Η Έλενα Κουντουρά ομιλήτρια στην ημερίδα του Δικτύου Ευρωπαϊκών Περιφερειών NECSTouR: Αναγκαία η στήριξη των νησιωτικών περιοχών στην ευρωπαϊκή στρατηγική για το βιώσιμο τουρισμό στην ΕΕ και τη Μεσόγειο

1965

Την επιτακτική ανάγκη η ευρωπαϊκή πολιτική για το βιώσιμο τουρισμό να στηρίξει την πράσινη και ψηφιακή μετάβαση των προορισμών της Μεσογείου, και ιδιαίτερα των νησιωτικών περιοχών, επισήμανε η  Ευρωβουλευτής του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ-Προοδευτική Συμμαχία Έλενα Κουντουρά, προσκεκλημένη ομιλήτρια σε ημερίδα του Δικτύου Ευρωπαϊκών Περιφερειών για Ανταγωνιστικό και Βιώσιμο Τουρισμό NECSTouR, στις Βρυξέλλες.

Η Ευρωβουλευτής αναφέρθηκε στις αυξημένες ανάγκες των νησιωτικών περιφερειών της Ευρώπης – ζήτημα που αφορά ιδιαίτερα την Ελλάδα – καθώς οι τοπικές οικονομίες πολλών νησιών στηρίζονται στον τουρισμό και συμβάλλουν στην διατήρηση της πρώτης θέσης της ΕΕ, με επίκεντρο τη Μεσόγειο, ως του πλέον δημοφιλούς προορισμού διακοπών παγκοσμίως.

Την ίδια ώρα όμως, τόνισε η Έλενα Κουντουρά, οι κάτοικοι και επαγγελματίες των νησιωτικών περιφερειών αντιμετωπίζουν διαχρονικά δυσβάσταχτο και δυσανάλογο σε ευρωπαϊκό επίπεδο κόστος διαβίωσης και μεταφορικό κόστος, που σήμερα  εκτοξεύεται εν μέσω των πολλαπλών κρίσεων της πανδημίας, της ενεργειακής κρίσης και του υψηλού πληθωρισμού.

Τα ευρωπαϊκά θεσμικά όργανα, επισήμανε, πρέπει να αποκτήσουν πλήρη επίγνωση των αναγκών της νησιωτικότητας και των ιδιαίτερων συνθηκών  που με καθημερινό αγώνα αντιμετωπίζουν οι πληθυσμοί  των νησιών.

Απαιτείται, τόνισε, να υπάρξει ενιαία συλλογική αντιμετώπιση για την άρση των εμποδίων στις ίσες ευκαιρίες στην ανάπτυξη των νησιωτικών περιοχών στην ΕΕ για τον πράσινο και ψηφιακό μετασχηματισμό τους, με επαρκή στήριξη για πράσινες και ψηφιακές επενδύσεις στις υποδομές, για τη βιώσιμη κινητικότητα και για την ενίσχυση των μικρών επιχειρήσεων και τον εργαζομένων στον τουρισμό.

Αναφέρθηκε ακόμη στις θέσεις του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου, που έχουν υιοθετηθεί με ψηφίσματα, για την ανάγκη να καταρτιστεί η πρώτη ευρωπαϊκή στρατηγική για το βιώσιμο τουρισμό με χρηματοδότηση από ειδική γραμμή του ευρωπαϊκού προϋπολογισμού και νέους ευρωπαϊκούς θεσμούς, όπως επίσης και στις ενέργειες από την πλευρά της Κομισιόν για την ευρωπαϊκή ατζέντα 2030/2050 στον τουρισμό.

Στην ημερίδα συμμετείχαν επίσης ως ομιλητές ο Γενικός Γραμματέας της Ένωσης Ευρωπαϊκού Τουρισμού ΕΤΟΑ, κ Tim Fairhurst, η υπεύθυνη για την Πολιτική Περιφερειακής και Αστικής Ανάπτυξης της Γενικής Διεύθυνσης REGIO της Κομισιόν, Laura Hagemann Arellano,  ο Διευθυντής και Σύμβουλος Τουριστικής Πολιτικής του Yπουργείου Εξωτερικών Υποθέσεων της Φλάνδρας Jan Korthout και η Διευθύντρια του Γραφείου Σύνδεσης με την ΕΕ του Τοπικού Συμβουλίου της  Τοσκάνης Silvia Burzagli.

Την εκδήλωση συντόνισαν η  Διευθύντρια της NECSTouR, Cristina Núñez, και ο Υπεύθυνος Διεθνών Σχέσεων του Τμήματος Τουρισμού του Περιφερειακού Συμβουλίου της Βαρκελώνης, José Francisco Rodriguez Lopez.

Η ομιλία της κας Κουντουρά :

Is the European Parliament considering the particular situation of the Mediterranean area (hotspot for climate change and the most visited area in the world) in the upcoming European Tourism Agenda? If yes, how?

Dear participants,

Thank you for the invitation to be part of this very informative initiative. ΝECStour has provided invaluable input and action in the collective work at the EU level, advocating and supporting  tourism’s transition to a sustainable future for all involved.

Tourism, as we know is a key pillar for the European Union, having a strong social, economic and environmental impact and the power to reshape its future.

 The decisions made for tourism directly affect not only travelers, but all stakeholders involved: businesses and workers in a wider chain of productive sectors that rely on tourism, and local communities.

