EPRC European Policy Seminar Series at Strathclyde University: A Regional Outlook of the Rural Islands in the Europe: Challenges and Opportunities
On 24th February 2016, I was invited to the European Policies Research Centre at Strathclyde University to talk about my research on the topic of the EU island development.
The seminar discussed rural islands’ development, funding opportunities for island governance, and macro regional strategies within the UK and EU, especially for rural Scottish islands, Ålan islands and Croatian islands. Despite their geographical isolation and peripherality, rural and remote islands significantly contribute to their regional economy through tourism and maritime activities. However, these also threaten islands’ sustainable development and lead to social exclusion and slower economic growth. Changing communities’ perceptions about sustainable island management, including fishing practices, sewage and water management is therefore vital, as well as consistent governments’ commitments on better connectedness, through affordable ferry transport, communication and green technologies, and community engagement in the making process. Both seem to have contributed to recent signs of re population and resilience. Lack of comparable statistics and data heterogeneity suggests looking at regional and local socioeconomic and environmental trends. Fieldwork studies based on ethnographic methods are also useful in gathering a local and regional picture.
Participants asked some interesting comments about whether my studies can be compared with other islands and whether behaviour patterns that exist within one island community can be found to be similar to other rural regions. I would say : yes. De facto, it is this notion of “rurality” and “remoteness” that actually govern community’s behaviour, for example, a communal friendship or dominance that is imposed by the islanders toward newcomers. Distance, therefore, greatly contributes to community’s close ties with their members. Ultimately, it is about the quest for a survival and self-sufficiency on one hand and preservation of the island life and cultural heritage of the island communities on the other. Both can co-exist together.
My gratitude goes to Mr Timothee Lehuraux who worked hard to set this all up and to Mr Stefan Kah for giving me the opportunity to talk about my research passion – islands.