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Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Closing speech at the Regions and Globalisation conference

CPMR Seminar: Regions and Globalisation
Azores, 24 June 2006

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start by congratulating both the Azores regional government and the CPMR for organising what has been a very important event. As President Barroso said in his video message, it was a truly innovative departure to gather together representatives from all levels of governance - international, national, European and regional – to discuss issues of concern.

Innovative, yes, but also essential. The profile of this audience simply reflects a new reality. A reality that demands partnerships at all levels if we are to formulate effective responses to the opportunities and challenges of globalisation.

And I am not just talking about ‘vertical partnerships’. Leaders at all levels need to reach out to their counterparts across the world to share best practices and seek solutions to the global challenges that now affect all our citizens. Challenges like environmental degradation, the international drugs trade, epidemics and terrorism.

This conference, with its regional representatives from Latin America, Asia and Africa, has been a very successful first step in that direction.

The EU has much to share, thanks to its long experience in implementing innovative regional policies. These range from the core commitment, in the preamble of the EU’s founding treaty, to ‘reducing the differences between the various regions’, to the Maastricht Treaty’s creation of the Committee of the Regions.

For more than 30 years, the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe has worked at our side, helping to make a success of these policies, and I would like to thank them for that support.

For its part, the European Commission will continue to associate Europe’s regions and their representative organisations – particularly the CPMR – with its work.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Why have a regional policy at all? And why do the regions have an increasingly important role to play in the management of globalisation? The answer is simple.

We now live in an age of inter-connectedness. National borders and divisions between different levels of government matter less. Globalisation, powered by technology and market opening, has enormous potential for boosting trade and prosperity. And this is true for developing countries, too. Since 2000, more than 200 million people have been lifted out of poverty in China alone, for example.

But while the process of market opening may be beneficial overall for growth and jobs, it also brings about some disruptive transformations, particularly for less qualified and more vulnerable workers.

Addressing this is politically important, because while the benefits of globalisation are diffuse and often intangible, the costs can be very visible, and highly concentrated in specific areas. This means individual regions – particularly those with underdeveloped and non-diversified economies - are often on the receiving end of the less welcome aspects of globalisation. This is why the regions have an essential role to play.

The answer to the restructuring which follows in globalisation’s wake, and which falls so heavily on individual regions, is not to try and erect protective walls and resist change. Of course not. An open and confident Europe must embrace change, and not forego the benefits of globalisation.

The answer is more flexible labour markets and safety nets. The link with the renewed Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs is clear: we need active labour market policies to help unemployed people back into work quickly. We need to equip people for change, with lifelong learning and increased investment in human capital.

This is about a new, more social Europe. A social Europe that offers choice and opportunity, rather than one that tries to delay inevitable change or lock people into doomed jobs.

In the context of the renewed Lisbon strategy, the new generation of structural funds will increasingly aim at anticipating changes linked to globalisation and preparing for them. In fact parts of these funds are specifically ear-marked to do this.

Helping Europe’s regions adapt to market opening in this way is nothing new. After all, adjusting to the changes ushered in by the Single Market was the key reason for the birth of the EU’s cohesion policy at the end of the 1980s. Adapting to the changes which follow international trade opening, and which are just as significant, should now become a key component of that policy.

Of course, however much we try to anticipate and manage change, there will always be unexpected shocks which have adverse affects on certain industries and regions. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund has been established to deal with just such an event. It will offer a European response to help those adjusting to the consequences of globalisation: a sign of solidarity for the many who benefit from openness, to the few who face the sudden shock of losing their job.

The fund will cover training, relocation of workers, outplacement: the cost of action to help find a new job. Not all restructuring will qualify: this will be a crisis mechanism, only to address significant economic and social shocks related to globalisation. To be cost-effective, it will be delivered through existing Structural Fund instruments, using the same rules.

Ultimately, the long-term dynamism of all our regions can only be achieved if our actions are anchored in the principles of sustainable development. So it is significant that this conference dedicated a whole session to this.

Growth, competitiveness and respect for the environment go hand-in-hand, and our citizens know this. Yes, they want prosperity and jobs. But they also want clean air and water, good health, social protection and safe food.

Through its cohesion policy, the EU contributes significantly to sustainable development. Practical examples are waste water treatment plants, sustainable urban transport, flood risk management plans, renewable energy and environmentally friendly technologies.

For the 2007-2013 period, the Commission encourages the regions to develop regional sustainable development strategies. For coastal regions in particular, the Community has recognised that more integrated planning and management is required to achieve sustainable development.

This is the motivation behind the Green Paper on an integrated maritime policy for Europe, which the Commission adopted this month. The CPMR was an active and constructive contributor during the preparation of the Green Paper, and we count on your continued support during the consultation phase as well.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The closing of this seminar marks the beginning of an important new process for the regions. Yet, assembling regional representatives from all five continents for the first time to discuss the effects of globalisation is just the start of the process. The challenge now is to turn words into action.

The signing of a framework agreement with the United Nations Development Programme should help you to do that.

Forging ‘horizontal partnerships’ in this way with regions elsewhere in the world is the sort of constructive and effective action that our citizens expect.

It complements the important and well-established role that Europe’s regions already have with their ‘vertical partners’ at other levels of European governance.

It is both a response to, and a product of, globalisation.

And it reflects the sort of Europe that will thrive in this rapidly changing world: a confident Europe, an innovative Europe, an open Europe, a Europe that stretches out a hand to its partners across the world.

Thank you.

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