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A bigger and better Europe awaits through regional development

Submitted by on 30 Nov 2010 – 17:11

By Professor Danuta Hübner MEP, Chair of the Committee on Regional development in the European Parliament

Cohesion is, according to the Treaty, a basic principle of European integration. This principle makes cohesion policy a policy for all citizens of the Union. But, of course, cohesion policy should do more in regions where catching up is a challenge.

Focusing more efficiently on results is a challenge not only for cohesion policy, it is a must for all policies in Europe, designed and delivered at European, national, regional and local level.

The recent financial and economic crisis is drawing a new economic map of Europe. We must spare no efforts to see at the end of the day a better map.

To achieve this, disparities must be addressed through both mobilizing development potential in territories which lag behind and in territories where a new generation of investment in competitive advantages is needed.

Through networking and cooperation, we can link more effectively locomotives, growth and innovation centres with those that are catching up. But all regions and cities have to measure today their strength and competitiveness against the global context.

In the years to come, cohesion policy should support across Europe restructuring and innovation and knowledge-based growth as well as use better the potential of networking and cooperation. The role of European territorial cooperation will be more precious than ever.

By adding the third, territorial dimension to the European cohesion we have put our finger on a hugely untapped potential which is hidden behind national or even regional statistics.

A harmony in European development can be achieved if every territory across the Union makes most of its potential and cooperates with others in the pursuit of EU 2020 strategic objectives of the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

We must realise that growth in Europe will be supply driven in the years to come. Development, investment policies like the cohesion policy will be of utmost importance in putting Europe on long-term path of structural change and growth for all.

The future policy architecture should take into account the post crisis territorial reality at the regional level. It seems justified to rethink the position of regions that graduate from their less advanced status and/or face restructuring challenges too deep to make them part of Objective 2.

Territorial cohesion is not only a goal to achieve. It is also an instrument to achieve more and better growth. Responses to all major challenges Europe is facing have a territorial dimension. That is why we must take the territorial impact assessment seriously, take into account more effectively territorial specificities, adjust urban development axes of the policy to the current challenges and opportunities, reinforce local growth initiatives and invest more in the territorial cooperation taking barriers away.

I am convinced that proposed reforms of cohesion policy will take us further towards more result oriented policy, harnessing all levels of European governance and  based on a comprehensive future oriented investment strategy, policy operating within a common European framework covering all European structural funds, policy based on incentives but also on  conditionality working towards more effective interventions, policy focused on priorities of European importance but leaving the space for their adjustment to territorial specificities.

Hopefully, in the years to come, structural and institutional reforms, contributing to the macroeconomic stability, growth and restructuring will be taking place in Europe.

Cohesion policy and its instruments should both enhance those reforms and benefit from them. We will need in Europe a better coordination between all European policies and between European and national ones.

But Europe, to achieve its goals, needs as well to move further towards new forms of finance for its investment.  Cohesion policy has already accumulated some experience in this field. More financial engineering based funding will be needed with a view to strengthen leverage of public funding and promote risk taking.  The next steps towards a simpler delivery mechanism must be taken.

Five years ago we made together the decision to take Lisbon down to regional and local level. Let me say that European regional policy is the only European policy that has taken Lisbon strategy with highest accountability, and today we can say that this strand of Lisbon strategy has been the only clearly successful one. Today let’s decide on taking EU2020 Flagship Initiative down to regions and cities. I am sure it will work and we will deliver. Territorial Pact could be our excellent platform to make EU2020 work for Europe.

It is important to understand that extending Europe beyond European and national level of governance to regions, cities, and local communities does not only take it closer to citizens but it makes Europe bigger. Let us make Europe bigger.