EU commissioner Johannes Hahn was in Shetland on Monday to get a “personal feeling” of the area and to see successful EU-funded projects.
Mr Hahn is in charge of regional development policy, and said Shetland was “very interesting” as an example of making the best of what it has. He also said he was impressed by projects he had visited that had benefited from European funding, including Mareel, the NINES project in conjunction with Hjaltland Housing Association, Lerwick Harbour and the NAFC.
He was also due to visit the biomass project, run by the Grains brothers at Gremista.
Mr Hahn said: “[Shetland] is one of our best examples in Europe of the capability to turn a disadvantage in geographical location into an advantage. It could be a good example for other areas to get an idea of what is possible.” His impression was that: “EU funding has been extremely well-used.”
He said it was important to identify an area’s potential, and in Shetland this could be in tourism, especially in attracting more foreign visitors to cultural festivals, and, looking to the future, in renewable energy. “It’s important for small economic places like Shetland to broaden their scope.”
Speaking about fears that despite being one of the remotest parts of the European Union, Shetland will be excluded from ” assisted area” funding under recently adopted EU regional aid guidelines he said that there is “leeway”, which is the subject of new discussions.
The proposed move is as a result of the Shetland’s gross domestic product (GDP) being above the EU average, and its current low level of unemployment.
More in Friday’s Shetland Times