The EU is committed to mobilizing all possible mechanisms to rebuild La Palma


The president of Canary Islands, Angel Victor Torres, intervened this morning (Friday, November 19), telematically from La Palma, in the associative session and the closing of the XXVI Conference of Presidents of the Outermost Regions (RUP), which is held – under the presidency of the Autonomous Region of Azores – in the city of Punta Delgada, on the island of San Miguel.

Torres underlined the unanimous support received from all the presidents of the ORs to demand from the EU the maximum resources for the reconstruction of the island of La Palma by the eruption through solidarity funds, an extreme that was also supported in his intervention by the Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira. The European Commissioner stated in an address that “I would like to assure President Torres and the people of La Palma that we will do everything in our power to help them. We will mobilize all possible support mechanisms to deal with the consequences of the disaster. In addition, we can help in the preparation of the application to mobilize the Solidarity Fund, and We are studying the possibilities of support within the framework of Posei and the Rural Development Fund”, Detailed Ferreira.

Final statement

The need for this support is also reflected in the Final Declaration approved at the Conference. According to Torres, andThis support is very relevant to obtain the maximum funds from the EU before the volcano most serious of the last centuries in Europe. Although current estimates, which are provisional, point to damages of between 550 and 700 million euros, the president recalls that the emergency continues and that they will surely be higher, although these figures already exceed the 440 million required by the EU (1% of Canarian GDP) to be able to access these solidarity items. “We will therefore receive a percentage of the 500 million a year that the EU has for emergencies and we will go with the endorsement of all the ORs so that the final figure is as high as possible,” he said.

During his speech at the Conference, the President of the Canary Islands also advocated for a new Strategy for the ORs and for greater flexibility in the rules so that these communities can implement the EU recovery funds due to the pandemic (Next Generation). Torres recalled that, two days after the eruption, he had already predicted to the Cohesion and Reform Commissioner, Elisa Ferreira, that the damage from the volcano would exceed 440 million.

According to the member of the European Commission, she is following the advance of the lava and the devastation “with horror” and is aware that she ise will produce new damage daily. For this reason, it makes the services of its area available to the Canary Islands in the European Commission so that, if necessary, they can help in the process of requesting support from the Solidarity Fund. In addition, he said that they are analyzing the urgent modification of the Posei, in line with what was requested by the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Luis Planas, and the Canary Islands Government.

In search of a faster economic recovery

At the Conference, the President of the Canary Islands alluded to the difficult scenario that the international community continues to face and, especially, remote and isolated regions such as the ORs. Although it welcomes the economic recovery for now after the ravages of the pandemic, it regrets that it is not as fast as would be desirable and that it is threatened by outbreaks of the virus in various parts of Europe and the world. In addition, factors such as the increase in raw materials and energy costs or maritime freight also threaten this change in trend.

However, he emphasized that in the Canary Islands there is an extra catastrophic due to said volcanic eruption (which is two months old today), that has destroyed more than a thousand hectares of land and 2,600 buildings, both homes and other structures, were razed. Torres thanked the demonstrations of solidarity from the European institutions, the rest of the RUP and the efforts made by the Government of Spain “to provide a response to the pressing needs that are being raised for La Palma”, not only in the social and housing area, but also in the primary sector, fundamental to the island’s economy.

The head of the Canarian Executive also referred to the necessary renewal of the European Strategy for the ORs, which, in his opinion and among other issues, should offer “a coherent and ambitious response, through the exhaustive application of Article 349 of the Treaty, maintaining the tailored approach advocated by the 2017 Communication ”. It also advocates offering a flexible framework so that extraordinary recovery funds can be executed (Next Generation). In his opinion, the COVID-19 crisis has shown that it is possible to apply “rapid and exceptional responses when necessary, without affecting the integrity and coherence of the Union’s legal order, for example in matters of State aid or fund management ”.

For Torres, an “authentic structural, economic and social transformation of our regions is required to accompany us in the green and digital transformation, but taking into account that what is possible on the European continent may not be so on the outermost periphery.” It must also maintain “the traditional approach to offsetting our permanent limitations and an adequate European framework of state aid and fiscal instruments, which are essential to relaunch the competitiveness of our companies and promote job creation in our regions.”

The president also asked to correct “some omissions in essential policies for the integral development of the ORs, such as education, training and social actions. The ORs urgently need a new orientation of the strategy that includes a social dimension reinforced with specific measures that develop the European pillar of social rights in our regions to be able to face the current context ”.

In the case of the Canary Islands, Torres considers that these changes should promote “a smarter and more diversified economy that relies on tourism as a driving sector, but also bets on the development and modernization of the industrial and primary sectors, as well as on other activity niches with high added value, achieving an economy with strategic independence but fully integrated into the world economy ”. In addition, he believes it is essential that “an adequate response be given to the absolutely unique reality of the ultra-periphery in the EU, deepening its specific status and providing concrete answers.” Some changes that, ultimately, must be based on “urgency, ambition, imagination and flexibility.”

In his opinion, and after an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis, and with an adverse phenomenon in the Canary Islands such as an eruption, “which devastates us, we must apply different rules to obtain different results.”

Unanimous support for the Canary Islands to host a future European Tourism Agency

Torres is very satisfied with the unanimous support of the Conference for the candidacy proposed by the Government of the Canary Islands, backed by the Government of Spain, for the Islands to host a future European Tourism Agency. The intention is to have antennas in all the geographical basins of the ORs, thus taking advantage of the experience and dynamism of the sector in this outermost region for the benefit of the entire Union. Torres trusts that this support from the rest of the regions, together with the support of the Government of Spain, will be decisive for the election of the Canary Islands. In this way, as he remarks, it will not only bet on decentralization in the EU, but also on the ORs and on a community like the Canary Islands, whose GDP depends so much (35%) on tourism.

Finally, Ángel Víctor Torres thanked José Manuel Bolieiro, president of the Autonomous Region of Azores, for the support shown today to La Palma tree population and congratulated him for his work at the head of the presidency of the Conference and the excellent organization. In the same way, he wished the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique luck, which from today will assume the presidency for twelve months, and to whom he expressed his “absolute availability to promote our common project.”

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