Following a debate at the European Parliament with EU Commissioner Vella, the own initiative report written by MEP Iotova on “cohesion policy in mountainous regions of the EU” has been largely adopted by the European Parliament by 553 votes (out of 665).
A definition for mountainous regions
As the only definition used at EU level for mountain areas is the agricultural one (see article 32 of regulation 1305/2013), MEPs call on the Commission to create a “wide and inclusive” working definition for functional mountainous regions in the context of the Cohesion Policy. This definition should take into account “different factors such as altitude, accessibility and slope; but also covers volcanic regions in islands and outermost regions, as well as areas that, while not mountainous, are largely integrated with mountain areas”.
- Euromontana welcomes a definition for mountain areas in the cohesion policy. Nevertheless, it insists on the difficulty of establishing the areas which are “largely integrated with mountain areas” and on the risk to lose the specificities of mountain areas if too broad a definition is used. In addition, it stresses the need for a higher level of statistical disaggregation, as the NUTS 2 or even NUTS3 approach generally used by DG Regio results in areas that are too large and heterogeneous to be considered as mountain areas. In addition, it notes that, while many islands and outermost regions have mountainous terrain, these geographical specificities have other characteristics and should not necessarily be considered together with mountain areas. It is essential to resolve these problems of definition before moving onto other activities which target mountain areas.[MP1]
Call for an Agenda for EU Mountainous Regions: the basis of an EU strategy
MEPs invite the Commission to present a communication “containing an ‘Agenda for EU Mountainous Regions ’ and, subsequent to this, a White Paper on the development of mountainous regions, based on best practices and involving local, regional and national authorities, and other relevant actors, including economic and social partners and representatives of civil society”. This agenda should be the “framework that contributes to transnational, cross-border and interregional policies” and it should “identify the priorities for the development of these regions”. Moreover, this agenda should “represent the basis for an EU strategy aimed at achieving the long-term development of mountainous regions and the areas dependent on them”.
- Euromontana welcomes the call for a specific agenda for mountain areas. Nevertheless, given the diversity (in all characteristics) of the EU’s mountain areas, a “one fits all” policy will not work for EU mountain areas as a whole. Consequently, Euromontana calls on the European Commission to develop an agenda that takes into account the principle of subsidiarity and includes concrete proposals for sustainable development in mountain areas in different parts of the EU.
Better coordination of EU funds
The Iotova report calls on the European Commission and the Member States to better take into account the mountainous dimension while programming the implementation of their European Structural and Investment Funds in the current and next programming period with a particular effort on “underdeveloped mountainous regions”.
- Euromontana fully supports this idea and encourages the Member States to use the tools which already exist (Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI), Community Led Local Development (CLLD), specific Rural Development Programmes for Mountain areas) and are so far insufficiently used in mountain areas to make the best of EU funding schemes.
The pillars of sustainable growth
The report also details what an Agenda and specific mountain policy could take into account, in particular, support to renewable energies, high Speed Internet and ICT solutions, education especially for women, support to SMEs and innovation. It also recognised the importance of mountain agriculture and forestry while encouraging a diversification of activities.
- Euromontana fully supports actions in these areas and is very pleased to see that the role of mountain areas in the provision of ecosystem services is fully recognised.
Procedure of adoption of this report
Erik Gloersen, Martin Price, Andreja Borec, Thomas Dax and Benito Giordano have written a research report on “cohesion in mountainous regions of the EU” that helped MEP Iotova to write her report.
A first draft of the own initiative report was amended (with almost 200 amendments). Euromontana contributed to the redaction of some amendments and also provided some feedback on the different requested amendments.
The AGRI committee of the European Parliament gave its feedback on 26th February 2016 with an opinion report of Mr Michel Dantin. Then, the REGI committee adopted the draft amended report of Iotova with a large majority (31 votes in favour out of 36).
Finally, this report was adopted in the plenary session of the European Parliament on 10th May 2016.
Follow-up of this report
This Own Initiative Report is an expression of interest by the European Parliament on a particular topic – it is not a binding document. Now that it is adopted, we need to wait for the European Commission to take the further steps (because the European Parliament has no power to actually propose a piece of legislation: only the Commission has the right to do that).
Nevertheless, the strong support received during the plenary session and the contacts already made between Ms Iotova and Ms Crecu, the EU Commissioner in charge of the regional policy, can give the initiative more political momentum.
To conclude, we are very pleased to see that the work of Euromontana is directly recognised in this own initiative report, through the mention of the Euromontana’s document “Towards Mountains 2020” and through its project PADIMA on depopulation in mountain areas. We are very satisfied to see that cohesion in mountain areas is at the heart of the discussions of the European Parliament. We would urge the European Commission to take the following steps towards an Agenda for EU mountainous areas.