EU’s outermost regions could be ‘immunological labs’, Portugal says

A man protected with a face mask walks on a street in the Nordeste municipality, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal, 18 May 2020. [EPA-EFE/EDUARDO COSTA]

The far-away European Union territories could become “immunological laboratories” by accelerating and achieving full vaccination of the population there, Portugal’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, Ana Paula Zacarias said on Tuesday (18 May).

“We could use these regions as immunological laboratories, i.e. accelerate  vaccination so that it is 100% and see what results they then have and how the populations behave,” Zacarias told a press conference after chairing the meeting of ministers of European Affairs, being held in Coimbra on Monday under the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU.

The EU includes nine outermost regions, Portugal’s Azores and Madeira, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint Martin, and the Spanish Canary Islands.

According to Zacarias, this was an “appeal” made by the President of the Azorean Government, José Manuel Bolieiro, who was present at the informal meeting.

Addressing examples of the outermost regions as “laboratories for the future,” the Secretary of State highlighted the “very interesting” project of the digital nomads in Madeira.

There, “the conditions are created so that a population of about 6,000 interested parties who have already applied to be there can work” from the centre for digital nomads, she pointed out, naming the respective “very good conditions” – from Internet access to contact with the local community.

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Outermost regions have “potential”: EU commissioner

The outermost regions have “all the conditions” to participate in the future of the European Union (EU), given their “potential” in strategic areas, said Elisa Ferreira, the EU commissioner for cohesion and reform.

“In the case of the Azores and Madeira, there is regional autonomy and, therefore, it is up to the regional authorities to prepare their plans and projects, and I think they will be fully able to do so, because some of the areas in which Europe is focusing for the future are areas in which [these regions] can play a key role,” said the Portuguese commissioner.

These include “clean energy, biodiversity, ecotourism,” she said, adding these areas are “important for a sustainable future for Europe”.

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[Edited by Vlagyiszlav Makszimov and Frédéric Simon]

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