In Europe, tourism contributes more than 10 per cent to the economy and employment, as it is the leading global destination, with the vast majority of tourism flows gathered in the Mediterranean. In countries, such as my homeland Greece, tourism represents directly and indirectly more than 20 per cent of its GDP, and several popular or remote regions depend even up to 90 per cent on tourism activity for their wealth.

Yet, tourism and travel were among the sectors that were mostly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, still affecting millions of jobs and businesses, especially in the Mediterranean.

For a full recovery in the short term,we have to deal with the acute energy crisis, high inflation and soaring prices in goods and services and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which directly impact travel, tourism and transportation costs. 

Yet, at the same time, we have to address the climate crisis, where we simply cannot afford to fail. The combination of the pandemic, the energy crisis and the climate change present an unprecedented challenge for the whole economy, and especially for tourism. 

Now, more than ever, it is evident that tourism indeed will play a major role over the next years in the effort to build back Europe better, for our economic and social recovery and resilience. Decisions that affect tourism and the environment in the Mediterranean, affect the whole of Europe.

The main question remains.   Are we doing enough, and fast enough?

At the European Parliament, we have systematically in the past three years put pressure on the European Commission to place sustainable tourism high in the European agenda and enable the sector’s twin green and digital transition as a top priority.

I would like to be very clear. The Commission is working on the initiative European Agenda for Tourism 2030 but the European Parliament demands more ambition, new institutions and a dedicated budget line to give tourism what it deserves to overcome the great challenges ahead of us.

Also,now is the time for national,  local and regional policymakers not only to  rethink tourism, but to act immediately and abandon  the unsustainable patterns that have failed. 

Climate change, along with the economic crisis, and coupled with other environmental stresses, impact not only biodiversity in the EU and the Mediterranean, but the whole  tourism ecosystem products, services and the global competitiveness of the sector.

It is absolutely necessary for the EU, to support regions in the Med and the EU overall, to swiftly respond to such shocks and disasters, without delay in achieving the targets set by the EU Green Deal. 

 As Coordinator of my political group in the Tourism and Transport Committee, TRAN, I had proposed a Committee report that would highlight the need for an EU Strategy for Sustainable Tourism, aligned with the European Green Deal, the Digital Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The report I proposed was indeed conducted by TRAN Committee and was adopted as a European Parliament Resolution in March 2021.

We called on the European Commission to develop swiftly a roadmap for sustainable tourism.

The European Commission initiated necessary steps towards the upcoming European Tourism Agenda 2030-2050, through the Transition Pathway for Tourism document.

It is essential that all involved national and regional stakeholders, from the public and the private sector, commit to achieving key actions and targets for the green and digital transition of the tourism sector on a national, and therefore on a European level.

To this end, a dedicated budget line for tourism in the EU budget is of the utmost importance.

At the European Parliament, we continue to strive for adequate European and national support for tourism’s transition.

We have called for a new European agency to support sustainable tourism efforts, and for adequate financial support through the Next Generation EU, at 20 per cent of national plans.

Because, in order to have sustainable destinations, we must have sustainable jobs and sustainable businesses.

Still, up to date, financial support remains lower than needed, for SME’s and for the tourism’s workforce. And this harsh winter, more support will be needed, to sustain the most vulnerable jobs and small businesses.

At the same time, we called on EU member-states to immediately devise sustainable tourism action plans at both national and regional level, by making full use of the Next Generation EU funds, in forming tourism policies for the future. 

And we requested special stimulus packages for small and medium size businesses and micro enterprises until 2024, to facilitate them to invest for their green and digital transition.

 We have also stressed the need to support the tourism industry and destinations in implementing the principles of the circular economy, as well as for the sector to reduce its carbon footprint and to promote diversified tourism products, such as agrotourism, ecotourism, health tourism and cultural tourism.

We insist on policies for local development and sustainable new jobs, for workforce upskilling, and for stronger cooperation in tourism between EU states and third countries with benefits for all.

Sustainable tourism is also interlinked with sustainable mobility.

This is exactly why every state needs to invest more in modern, safe and sustainable transport infrastructureand facilitate green, affordable travel.

At the European Parliament we have called for specific action to make peripheralregions more accessible.Especially, we have addressed the acute needs of the island regions. Not only because they have limited access by boat or plane, but also because due to insularity they face an enormous cost of living.

We have to help islands in the Med and Europe to lift increasing barriers to growth, such as low connectivity and high cost of transportation, and be supported for new green and digital investments, so that they are not again be left behind.

I cannot stress enough the difficulties faced by the residents in insular and remote regions. We must, first and foremost, speak on behalf of these citizens and explain the immense difficulties they face to the representatives of central Member States. I am surprised by the fact that the rest of Europeans know too little about the sacrifices of citizens that reside on islands and we have to work together to change this.

Last, but not least, sustainability comes along with resilience. 

The EU’s tourism sector must be able to cope with future crises, because no country can do it alone, as we have seen throughout this pandemic.

This is why I personally have insisted on the need of a European Crisis Management Mechanism for tourism in the EU. My proposal has already been adopted in four European Parliament resolutions and we continue to strive for establishing both a crisis management mechanism, and an EU agency, dedicated to supporting tourism and its pathway to sustainability.

All these political proposals will greatly benefit the Mediterranean, as they will be critical in addressing the needs of the regions in light of all challenges posed by climate change.

 We need more institutional tools that will allow our regions to prepare and cope with the impact of climate change. Failure is not an option, as millions of jobs are at stake if we do not manage to preserve and develop the competitiveness of the Mediterranean region.

Thank you.