European Small Islands Federation

Islands of the future


This is a link to five documentary films on five exceptional islands, beautiful and fascinating, but above all exemplary. Farmers, business people, engineers and scientists on these islands have taken on the challenge or revolutionising energy provision – without oil, coal, gas or nuclear power.

The people who live on these islands have been battling against the forces of nature for centuries. Now they intend to use the power of water, the waves, the tides, the wind, geothermal energy and the sun for a better future. These islands are laboratories of hope that are showing the rest of the world how climate protection can be achieved and, above all, that it works.

The Danish island of Samsø, the Canary island of El Hierro, Madeira, Iceland and Orkney in Scotland have discovered pathways to the future without destroying their breathtaking landscapes.



Enso by Torei Enji (1721-1792)

Susanne is a friend of mine who paints ensō’s. It is a Japanese word meaning ”circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Ensō is perhaps the most common subject of Japanese calligraphy, symbolizing strength, elegance, the universe, single mindedness, the state of mind of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of imperfection as perfect.

To me, it is a picture of an island. They can be drawn with or without an opening. Susanne’s ensō is an island with no opening. The island has its residents who move around paths and roads inside the island. Outside of he “o” there is a lot of traffic mainly at the bottom of the painting. Maybe, maybe there are some small connections?

When drawn with an opening, it can suggest that imperfection is an essential and inherent part of existence, a part of something greater.

I prefer to see islands as open ensō’s. No island can exist with a harbour which is the opening, the connection to the mainland, the acceptance that the island cannot survive as a secluded, self-supporting society.

I am, of course, heavily influenced by the fact that the Swedish word for island is ”ö”. It is a word of Germanic origin meaning “land close to water”. It is, as you can see, an ensō, a ”o” with two dots on top, like a French ”trema”. It’s could be a pictogram of an island with its round shape supported by two skerries or rocks or lighthouses.

In Danish, the word for island is ”ø” (not too bad), in Norwegia ”øy” (no ore a pictogram). In Finnish it ish ”saari” and in Estonian ”saar”, both languages have of Slavonic roots. Germans say ”insel”, French say ”île”, English people say ”island and so do the Irish and the Scots if they aren’t saying ” eilean” or ”innis”. The Italians say ”isola”, most of these are derived from latin and have to do with isolation. The Croatians say ”otoka” and the Greeks say ”νησί”.

I believe there is no more accurate and beautiful word for island than the Swedish “ö”. Open or not, you decide.


Ensō by Susanne Frunck


2014 enso by Jaysen Matthew Waller


A monk asked his master to express Zen on paper so that he would have something tangible to study. At first the master refused, saying, “Since it is right in front of your face why should I try to capture it with brush and ink?” Still the monk continued to plead with the master for something concrete. The master drew a circle on a piece of paper and added this inscription: “Thinking about this and understanding it is second best; not thinking about it and understanding it is third best.” The master did not say what is first best.

Zenga: Brushstrokes of Enlightenment

Smart Young Islanders



In October 2014, ESIN hosted a meeting with young people from the Croatian organisations DESA based in Dubrovnik, SVIMA (Association for Civil Society Organisations and Civil Initiatives Development) and the Association for Sustainable Development of the Island of Rava. They wanted to prepare themselves for full utilisation of the European Social Fund.

At the meeting which took place in Stockholm Bengt Almkvist, Marian O’Malley and Christian Pleijel met with Dino Varenina, Ana Eric and Romana Hansai from DESA, Antonia Uskok who is the young vice mayor of Vis, and Ivan Srsen, born on Rava, living on Rava, working as an environmental officer, a local guide and producer of Fleur de Sel.

In June 2015, island kids from Åland, Turkey, Latvia and Latvia and of course Crotia met on Vis

Later that year, Otočni Sabor (the Association for the Development of Croatian Islands) became a member of ESIN.

Now, Otočni Sabor, SVIMA and Association for the Sustainable Development of the Rava Island have commenced a new project called ”Active Young Islanders for smart small islands”.

The project seeks to equip young islanders (aged 15 – 25) of several Croatian small islands with policy-tracking, communications, advocacy and campaigning knowledge & skills through:

(1) Tailor-made workshops for young islanders and respective public panel discussions entitled “Smart small islands in the Republic of Croatia and active contribution of young islanders – reality or utopia” with a participation of relevant Croatian Members of the European Parliament / members of the European Economic and Social Committee

(2) An action research / a public panel discussion on the young women representation in the small islands’ decision-making process/in the small islands-based governing & management structures

(3) An advocacy campaign during which the young islanders will have an opportunity to clearly articulate to relevant decision-makers (line ministries & Croatian Parliament’s Committees) as well as the general public on their opinions/concerns with regard to transformative development agenda of Croatian small islands based on the “smart islands” concept.

The project makes me think of ”reverse mentoring” = traditional mentoring turned on its head. A method where more experienced (=old) people actively seeks the council of (young) people with less overall experience but fresh perspectives and skill sets.

Croatia is the youngest member of ESIN. We have a lot to learn from you.

old-youngYoung olives growing on and old one, Rava (renowned for its olives)


Zero Waste Island Food

Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron is a small town and a commune in the middle of l’île d’Oléron off the coast of France in the Bay of Bisacy. Sébastien and Sarah opened their restaurant ”l’île aux Papilles” in 2016 just off the pedestrian street in Saint-Pierre. Their only local, seasonal and 100% bio products to produce amazingly good food.

