Brüssel, 1 Juli 2013
Europe's Macroregional Experiment: the first Evaluation
Today the European Commission has published the first study to weigh up the success of the EU's two macro-regional strategies and to provide recommendations for the future.
The EU's Danube and Baltic Strategies, involving over 20 EU and non EU countries, have pioneered a unique kind of cooperation, based on the idea that common challenges faced by specific regions –whether environmental, economic or security related – are best tackled collectively, and that it makes sense to plan together for the most effective deployment of the funds available.
Commenting on the report, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, said: “Today's study shows the clear value of our macro regional strategies. Their intensified cooperation has resulted in literally hundreds of new projects and new networks in the Danube and the Baltic regions. Above all, participants tell us that cooperation – including with non EU member states has been significantly strengthened."
"But, if we want to ensure lasting success the approach must be placed at the heart of government and regional policy plans – particularly in the design of new programmes and projects for the next financial period – and backed up by enough resources. We need even stronger ownership by the regions themselves, delivering clearer decision making and greater visibility."
As far as new strategies are concerned Commissioner Hahn added, "Existing strategies provide useful lessons for potential new macro regions. Before launching any new strategy, we should consider carefully what its objectives are, what added value it can bring, and how it would be resourced. Experience shows it is helpful to concentrate on a limited number of priorities at the start. Of course every region is unique, and new macro regions may try new approaches to deepening cooperation"
The report delivers a broadly positive verdict on the existing strategies so far. It highlights how they have created hundreds of new projects and helped to formulate joint policy objectives in areas of vital importance for the regions involved. The macroregional approach has also led to numerous joint initiatives and networks, as well as political decisions at collective level.
The report says cooperation between the participating EU countries and neighbouring non-EU countries has been significantly strengthened and that has resulted in more efficient use of the resources available.
But the report reminds governments of the need for political commitment and for making the strategies a priority across all relevant policy areas, ensuring they are embedded in future European Structural and Investment Funds programmes, as well as other relevant EU, regional and national policy frameworks. It also underlines the importance of administrative resources to deliver the objectives.
Concerning future macro-regional strategies, the report stresses that new initiatives should only be launched to address particular needs for improved and high-level cooperation. There must be readiness to translate political commitment into administrative support, and new strategies should clearly demonstrate the particular added-value at EU level.
The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) - was adopted in 2009. The EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) was adopted in June 2011. A Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region has been requested.
The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR)
The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) brings together 8 Member States (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland) who have joined forces to tackle specific challenges in the area, in particular the state of the Baltic Sea environment. The Strategy lso welcomes cooperation with neighbouring countries including Russia and Norway.
Some flagship projects:
Baltic Deal working with farmers to help reduce nutrient losses from farms, and maintain production and competiveness.
Efficient, Safe and Sustainable Traffic at Sea (EfficienSea) making the Baltic Sea Region a pilot region for e-Navigation, by developing and testing infrastructure and services for e-Navigation, and sharing good practice widely.
Baltic Manure turning manure from an environmental problem into a opportunity for business innovation. The project is producing renewable energy and organic fertilisers.
BSR Stars aims to boost regional competitiveness and growth with transnational research and innovation links: tackling common challenges in areas like health, energy and sustainable transport.
The EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR)
The EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) covers 9 EU countries (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia) and 5 non-EU countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine and Moldova).
The co-operative approach has helped to complete the Vidin-Calafat Bridge between Bulgaria and Romania - a vital link on a key priority route of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). The bridge is only the second one along the 630 km river section of the border.
The Danube Shipwreck Removal project aims to remove shipwrecks from the Danube, Sava and Tisa in Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria - improving navigation and ecological conditions.
The Danube Region Business Forum, provides an important networking platform for over 300 SMEs. It encourages business-to-business meetings, and supports links with knowledge providers such as research institutes and universities.
Work has started to create a Danube Research and Innovation Fund, pooling national and regional funds, building on the experiences of the BONUS programme in the Baltic Sea Region.
The Danube Floodrisk project promotes cooperation methods with 19 institutions in 8 Danube countries, sharing databases and flood mapping. The European Flood Awareness System (EFAS) is carrying out complementary work.
At the request of the European Council the Commission will present a a new EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) by the end of 20141. 8 countries are involved: 4 EU Member States (Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia) and 4 non-EU countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia).
In the last two years, there have been various discussions , including a recent resolution from the European Parliament, of the feasibility of a macro-regional strategy in the Alps.
European Council Conclusions of 12-13 December 2012 (subject to the evaluation of the concept of macro-regional strategies as foreseen in the Council conclusions of 13 April 2011).