Brussels, 27 September 2004
OPEN DAYS 2004, an event which brings together more than 2,000 regional policy experts in Brussels between 27 and 30 September, was opened today by Péter Balázs, Member of the European Commission, and Peter Straub, the President of the Committee of the Regions. Over 100 regions and cities are taking part in the initiative, which focuses on the management of the structural funds and future of cohesion policy.
Presenting the event, Péter Balázs said: “If we want the European Union to become more competitive, if we want economic growth to sustain and to create more jobs, than we need to act with a common effort. The added value of the European level is unquestionable. I am convinced that the current and the proposed future system of cohesion policy is very well prepared to support this effort. In this sense, I would like the OPEN DAYS to be a learning opportunity not only for its participants but also for the citizens and decision makers in regions and Member States.”
Peter Straub added: “OPEN DAYS 2004 will give local and regional authorities a better understanding of the practical impact of the Commission’s reforms. It will help them identify what they are entitled to – and how to ensure they get it. We believe the Commission’s reforms will result in a more decentralised, simplified and efficient funding system, which can only be good for the EU’s competitiveness. As everyone knows, our regions and cities are the lifeblood of the European economy.”
OPEN DAYS consists of 71 debates, workshops and seminars, which have been jointly organised by the Regional Policy Directorate-General of the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions and offices of Europe’s regions and cities in Brussels. The major issue of the event concerns the exchange of best practices in managing regional development policies and the future of cohesion policy and the structural funds for which the Commission tabled proposals on 14 July this year.
Solidarity among the peoples of the European Union, economic and social progress and reinforced cohesion form part of the Community’s overall objectives of, ”reducing disparities between the levels of development of the various regions and the backwardness of the least favoured regions”, as laid down in the Treaty establishing the European Communities. The instruments of solidarity, the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund cover about one third or of the EU budget (roughly EUR 36 billion in 2004) and have a major impact on the competitiveness of regions and contribute significantly to improving the living conditions of their citizens, particular in the poorer regions.
Most of the funding is spent through multi-annual development programmes, managed jointly by Commission services, the Member States’ and regional authorities.