Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) – Successful regional development policy
At the event dedicated to the topic of Integrated Territorial Investments, speakers shared their views and ideas on how to make Romanian territorial development policies more effective before the start of the next round of Cohesion Policy Funding. They highlighted the importance of integrated approaches based on joint planning, the elimination of major disparities between regions and between counties, as well as the importance of cohesion principles.
The workshop focused on topics that could promote the use of Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) and Community-led Local Development (CLLD) tools. With the use of these, local and regional authorities would be able to play a greater role in decision-making and implementation processes.
Specific suggestions on improving the distribution of EU funds have been presented, which could also help Romanian counties that have been less well-off due to their position below the regional average. Suggestions also concerned the elaboration of a tendering system for which there already are some functioning examples within the EU.
Árpád-András ANTAL, mayor of the Municipality of Sfântu Gheorghe, drew attention to the wide development gap between urban and rural areas, illustrating with statistics that already developed counties had become even more developed, while poorer counties had become even more so. The increasing tendencies of decline in the underdeveloped regions well-seen over the last 20 years must be reversed, he said, and regional development policies must be elaborated in line with the principles of cohesion.
Flexibility in thematic approaches, simplification, multi-level governance, strengthening of local administrative capacity, innovative thinking, increasing resources – amongst others, Iuliu WINKLER, MEP considers these aspects important for the realization of territorial development. Mihaela Virginia TOADER, state secretary of the Ministry of European Funds already encouraged the concerned parties to start developing ITI projects, as preparations can take 2–3 years. Csaba BORBOLY, president of Harghita County Council denoted that the integrated territorial development of different regions was unthinkable without consulting local authorities. Tadeusz TRUSKOLASKI, mayor of Białystok, presented his case in a rather encouraging manner, stating that the population has increased significantly in the area where ITI funds have been used. Dr. Géza SALAMIN (president, Hungarian Society for Urban Planning) shared his insights about integrated development instruments in the context of domestic planning systems, with special reference to Hungary. Dr. László CSÁK (policy expert, Babeș–Bolyai University) discussed the lessons learnt about ITI and future challenges to come, following the examples of the V4 countries and Romania.
As a closing note, Vittoria ALLIATA-DI VILLAFRANCA, director of DG REGIO said that strengthening administrative capacity is a prerequisite for realizing ideas that aim at territorial development, because it is impossible to carry out public policies without proper administration. In addition, the director encouraged cooperation between different administrative institutions.
Take away message
Taking into account the draft regulation for the next programming period, the 2021–2027 MFF, for a more efficient targeted Cohesion Policy, by means of the combination of several EU Funds, there is a clear need for an integrated approach in planning and financing both. During the implementation it is crucial that citizens make their voices heard, and it is of great importance to build a European Union closer to its citizens, narrowing the differences between regions and between counties.
Árpád-András Antal: “Our suggestion is to look at the counties that have been lagging behind in the last two decades within each of the seven development regions [in Romania], and provide them support so that they can catch up, for example by using the instrument of Integrated Territorial Investment.”
Tadeusz Truskolaski: “The number of inhabitants increased [in the Białystok Functional Area] in the last six years by about 8,000. This is very important for us, because it shows that the BFA is an attractive location to work and live in.”
Vittoria Alliata-di Villafranca: “To design and to run an ITI properly is not an easy task, it requires administrative capacity. Strengthen administrative capacity and not just for ITI, but in general, for spending cohesion funds effectively, it’s a must.”