written and oral questions which one can find here

We made a search and fund that 449 questions included the word “island”. When running a check on these 449, we discovered that most of them deal with national issues. Like the refugee situation in the Aegean Sea, the future of wind power on the Åland islands, or whale hunting in the Faroes. These are very important questions, but not common small island issues, not a reason to give them an ESIN island watchdog nomination.

Among the 449 questions, 19 were about common European island issues. Here they are:

– Neoklis Sylikiotis (Cyprus) regarding free wireless connectivity in EU’s local communities (islands included);

– Claudia Tapardel (Roumania) on the special situation of islands in the European Union;

– Alfred Sant (Malta), Salvatore Cicu (Italy), Tonino Picula (Croatia), Michela Giuffrida (Italy), Costas Mavrides (Cyprus) and Miltiadis Kyrkos (Greece) raising the question of the EU’s regional competitiveness index and island regions;

– Giovanni La Via (Italy) on the special situation of islands;

– Gabriel Mato (Spain) on strengthening the regions of Macaronesia (well, not all of the European islands but still a region);

– Lefteris Christoforou​ (Cyprus) on the need to assist islands affected by water shortages, and on the need to support the island regions of the EU, and on problems associated with insularity;

– Rosa Estaràs Ferragut (Spain) on energy poverty in island regions, and promotion of renewable energies in the tourism industry of islands;

– Salvatore Cicu (Italy) on the recognition of the special situation of islands;

– Iskra Mihaylova (Bulgaria) on insularity conditions, and also on island regions;

– Matt Carthy (Ireland) on island products;

– Soledad Cabezón Ruiz (Spain) on self-consumed energy on islands​;

– Ole Christensen (Denmark) on payments to farmers on islands not connected by a bridge and residence obligation;

– Ivan Jakovčić (Croatia) on sparsely populated islands (well, he is mainly addressing Croatian islands);

– Therese Comodini Cachia (Malta) on coastal and maritime ecotourism, and island connectivity;

– Biljana Borzan (Croatia) on islands’ equal access to health protection;

We cannot judge which of these questions have actually led to improvements for the islands.

You can check on any MEP here

There are a few MEP’s who are generally and constantly working for improvement of island conditions and who have been actively in contact with us. Here are four names:

Alyn Smith (Scotland), active in the insularity condition debate Feb 2016, participated in ESIN’s AGM on Mull back in 2012, very active in agricultural questions (including islands).

Tonino Picula (Croatia), chair of islands subgroup in SEARICA Intergroup, active in the water savings challenge with ESIN as a partner, driving force in establishing special financial instruments for islands.

Matt Carthy (Ireland) attended the Island food event that ESIN organised, actively promoting island products.

Maria Spyrakis (Greece) has organized many open hearings and round table discussions in Brussels on smart energy programmes such as SMILEGOV and the European policy for transport.

You are most welcome to propose other names but please do not promote MEP’s who have made an important job for your islands, but for all islands.

This is the link to where you can vote:

I Do I Have I Am 2

Illustrations by Saul Steinberg, 1971