Archive for EESC
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 a short visit to Malta, ESIN tries to be the voice of Europe’s two thousand small islands in a ‘Public Hearing’ arranged by EESC on the subject ‘What future for islands in the European Union”
I am sad to find Vasilis Margaras much detested study here, where he states that the number of small islands in Europe is 228, but I do comment on it. I am puzzled when the EESC president asks ‘What is the really the difference between an island and the French countryside?”
Luckily, there are many smart persons here to answer such a question: Marie-Antoinette Maupertius from the Committee of Regions (who is working on an opinion on entrepreneurship on islands), George Assonitis from INSULEUR, Malta Minister for Economy Chris Cardona, professor Caroline Buts and Rapporteur Stefano Mallia stating: “This debate on islands is like Brexit: a wake-up call.”
We are some 40 people discussing during three hours. I get the opportunity to speak to Tonino Picula, Vice Chair of the Parliament Intergroup for Islands, and Nektarios Santorinios, Greek Vice Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, regarding the project on Water Saving on eight european islands that we are about to start.
Much is happening in our european union now, our European Union.
Satellite image of Malta, Gozo and little Comino in between
ESIN has been invited to the EESC public hearing “What future for islands in the European Union?” which will take place in Valetta on February 7, http://www.eesc.europa.eu/?i=portal.en.events-and-activities-islands-in-eu-programme
We have prepared four messages to the hearing:
Heavy human pressure on small islands
There is a magnitude of challenges facing islands. Within Europe, the European Small Islands Federation (ESIN) represents 1,640 small and very small islands with a resident population of 359,357 people. These small islands have 3-4 million summer residents and ten times as many visitors, which creates a heavy human pressure on the islands’ hydrogeological system, infrastructure and nature, especially in high season.
The cost of living on a small island is generally at least 30% higher compared to the mainland. Direct overcosts are due to sea transports and affect goods and services such as construction materials and construction workers, fuel, foodstuff, craftsmen, consultants, culture, waste disposal and healthcare. Indirect overcosts come from the lack of local competence, technical service, spare parts and raw materials.
Small islands are forced to and have learnt to be smart and sustainable because of their scarcity of resources and high costs for external goods and competence. They have a lot to gain in being economically, environmentally and socially self-sufficient.
Sea transports count for 38% of a small island’s total energy use, which is not the case on the mainland and ought to be in focus for sustainable development.
The messages of the Smart Islands Declaration to be considered in order to tap the significant, yet largely unexploited potential of islands: http://www.scottish-islands-federation.co.uk/the-smart-island-initiative/
The new President is an island
We are honoured to have been invited to the public hearing about the Future of the Islands and are hoping that Malta – an island nation with both a big island and two small, inhabited ones – will use its Presidency to be the voice of all European islands, regardless of size.