As Commissioner for Regional Policy, I am responsible for the coordination of EU policies in the Outermost Regions and it is a job that I take very seriously. This week, I am in La Réunion and I hope to be able to visit all of the Outermost Regions in the course of my mandate.
I give special attention to the Outermost Regions, as they are territories with specific needs, where our policy can tangibly show its added value.
La Réunion is a French region where the unemployment rate is above 30% - that is 20 points higher than the national average. Creating jobs is the number one priority there. The ERDF programme for La Réunion is the biggest for France, with a budget of more than 1 billion euro for 2014-2020. This money will be invested strategically where it is most needed, especially in training and support to local SME's.
But our funds will also help the region prepare its future; more than 20% of the ERDF budget for 2014-2020 will be invested in research and innovation. The Smart Specialisation Strategy that the authorities drew up ahead of the adoption of the Operational Programme reveals how much potential there is in this region! And I was able to appreciate it on the ground when I visited the Technopole of Saint-Denis, a fantastic innovation hub that we cofinanced. I strongly believe that the region has what it takes to create growth and jobs in the coming years, with the support of our policy, in synergy with other EU policies - COSME, Erasmus+, POSEI, Horizon 2020 and the new Investment Plan.
Because transport infrastructures are of utmost importance there, we will continue to invest in their modernization: 167 million euro from the ERDF (400 million with national co-financing) will be dedicated to the improvement of these infrastructures including, for example, further work on the Roland Garros airport.
I don't agree with the French saying "loin des yeux, loin du coeur"; the special attention we give to Outermost Regions shows that Cohesion policy leaves no one behind.