ESIN

European Small Islands Federation

Archive for Godfrey Baldacchino

Island strategies

To survive in a globalized world where focus is always on economies of scale and low costs, islands can choose between two strategies: n:o 1 (according to Professor Geoff Bertram from New Zealand) is to balance-up their small, slow industries and commerce with income from those that have moved away, alongside support from the public sector. Islands that have managed this strategy well are Kastellorizo in the Mediterranean, Samoa and Tonga in the Pacific Ocean, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Helena and Cape Verde in the Atlantic Ocean.

Strategy n:o 2 (according to Professor Godfrey Baldacchino) is to proactively influence the islands’ own fate in how to handle difficult negotiations over wind power, oil, transportation and taxes. This strategy is directed more at procedure instead of direct subsidies, creating tax havens. Such islands are the Virgin Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man in the Atlantic, the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea, Malta and Cyprus in the Mediterranean.

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Now, time has come to October Island, an island in Russia’s European exclave of Kaliningrad, and Russky Island, a former pasture facing the eastern part of Vladivostok , to be part of strategy n:o 2.

Compared to the sunny, palm-lined off-shore tax havens where Russians typically stash their fortunes like Cyprus or the Virgin Islands, two chilly, wind-swept Russian islands would seem to offer little. Yet, they were highlighted by Moscow this week as potential tax havens.

October Island (Oktyabrsky Island /Остров Октябрьский), is immediately east (upriver) of Kaliningrad’s historic centre in the Pregolya River. Since the 2010s the island has been extensively redeveloped around the stadium being constructed for the 2018 FIFA World Cup due to be held in Russia. Will it come true, now that Washington imposes tough sanctions against leading oligarchs?

The island is small, covering about 10 square kilometres. When Kaliningrad was German Köningsberg, it was part of the famous “Seven bridges of Köningsberg” mathematical problem: to devise a walk through the city that would cross each of those bridges once and only once.

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Russky Island is much bigger: 976 square kilometres with a population of 5,360, connected with the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge across the Eastern Bosphorus to the mainland portion of Vladivostok.

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The Kremlin is trying to get rich Russians to bring their money back home, but is October island and Russky Island really comparable to Gozo and Kökar?

Will Italy kick out Pantelleria?

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Pantelleria is an Italian island situated just 60km from the Tunisian coast and covering a land area of 83 square kilometres. The volcanic island’s natural environment resembles that of Malta but with a population of just over 7,000, it is a much less crowded place.

This has led professor Godfrey Baldacchino to suggest Malta buy the island from Italy to expand its territory.

“Is it time to start thinking seriously about offering to buy Pantelleria from the Republic of Italy. The sister Mediterranean island would absorb the spillover of our economy, which would provide work to the 7,000 or so residents of Pantelleria, while serving as a home to the burgeoning local population in Malta,” Baldacchino says to Malta Today.

He said it was natural for small islands like Malta to reach out and attract resources from elsewhere to support the islanders’ standard of living.

“Immigrants can also contribute to this. If these are economic migrants, then they will stay short-term or as long as the economy is chugging happily along; if so, they may have little interest in ‘integrating’ with the local community,” he said.

Increasing population size by importing foreign labour exerts more pressure on the country’s infrastructure, which Baldacchino believes still leaves much to be desired. Within this context, expanding the island’s territory will help ease the pressure.

Pantelleria, which is administered by the Sicilian province of Trapani, has a common history with Malta, having been ruled by the Romans, Arabs, Normans and Aragonese. The prevalent language until the late 18th centrury was a Siculo-Arab dialect similar to Maltese before it was superseded by Sicilian. Much like in Malta, Pantelleria’s semitic roots are evident in the various place names across the island. The island also has an airport.

Baldacchino said Malta’s annexation of Pantelleria would help resurrect an old relationship between the two islands. “It will also avoid all talk about major land reclamation efforts here which are bound to have grave environmental consequences,” he quipped.

The risk is that Malta’s unbridled development will infect Pantelleria and spoil the untouched natural beauty of an island referred to in touristic brochures as the Mediterranean’s black pearl.

But apart from this, how keen Pantelleria’s residents will be to start calling themselves Maltese is another matter altogether.

It reminds us when Germany and Britain exchanged Helgoland for Zanzibar (“a trouser button for an entire suit”). In 2010, German MP’s Marco Wanderwitz and Frank Schaeffler wanted to buy Corfu (and the Acropolis) to pay off its huge national debt.

What about if France bought Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and Alderney? Shouldn’t Swedish island Ven go back to Denmark? And what about Lemnos, Samothraki, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Ikaria and all the Dodecanese islands?

American author Libba Bray wrote: “People think boundaries and borders build nations. Nonsense–words do. Beliefs, declarations, constitutions–words. Stories. Myths. Lies. Promises. History.

The brain is a muscle which needs to be strechted sometimes. Thank you for that, professor Baldacchino.

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Island knowledge

A large part of the world’s island knowledge is assembled on Lesvos, right now. Here is some of it:Beate-Ratter

Professor Beate Ratter, Hamburg

Happy-professors

Happy professors: Godfrey Baldacchino and Ioannis Spilanis

Muna-Mohamed

Muna Mohamed, Maldives

Nenad-Starc

Professor emeritus Nenad Starc, Croatia

Island knowledge

A large part of the world’s island knowledge is assembled on Lesvos, right now. Here is some of it:Beate-RatterProfessor Beate Ratter, HamburgHappy-professorsHappy professors: Godfrey B and Ioannis SMuna-MohamedMuna Mohamed, MaldivesNenad-StarcProfessor emeritus Nenad Starc, Croatia

Islands Matrix

The islands of Europe are typically divided into four groups: Mediterranean, Atlantic, Baltic and Overseas. This is a natural and clever segmentation, based on regional and cultural dimensions.

The European Economic and Social Committee has a Study Group on Islands. When taking part of their meeting on February, 4, we thought it might be interesting to use other dimensions to describe the islands: the political dimension, describing the islands’ degree of autonomy, and the geographical dimension, describing the remoteness of the islands.

Professor Godfrey Baldacchino at the University of Malta has kindly helped us to work out the matrix with the 2,140 populated European Union Member States islands grouped with the help of these two dimensions, distributed into 16 cells, plus a conclusion and some reflections.

Thank you all for your help!

Christian Pleijel

EU-Island-Matrix-16June2015

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