Labour MEP wants more flexible EU state aid rules tailored for small islands

Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar says the natural disadvantages of small islands should be recognised with a more flexible long-term strategy in state aid rules

Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar
Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar

EU state aid thresholds must be increased permanently to help Europe’s islands and businesses operating in them overcome their natural disadvantages, Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar said.

Addressing a debate organised by the European Parliament Intergroup on Seas, Rivers, Islands and Coastal Areas, of which she is a member, Cutajar said state aid rules had to be more flexible.

The EU relaxed state aid rules to support economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Cutajar is now calling for a permanent increase of de minimis thresholds and greater flexibility, especially in maritime transport.

“The current scheme fails to take into account local specificities and does not always help overcome the geographical disadvantage that small islands suffer from. This has also been the case with the Malta-Gozo ferry,” Cutajar said.

She emphasized that permanent disadvantages required lasting solutions. “The special condition of islands should be recognised once and for all,” she added.

She also called for a frank debate on a phase-out period for the temporary state aid package to be withdrawn so that a return to normality will be gradual.
The Labour said short-term measures should be taken with a view to a long-term strategy tailored to the specific disadvantages that islands are experiencing in terms of connectivity and competitiveness.

Cutajar said a long-term strategy should provide more flexibility in terms of state aid in order to ensure adequate focus on the islands’ strategic sectors such as sustainable tourism.

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