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Small Islands And Sustainable Tourism Must Be EU’s Focus For Post-COVID Recovery, MEP Urges

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MEP Josianne Cutajar has called on European Union institutions to place a special focus on islands and sustainable tourism as the world looks towards plans for a post-pandemic era.

The Gozitan MEP featured at the AGM of the Islands Commission, one of six representatives for the Geographical Commissions Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe. Covering twenty-one European regional island authorities from 11 countries, the commission represents the interests of roughly 15 million people.

Cutajar, who attended the AGM as a key speaker, highlighted her belief that the pandemic can be used as “an opportunity for tourism and our islands to build back better”.

Emphasising the work in the European Parliament to give “tourism and islands the place that they merit” at an EU level and within such institutions, Cutajar called upon the EU Commission “to create a special Directorate for Tourism, with a specific unit for islands”.

Her calls came amid a recurring theme from featured members within the AGM who all emphasised the importance of sustainable tourism, the conversation of marine biodiversity and how islands can and will recover post-pandemic.

Many of the speakers, such as Sicily’s Vice-President Gaetano Armao, also noted that there tends to be “very little recognition for islands in national strategy”, calling for a new era for European islands to be able to flourish.

This is not the first time that the concept of revitalising how tourism works within the EU has been brought up.

A draft resolution calling for the establishment of an EU strategy on sustainable tourism post-COVID-19 has already been adopted by the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee.

When it comes to sustainable tourism, people can expect to see governments shift a focus towards tourism strategies that consider the preservation of natural and cultural resources, limiting the negative impacts of tourist destinations and improving the quality of tourism-related jobs – among others.

That said, any successful and long-term sustainability plan will require a balance between economic, socio-cultural and environmental sustainability – a balancing act that can act as a sore spot for many.

This is primarily caused by the fact that economic growth and sustainable development also have an ethical dimension regarding the best way of implementing such plans.

Yet, like many other key topics like the environment, which have been met by slow responses to commitments, COVID-19 is offering the potential for recovering whilst also evolving. This is why you will stay hearing MEPs and the EU talking about ‘building back better’.

Recovering from COVID-19 has not become just getting back to how life was. Rather, it is aiming towards a push on how life should be – whether it be greener, more sustainable or more equal.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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