The Open Days, were an example of "multi-level governance at its best" said regional policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner, noting that the active engagement of European regions and cities in the global economy is the foundation of a "silent revolution" which has put the Lisbon growth and jobs strategy, innovation, climate change and new intra-regional co-operation mechanisms at the heart of regional policy for 2007-2013.
"Europe can count on its regions and cities", said Luc Van den Brande, President of the Committee of the Regions. "Partnership between the local, regional, national and European levels of government will ensure we can cope better with common global challenges ahead".
"Europe starts at local level" agreed European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, stressing the need to tackle such challenges at European, national, regional and local levels.
"Innovation is the answer" to developing a knowledge-based, low-carbon economy, said Commission Vice-President Gunther Verheugen, urging regions to turn environmental challenges into economic opportunities. Regions with above-average education and training all do well, especially where labs and firms co-operate, and those that boost energy efficiency can prove highly successful on world markets, he said.
"Climate change is a big opportunity for regions and cities", MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP-ED, DE) told participants, stressing the need to invest in reducing household energy consumption and improving the efficiency of fossil-fuel power plants, so as to avoid "burning our children's resources" and build a solid basis for future growth.
Co-operation among regions, a powerful means to deepen EU integration, was a key concern at the Open Days, accounting for 55 out of 140 seminars, noted First Vice-President of the CoR Michel Delebarre (PES). It involves some constraints, but adds much value, and should not be reduced to an exchange of best practice. However, it needs money, and rules, he continued, noting that so far, only 12 Member States had adopted national provisions for implementing the "European Grouping for Territorial Co-operation", a European legal instrument designed to facilitate and promote cross-border, trans-national and inter-regional cooperation.
"How long shall we be measuring cohesion policy against the Lisbon strategy? Surely this strategy was meant to be transitional?" MEP Jan Olbrycht (EPP-ED, PL) asked Vice-President Verheugen, referring to the "earmarking" of EU regional development funds for Lisbon strategy aims.
"Lisbon is not a 'transitional' strategy - we shall need to assert our competitiveness for decades to come", replied Mr Verheugen, adding that "the single market is not big enough" to permit any alternative. In 2010, "we shall lay down new targets for jobs and growth", but "the principle remains the same", he said.
Directing structural funds into Lisbon channels "is a good thing, because it makes for an integrated policy", said MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij (EPP-ED, NL), stressing the need to do more to foster cutting-edge research, and looking forward to a forthcoming Commission communication on research clusters.
No "renationalisation" of regional policy
No-one at the Open Days, noted former CoR President Sir Albert Bore (PES), had advocated "renationalising" EU structural funds (currently 36% of the EU budget) to Member States in the next programming period (post-2013). However, "if you wish to use regions and local authorities to innovate, then you must give them the opportunity to do so - give us the tools to do that", he said to Vice-President Verheugen.
Vice-President Verheugen replied that even though Germany was often suspected of seeking to "renationalise" the funds, he himself, having seen how the eastern Länder had benefited, was against it. "Solidarity is a spiritual bond, which will be lost on the wind from day these instruments are no longer European, but national", he added.
In the chair : Gerardo GALEOTE (EPP-ED, ES)
- More information :
Open Days web site
EP Regional Development Committee Web Site
European Grouping for Territorial Co-operation
Website of the EU Committee of the Regions
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