Cohesion and cooperation in transition
In the context of international challenges such as climate change, digitisation, demographic change, Europe’s regions are faced with a myriad of structural and societal challenges which requires innovative solutions in order to make a tangible positive difference to citizens’ lives. The aim of this workshop was to highlight examples of regional best practices in developing innovative approaches to tackling societal challenges on the ground and enabling a transition to a low-carbon economy that works for citizens. The debate facilitated an active knowledge exchange to boost interregional administrative capacity building. It also allowed further discussions on relevant aspects of EU funding programmes after 2020.
Kai Langnickel described Saxony-Anhalt’s current processes for fine tuning the governance of Saxony-Anhalt’s Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS) with a view to laying the groundwork for an innovation-based transition to a low-carbon economy. European cooperation has been prioritized as a central pillar of the strategy-led transition to boost the regional innovation ecosystem as it contributes to enhancing knowledge exchange, policy effectiveness and synergies with EU-level programmes.
Elzbieta Kozubek outlined Mazovia’s participation in several transport-related Interreg projects to exchange expertise between local and regional governments. These projects have laid the groundwork for regional development and the regional transport system. To complement these projects, the region participates in international associations to identify best practices in planning development. International projects are useful as they allow for testing and implementing targeted solutions.
As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, the EU has put in place a number of initiatives to tackle the pandemic’s negative effects, e.g. through the Common Response Investment Initiative, aiming to guarantee financing capacity to national and regional authorities in order to undertake actions in their economies. Andreu Iranzo outlined the transformation of Valencias Cohesion Policy programmes and the importance of a flexible competition policy from the perspective of the regional government.
John Howells laid out how the Welsh Government is committed to a green recovery from Covid-19. Investment will be targeted at new affordable housing; town centre regeneration; and energy efficiency measures. A key challenge will be to harness this investment so as to maximise sustainable employment opportunities.
Finally, Marianne Besselink from Bronckhorst presented a case study to illustrate how the Netherlands is undergoing a policy transformation that will allow people to live independently at home for longer through smart technology solutions. This represents a major change from the traditional Dutch model, whereby elderly people live in retirement and nursing homes instead of being cared for by their families, as happens in other EU countries. This transformation is having a great cultural impact on society while posing challenges for the housing stock.
Take away message
In the context of the myriad of challenges faced by Europe’s regions, experience has shown that a territorial, bottom-up approach is essential to design and implement measures that build on buy-in from citizens who can relate to local and regional decision-making processes delivering tangible solutions to problems on the ground.
“In the context of current transformation processes to tackle challenges such as COVID, climate change and digitisation, smart specialisation provides a valuable framework to boost interregional cooperation and increase critical innovation mass.”
Kai Langnickel, Saxony-Anhalt
“It is crucial that the participation of the territories in the process of vertical and horizontal distribution of the allocations of the European Funds 2021-2027 is ensured.
In this context it is essential that the EU's Recovery and Resilience Mechanism can be properly and easily coordinated with the European Funds.”
Andreu Iranzo Navarro, Valencia
„It is the regions that had to resolve the practical impacts of the border closures in spring 2020. It is up to them now to coordinate long-term cross-border responses. ”
Hana Dočekalová, Vysocina
“By using smart technology elderly people can live at home safely for longer, which offers more comfort. Not only for the user but also for the informal caregiver.”
Marianne Besselink, Achterhoek
“Experience of Interreg shows that regions should play a greater role in planning and implementing regional development policy.”
Elżbieta Kozubek, Mazovia