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European Commission

Johannes Hahn

Commissioner for Regional Policy

Speech: Putting a modern regional policy in place for Western Greece: Commissioner Johannes Hahn spells out how cohesion funds can help regional recovery

Patras, Western Greece – Meeting with local and business representatives

14 February 2013

Commissioner Hahn is on the second leg of his "tour" of all 13 Greek regions to help make the most of EU regional funds for investment in growth.

Addressing a public meeting with local and business representatives in Patras, commissioner Hahn made the following remarks:

"What is important for the next financial period 2014 -20 is that we have to modernise our policy. Our money has not always been used properly I must say. But one of the key elements for the next period as regards EU Regional Policy is the absolute alignment of the policy with the Europe2020 growth agenda. We have to agree with each region, with each member state quantifiable goals and results which will be measured at the end of the period. Our policy is dedicated to growth and that's why there is a need now for you to come forward with ideas. For example how to strengthen small and medium sized businesses and in particular how to innovate. This should be understood in the broadest sense of the word. It can mean innovation in new marketing concepts, in new administrative processes.

We need to focus on SMEs - strengthening them, creating new ones and forging links with universities. Here in Patras you have a university that is renowned not just in Greece but all over Europe. This is a great asset to build on.

One of the big deficiencies of Europe is that we spend a lot on research but we really do need to improve the transfer of this into concrete business applications. It's for this reason that we are promoting a much closer cooperation with Horizon2020 EU research and development funds for the next financial period.

The issue of governance both in the preparation of the new programmes and in their implementation, is of paramount importance. It is absolutely necessary to have total transparency, to publish details of projects: which named individual is responsible. We need to show our agreements and our quantifiable goals. Everyone should know our common objectives, everyone should be able to follow the progress of the structural fund programmes and if something is wrong should be able to raise his or her voice.

Regional policy has to be understood as an investment policy - and as such if you invest you expect to get more than you put in. Not just cash but happiness and satisfaction for the people. Please be guided by this.

There are so many opportunities here. From business representatives outside Greece I am being told that Greece is in principle an attractive place to invest. But there is homework to be done - to turn the theory into reality.

We need to make better use in this current period of the structural funds than in the past. We have found it hard to use the money available - which is not a problem with the amounts but more the maturity of projects and their implementation. I can reassure you the European Commission, particularly the services, are at your disposal to help meet these challenges.

My personal vision is that in a few years Greece will be so strong that it will be in a position to help others facing trouble. I am convinced it will be a healthy member of the European family once more."

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