Brussels, 26 June 2002
Minister Birulés highlights these regions' potential for R&D stemming from their geographical features and variety of natural environments
Las Palmas, 24/06/2002
In collaboration with the European Commission's Directorates-General for Research and Regional Policy, the Spanish Presidency of the European Union has organised a Conference in Gran Canaria on the European Research Area in the Outermost Regions (OR) of Europe: the Canary Islands, the Azores, Madeira, Réunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana.
The Conference is serving to lend impetus to the role of the outermost regions as a platform for scientific work of excellence in the European Research Area, and to examine the R&D situation in those regions as well as the latent potential of that activity, given their geographical location and variety of natural environments.
Opening the conference, Spain's Minister for Science and Technology, Anna Birulés, stressed that one of the Spanish Presidency's priorities, as shown by the organisation of the conference, was to develop the international dimension of the European Area of Research and Innovation. She said the conference's objective was “full integration of the Outermost Regions into the Community to which they belong, to give their society and businesses equality with the rest of the continent.” The Minister also noted that “we need to boost the role of these regions as a platform of scientific work of excellence in the European Area of Research and Innovation.” The Conference is organised around eight work themes. Four examine the socio-economic problems common to these regions: “Economic and social development, and insularity”, “Being at the edge”, “Tourism and R+D+I” and “Innovation in the economic fabric and SMEs”, while four others are looking at scientific and technical issues closely related to the regions' situation, their requirements and the suitable environment they offer as a natural setting for the following physical, biological and technological processes: “Renewable energies and water”, “Biodiversity and specific agriculture”, “Volcanology and natural hazards” and “Terrestrial and marine media”.
Specifically the Conference is tackling the following issues: Economic and social development, and insularity Examination of the peculiarities of being an outermost region with problems of distance and insularity, from the point of view of research and in relation to jobs, demography, health and insularity.
This discussion is intended to stimulate the economic and social development of these regions and to foster R&D carried out in the European Union on aspects relating to these fields.
Being at the edge This subject area has opened discussion on developing the concept of the outermost region, as contained in the EU's Treaties, examining its implications in terms of governability, incorporation into the knowledge-based society (a common European Union objective established at the Lisbon Summit), questions of identity and aspects relating to regional development.
Tourism and R+D+I Given that tourism is one of these regions' leading industries, it is important that we have detailed knowledge of the context, natural resources, procedures and restrictions which will allow sustainable development of this source of wealth in these regions' special environments.
Innovation in the economic fabric and SMEs A debate has been launched on mechanisms for assessing the results of the research effort in these regions and on the support procedures best adapted to their circumstances, with a view to backing innovation in their small and medium-sized undertakings and lending impetus to the creation of new technology-based companies.
Renewable energies and water Managing water is a problem common to the whole of the European Union, but given the outermost regions' distance from the major centres of industrial and energy production, and given their essentially insular nature, solutions need to be found to their specific problems.
The three broad lines of the discussion in this area are: water management, including waste water and recycling strategies; generation of renewable energy technologies and intensification of their use in the outermost regions; and the use of renewable energies in obtaining or processing water.
Biodiversity and specific agriculture Conserving biodiversity and using it in a sustainable fashion is an EU policy objective. Given their geographical and climatic circumstances, the outermost regions constitute one of Europe's largest reserves of biodiversity. Discussion here is focusing on the sustainable use of biodiversity and identifying a means of sustainable farming in these regions which makes use of the capital represented by their biodiversity.
The Conference is looking at biodiversity and its conservation, with a particular focus on the OR; the specific agriculture of the OR and sustainable forms thereof; and the sustainable use of biodiversity.
Volcanology and natural hazards The outermost regions are affected by various forms of natural hazard (seismic, climatic, biological, etc.), which makes them first-rate natural laboratories for learning about nature's dynamics and developing technologies to act upon and/or prevent natural hazards.
The OR are a natural bridge between the European Union and countries with natural conditions similar to those of the OR. Accordingly, they are places from which we can disseminate the knowledge and technologies of action and prevention developed in the above areas.
Terrestrial and marine media The strategic position of the outermost regions also makes them outstanding observatories for the study of terrestrial, marine and coastal media in oceanic, subtropical and tropical environments, and as such they can be extraordinarily useful for the whole of the outermost community in the interaction of anthropogenic activity and the natural environment.