European Commissioner responsible for Regional
Second Conference on "Regions for Economic Change: Sharing Excellence –
Minister Turk, Vice-Chair of the REGI Committee of the European Parliament Olbrycht, dear Friends and Colleagues,
The title and objective of our conference that now comes to an end was "Sharing Excellence". I have heard many innovative, creative and inspiring ideas during these two days and I hope that you share my impression.
I hope that the range of subjects covered in these two days designed to give the opportunity to discuss and exchange networking experiences on some of the hottest topics on the EU policy agenda such as health care, demographic challenges, adapting traditional industries, urban transport and sustainable energy, allowed you to find something useful you can take home. As far as my team and I could observe, you used intensively these networking opportunities during the conference. Launching networking - this was one of the main purposes of the annual Regions for Economic Change conferences.
I thank you for your active participation in the conference. It showed once more what a wealth of experience has been accumulated in the regions and cities in Europe. This was very frequently facilitated by the cohesion policy, as we could hear in the presentations last evening of the first RegioStars awards. Good news is also that valuable experience is also found in regional or national frameworks or in Community programmes present individually on the ground.
My great hope is that in the aftermath of this conference, you have succeeded in picking up some new ideas to take home and you will take the opportunity to implement some of these ideas. I know that the daily pressure of work often makes it difficult to bring about changes and try new approaches and that sources of good practices seem also to multiply through all web-sites to which you reach out, guide books and conferences which flood you with examples. That is why our objective with Regions for Economic Change is to provide an integrated and streamlined set of tools, tailored to the context of EU cohesion policy on challenges that are important to our regions and municipalities.
I also know that the real difficulty is to evaluate these good practices and translate them into action. This calls for even more innovation and risk-taking not only among entrepreneurs and researchers, but also among public bodies and also among policy-makers. I would like to repeat which is like mantra that only in partnership with relevant actors at all levels that this can work. Many good experiences highlighted in the workshops showed how public and private actors – for instance in cluster initiatives - developed and implemented successfully new, effective policy approaches.
Again, let us take partnership seriously.
What are the next steps as we leave the Conference?
The mainstream and networking operational programmes have been finalised, the negotiations are finished and – I am glad to say – the aim to reorient the programming towards the Lisbon objectives of growth, jobs and competitiveness across Member States and regions has been achieved. Not only have the 60% and 75% earmarking objectives for the Lisbon activities been met, but also the planned EU investment specifically for innovation in 2007-2013 increased during the adoption process. We started with lower commitment and we ended with higher. The allocations to innovation related activities - RTDI, entrepreneurship, ICT and human capital – now reach 99 billion Euro which corresponds to 30% of all resources of Cohesion Policy for the 27 Member States.
The launch and implementation of the new generation of programmes is in full swing. But there is still plenty of room to improve projects that will be selected on the basis of the experience from the last programming round. We should not be satisfied to settle for the lowest common denominator. As it was said this morning lowest common denominator approach is not for regions. We have to go above it. What lies ahead for us now is to further strengthen the synergy between the various Community, national and regional policies that contribute to growth and jobs in the implementation phase. Your job is to ensure that relevant experiences and good practices from whatever source are shared through interregional cooperation can make a major contribution to this objective.
As I have repeatedly emphasised the Regions for Economic Change initiative offers a platform for this. As a next step the next generation of networks under the INTERREG IVC and URBACT II programmes will be selected during 2008 under their new programme strategies – including under the "fast-track" option. This means, concretely, that the Commission will work in partnership with all interested networks with the objective of providing a rapid testing ground for new ideas. We believe that such networks could comprise around 10 regions or cities and focus on the priority European themes.
These INTERREG and URBACT networks will become platforms for building two-way bridges with the mainstream programmes, which is so essential as you know. We hope that they will increasingly allow to feed the ideas and good practices identified in the networking into the implementation of the regions' and Member States' regional development activities.
I agree that well-functioning systems are essential and ICT as a communication channel is irreplaceable; but still I believe people matter.
In my view the best way of passing on good ideas is through personal contacts, be it at conferences, but even more in networks or in one-to-one twinning activities. However, one cannot be all the time everywhere. Therefore alongside this, we, the European Commission, will continue our analytical efforts to draw conclusions from the 2000-2006 period and evaluate the impact already achieved and the mechanisms and keys to success that were behind it. We make the good practices identified in this way available in a structured form over the InfoRegio web-site. This includes also the publication of the case studies on the finalists of this year's RegioStars award, which will be put on-line in the next days.
Last but not least, let me tell you where we are on the reflection on the future of European cohesion policy after 2013.
Finally, I come to the very next step: the lunch, which waits for you outside this room. After the lunch the "networking corners" will be available for you to continue the discussions from the workshops this morning. I look forward to seeing you again at next year's Regions for Economic Change conference. Please remember that "innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat" and as Prof. Porter said "innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity".
And please remember that:
"It is not always what we know or analyzed before we make a decision that makes it a great decision. It is what we do after we make the decision to implement and execute it that makes it a good decision.”
(C. William Pollard, American management writer and successful business man)
I hope we can continue to work. I thank you one more time and I hope to see you soon.