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European Commission


Brussels, 21 May 2014

Report on Governance of the Macro-Regional Strategies

Why do we need a Report on Governance of Macro‑Regional Strategies?

The Macro-Regional Strategies (EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the EU Strategy for the Danube Region) are bringing concrete results on the ground1, but experience has also revealed obstacles to implementation and changes are needed to improve impact, results and the sustainability of existing and future strategies, in particularly:

  • Stronger political leadership and decision making from countries and regions concerned: Ministers and national authorities coordinating the work need to take full ownership, and more clearly direct what is happening on the ground;

  • Greater clarity in the organisation of work: For authorities working on day-to-day implementation, there is a need for explicit lines of responsibility, effective coordination and sufficient resources.

What will change as a result of this report?

Each Macro-Region now has to decide how to respond to the report, which offers recommendations (applicable to all regions) and options that may or may not be relevant in each case. Tailor made solutions are needed for each macro-region, taking into account the regional specifics. Good use should be made of already existing regional organisations, complementing work already done in other formats. It is hoped the result will be better management of the strategies to deliver more results more efficiently.

What does the report cover?

This Report looks at the existing Strategies at the following levels:

  1. Political leadership and ownership: Who gives strategic direction? Who takes the major decisions? How to ensure identification with, and communication and accountability of the Strategies?

  2. Coordination: Who is responsible for overall administrative coordination at participating country (or region) level?

  3. Implementation: Who should lead day-to-day implementation, who needs to be associated and how should it be supported? How can full involvement of non-EU countries participating in the Strategies be ensured?

What exactly is proposed at political level?

  1. Countries and regions involved should take general strategic leadership at ministerial level. Ministers hosting the National Contact Point should be the ultimate decision makers, and together, constitute a regular decision making formation. They should be responsible for evaluating progress, guiding implementation, and seeking breakthroughs when stalemates occur. Meetings should coincide with the Annual Forum.

  2. Other options to ensure strategic leadership could include:

  1. a rotating chair for each Strategy for a given period, with an agreed rotation principle.2 Holding the chair could also imply hosting and organising the Annual Forum, ensuring direct links to implementation;

  2. the nomination of a special representative for a Strategy, approved by the countries concerned. S/he could be given the role of steering implementation, trouble shooting, and reporting back to the ministerial level. S/he might be ministerial level or equivalent, following the experience of European Coordinators for TEN-T3. S/he could be financed by the transnational cooperation programme, or by other means;

  • Sectorial ministers should drive progress in their thematic areas. In each area of work, leadership at ministerial level should be assumed by the country leading the priority area in question. Meetings could be scheduled regularly and consideration should be given to meetings in the margins of Council meetings. The special representative would be expected to take a proactive role in such meetings;

  • Ministers hosting the National Contact Point should have a strategic coordination function within their national or regional government, regularly informing the government of on-going initiatives, and ensuring the alignment of policies and funding.

What is proposed to improve co-ordination?

  1. National Contact Points should have the lead in coordination and operational leadership.

  2. The High Level Group4 should become more active in ensuring coherence between Macro-Regional Strategies, and with EU actions and objectives overall. This group should share good practice on issues such as governance, the setting of targets and indicators, monitoring and evaluation, and on raising public awareness. It should be the forum where the approaches and practices in each Region are compared, with a view to maximising leverage and impact;

  3. The relevant transnational cooperation programmes and INTERACT should provide targeted facilitation to this key coordination level. Tasks could include conceptual and further developmental work on projects (existing, on-going, planned, and proposed), funding sources, and targets. They should facilitate reporting and publicity.

  4. It is important to ensure the Macro-Regions are covered by debates at EU 28 level, including in the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee.

What is proposed to improve implementation?

  1. Sector Ministers (or where relevant, leaders of other organisations leading Priority Areas) should be fully accountable for the work in the thematic areas, and for the conditions offered to thematic experts and Steering Group members. These should be officially appointed and receive a clear mandate, along with sufficient resources;

  2. Thematic experts and Steering Groups should be the expert drivers of day-to-day implementation. Steering Groups, with members from all involved countries, should be established for all areas. Their role, capacities, resources and engagement is key to success. The Commission should provide equivalent thematic expertise. Information and communication technologies could facilitate good communication flows between meetings;

  3. Integration of non-EU countries and regions participating in the Strategies should be facilitated, based on the good approach developed in the Danube Region with regard to participation to Steering Group meetings, and making use of communications technology;

  4. Transnational cooperation programmes, while retaining current objectives, should also be used effectively to support coordination and implementation of the Strategies. They should exploit innovative approaches to networking and discussions. Platforms or points, where appropriate to be hosted by existing regional institutions, could include tasks such as:

  1. supporting the work of key implementers, both in practical ways, and in terms of data collection, analysis and advice;

  2. providing a platform for the involvement of civil society, regional and multi-governance levels, and parliamentary debate;

  3. facilitating the Annual Forum.

  1. Building on experiences, skills and networks already developed in its initial support work, INTERACT should provide overall conceptual and developmental assistance. Tasks should include:

  1. providing overall services across Macro-Regional Strategies, such as communication, and capitalising on cooperation results;

  2. exchange of good practice between existing and upcoming Macro-Regional Strategies;

  3. facilitating links between Macro-Regional Strategies and funding programmes;

  4. facilitating thematic synergies

So what is the role of the Commission?

  1. The Commission should continue to offer strategic support. It will facilitate the evaluation of progress, identify shortcomings that need to be addressed at political level, as well suggest resolution of implementation stalemates. It should ensure coherence with EU policies and positions, especially the integration of the Macro‑Regional approach into EU policies;

  2. On co-ordination, the Commission should continue playing a key role, where there is a clear added value for its involvement. In addition to the role outlined above this includes, in partnership with National Contact Points, addressing issues, such as insufficient staffing, insufficient synergies with existing institutions or uneven commitment of government authorities. Where these lead to concern about progress on performance and the added value of Priority Areas, joint decisions on future viability should be taken.

Report on Governance of Macro-Regional Strategies

1 :

Communication concerning the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, 23 March 2012 COM (2012)128 final; Report on the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, 8 April 2013 COM (2013) 181 Final. Report concerning the added value of Macro-Regional Strategies, 27 June 2013 COM (2013) 468 Final; Conclusions of the General Affairs Council, 22 October 2013.

2 :

As currently in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, the rotation principle for the chair of a Strategy could take into account EU Presidencies in the Council, presidencies in other macro-regional institutions, or be on a voluntary basis.

3 :

Trans-European Transport Networks.

4 :

Representatives (National Contact Point or equivalent) of all 28 EU Member States, and non-EU countries, for all Macro-Regional Strategies.

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