They have their own 10 waste commandments which is much appreciated by ESIN’s friends at the Zero Waste France organisation, see

May we add that the chicken ravioli and the cold courgette soup with garlic are exquisite?

And yes, for a true island-lover we have regretfully to report that, since 1966, there is a bridge to the 174 km2 sized island.

Bottoms Up

Much of what we know about the ocean floor’s topology we know from data collected by multibeam sonar systems. It is estimated that these sonar systems – which have to be lugged back and forth by ships across the surface of the sea in order to acquire soundings of the seafloor deep beneath them – have left a staggering 90% of the deep-sea bottom uncharted.

Seas, ecosystems and marine resources in general are subject to considerable pressures. Human activities and the effects of climate change, natural disasters, erosion and deposition in waters around islands and along mainland coasts can create serious effects on marine ecosystems leading to environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and eventually to social and economic stagnation.


Now, ESIN’s Greek member organization HSIN led by its charismatic president Elefterios Kechagioglou has obtained Interreg financing for high resolution seafloor mapping and bottom characterization of East Mediterranean waters, called “GeoMarine”.

The consortium is a transnational, including 8 partners: Hellenic Small Islands Network, lead partner, University of Athens/Faculty of Geology and Geoenvironment, and University of Thessaloniki/Department of Geology (Greece), Institute for Oceanology in Varna and Bulgarian Cartographic Association (Bulgaria), ORION Joint Research and Development Centre (Cyprus), South East European Research Institute on Geo Sciences (Macedonia) and the Municipality of Saranda (Albania).

The objectives of “GeoMarine” project is to develop the infrastructure (eg, boat & equipment) and technology (eg, S/W and tools) offering:

  • High-resolution mapping of the sea bottom using Multibeam echosounder, and
  • Additional technologies & Surveying practices such as sediment sampling and its application in case studies covering pool areas, islands and their surrounding area

We wish the project the best of luck. Preserving and protecting the sea is always a top priority for us islanders. We are living in it.


Loubrieu B., C. Satra, R. Cagna & al. (N. Chamot-Rooke), 2001. Cartography by multibeam echo-sounder of the Mediterranean Ridge and surrounding areas, International Commission for the Scientific Exploration of the Mediterranean Sea (CIESM) & Ifremer, sheet 1 : Morpho-bathymetry, sheet 2 : Acoustic imagery, 1:1.500.000 scale.

Small island schools perform well


Karl Jan Solstad

Last week, the Nordic Council archipelago cooperation arranged a seminar on the topic of small island schools. One of the speakers was Norwegian professor emeritus Karl Jan Solstad, who presented his research from Vågan, a municipality among the Lofoten islands in Nordland Region, northern Norway.

Map of Nordland Region in Norway with its municipalities, Vågan is no 40, marked in yellow

Norwegian municipalities are eventually closing small schools and transporting pupils by bus to larger schools. The tendency is that the size of schools closed down is getting bigger, and relatively, more of these schools are situated further away from the new school to which the pupils are transferred.Providing a better education is the reason given by politicians, in spite of strong local mobilization against closure.

Vågan has some 9,000 residents and nine schools in grades 1-10 with 1,063 pupils 2015-16. Two schools are large (having many pupils): Kabelvåg (327) and Svolvaer (544). The remaining seven are considered small: Digermulen (19), Gimsøy (18), Hennningsvaer (52), Laukvik (45), Laupstad (20), Skrova (13), Sydal (26).

Professor Solstad shows the feelings about and arguments for and against small schools of headmasters and teachers, parents and pupils. Most astonishing, he shows that the results of pupils in small schools are better than in large schools.


Results from National  8th grade, 2014-15 and 2015-16, Reading, Mats and English, All of Vågan, the two large schools (Svovaer and Kabelvåg) and the “small schools, arithmetic average and number of pupils.

The report from Vågan can be found here and his presentation from last weeks lecture is streamed here (it starts at 1:44).

Professor Solstad’s presentation was mindblowing but there were other, most interesting presentations including distance learning in the Åland Islands (presented by Kaj Törnroos) (42:00), “Understanding the big in the small” by Gunilla Karlberg-Granlund (1:25) and Lena Möllersten’s work as a networking headmaster of small schools in the Stockholm archipelago.


Kaj Törnroos


Gunilla Karlberg-Granlund


Lena Möllersten

Islands are in the package


The European Commission wants to boost the transition to clean energy. To this end, it is revising how it uses the financial tools of the Structural and Investment Funds.

As was indicated by DG Energy’s Marie Donnelly during the FOP22 meeting in  Marrakech, 14th of November, islands are in the package.

In the Work programme Annex dated 30.11.2016, the Commission urges 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.” … “The Commission would like to help accelerate the development and adoption of best available technologies on islands and island regions, including exchange of best practice in financing and legal and regulatory regimes, and in energy for transport. The first step is to bring the islands themselves together, regardless of their size, geography or their location.” …

“In the first half of 2017, the Commission will hold a high level meeting in Valletta on the clean energy opportunities and challenges for islands. This will launch a process to support islands in their clean energy transition.” (see page 14 in the Annex attached).