Azores

Azores

The archipelago of the Azores is situated in the North Atlantic, between 36º to 43º North latitudes and 26º to 31º West longitudes, at approximately 1500 km West from Lisbon and 3600 km East from North America.

The Azores is characterized by its wide variety of different landscapes and by its richness in terms of environmental, natural and cultural patrimony. The geographical localization of the Azores and its volcanic origins are responsible for a vast amplitude of ecosystems.

The islands of Corvo, Flores and Graciosa, as well as S. Jorge’s Fajãs are Biosphere Reserves, as classified by UNESCO. The historical center of Angra do Heroísmo’s city, in Terceira island, considered to be one of the most remarkable examples of Renaissance urbanism, and the Landscape of the Vineyard Culture, in Pico island, are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The entirety of the Azorean territory, encompassing 121 geographically disperse sites of geographic patrimony and marine areas of the nine volcanic islands of the Azores is classified by UNESCO as a Geopark.

The Azores is also characterized by its geostrategic position between the European, the American and the African continents and is, therefore, a formidable asset for the global projection of the European Union.

The archipelago is composed by nine islands – São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, Graciosa, Faial, São Jorge, Pico, Flores and Corvo – with a total surface area of 2 321 km2 and by the surrounding sea, adding up to nearly one million km2.

Along with its remoteness, the geographical spread between the islands intensifies the challenges posed to the Azorean people. For example, the distance between the Corvo island or the Flores island and the Santa Maria island exceeds 600 km.

The population of the Autonomous Region of the Azores is of 245.283 inhabitants, with an average density of 105 inhabitants/km2 and with a GDP/Capita which has been drawing nearer to the Community average.

The Azores has a temperate maritime climate, with average temperatures of 24°C in the summer and 13°C in winter.

 

Political and Administrative Statute of the Autonomous Region of the Azores:

 

The Azores is an Autonomous Region since 1976, statute which is enshrined in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic. The Political and Administrative Statute of the Azores has been approved by the Law 39/80 of August 22. The Regional Government and the Legislative Assembly are self-governing bodies of the Autonomous Region of the Azores. The Assembly is elected by direct universal suffrage and has a wide variety of political and legislative competences.

The Autonomous Region of the Azores is administratively divided into 19 municipalities and 150 parishes.

 

Economic Activities

Agriculture

 

The Azorean economy is deeply linked to the agricultural sector and has, as main elements, the production of milk (more than 30% of the milk production in Portugal[1]), the slaughtering and exportation of beef, the production of wines and the biologic agriculture. The production of cheese[2] also deserves to be highlighted – in some islands of the Azores, it is still produced in an artisanal way. About 50% of the total Portuguese production of cheese is produced in the Azores. The São Jorge cheese, for example, has the denomination of PDO, Protected Designation of Origin, because of its quality and the geographical environment in which it is produced.

The vast majority of the Azorean land is covered by pastures, forests and areas for agricultural use, especially agricultural explorations.

The public policies of agriculture are focused on the modernization of the activity and its infrastructures, in a way as to improve the access to agricultural explorations, to the electric network and to the water supply.

One of the biggest challenges posed to the Azorean people is related to the enhancement of the scenic and environmental potential of the Azorean agriculture.

 

Sea and Fisheries

 

The fisheries and the blue economy are also of extreme relevance for the Azorean economy, considering that the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Azores represents approximately 954 496 km2, amounting to 55% of the Portuguese EEZ and 18% of the European sea.

The activities linked to the sea, such as aquiculture, nautics, marine scientific investigation, the conservation of the environment and marine resources, the maritime and whale watching tourism demonstrate the Azores’ potential in the endogenous development through Blue and Green Economies.

The canning industry, especially tuna’s, occupies a relevant position within the archipelago’s exportations, having the Spanish and Italian markets as its main destination markets.

Tuna fishing in the Azores is also distinguished by Greenpeace as “Dolphin Safe” and “Friend of the Sea”.

 

Tourism

 

Tourism is one of the sectors of the regional economy which has had a more pronounced growth. The preservation of the sustainability of Azores as a destination and the guarantee of a proper balance between the touristic activity, the associated infrastructures and the protection of the landscape, of the ecosystems and of their biodiversity are unique traits of the Region.

This strategy has been gaining notoriety at a European and international level. Amongst many other distinctions and awards, the Azores was declared as a “QualityCoast Destination N1”, achieving the Gold award, which recognizes the most sustainable European coastal destination; and elected by the European Best as one of the best destinations in Europe within the whale watching activity.

The link between tourism and the activities connected to the sea, to the environment and to the agriculture is visible, highlighting whale watching, sports and underwater fishing, sailing, yachting, cruise ship tourism, among others, which are also a factor of diversification and conversion of assets and traditional techniques.

 

Investigation, Innovation and Energy

 

The Azores has been strengthening its participation in European projects that aim for the innovation based on knowledge, at the level of consortiums or partnerships, attracting direct Community financing, namely within the Horizon 2020 or Interreg (Europe and the Atlantic Area, for example) programs, as a way of contributing to the development and consolidation of the scientific capacitation in the Region, to the reinforcement of the economic axis based on ID&I (Investigation, Development & Innovation) and to the projection of the Azores in the European Research Area.

The University of the Azores, created in 1976, is composed by three centers situated in the islands of São Miguel, Terceira and Faial, and incorporates organic university and polytechnic units. The areas of excellence and international recognition of the University of the Azores are the sciences and technologies of the sea and fisheries and, in particular, the study of the deep sea, seamounts, hydrothermal vents, environment and climate changes, as well as the study of the biodiversity, volcanology/seismology and of the agro-industrial and marine biotechnology.

Confirming its importance and centrality, the Azores is going to welcome the Atlantic Observatory, an infrastructure for investigation, monitoring, protection and sustainable exploration of the deep sea resources. The AIR Center (Atlantic International Research Center) is an international scientific organization based in the Azores, with focus on the Atlantic and which aims for the scientific and technological development in the areas of space, ocean, atmosphere, climate and energy. In the space component, one of the Air Center’s project is the creation of a spaceport for the launching of small satellites in the Azores, more specifically in the Santa Maria island.

The Azores are also an example when it comes to sustainability due to its decarburization policy, since 41% of its energy comes from renewable and endogenous sources, in particular from geothermic sources, which already account for 67% of the renewable energies.

 

Tourism

The preservation of the sustainability of Azores as a destination and the guarantee of a proper balance between the touristic activity, the associated infrastructures and the protection of the landscape, of the ecosystems and of their biodiversity are unique traits of the Region.

Sea and fisheries

Tuna fishing in the Azores is also distinguished by Greenpeace as “Dolphin Safe” and “Friend of the Sea”.

Investigations

In the space component, one of the Air Center’s project is the creation of a spaceport for the launching of small satellites in the Azores, more specifically in the Santa Maria island.

[1]http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/activity/outermost/doc/plan_action_strategique_eu2020_acores_pt.pdf

[2]https://www.investinazores.com/index.php/en/why-azores/agro-food-sector