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Paweł Samecki, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, will address the European Congress of the Regional Science Association (ERSA) in Łódź in Poland tomorrow (26 August).
“Territorial Cohesion of Europe and integrative planning” is the central theme of the event, a major theme in these days when the fires raging in Greece and the immigrants’ accidents in the waters between Northern Africa, and Italy and Malta are calling for a change in EU’s policies and a more active role by both EU Commission and EU Parliament in coordinating and managing actions on issues common to all Member States.
The event will be an opportunity to canvas views from the scientific world in the context of the EU-wide debate on Territorial Cohesion and the future European Cohesion Policy.
Ahead of the event, Commissioner Samecki said: “In these times of global economic crisis, we need adaptable policies. Today’s challenges do not respect traditional administrative borders; we need to focus on local solutions and new types of cooperation which take into account the impact of our policies across the territory. We also need to achieve more coordination between Community policies.”
The current debate on Territorial Cohesion started in October 2008, as a follow up to the Green Paper on Cohesion Policy. The aim is to reach a shared understanding of this concept, which is recognised in the Lisbon Treaty as a third dimension of Cohesion Policy, in addition to social and economic cohesion. A summary of the contributions to the debate was adopted by the Commission as part of the 6th Progress report on economic and social cohesion published on 25 June.
The aim of Territorial Cohesion is to better exploit the advantages of all Europe’s regions so that they can contribute to the overall competitiveness of Europe. This will call for more emphasis on cooperation between regions and Member States (i.e. cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation) and strengthened links between regional policy and other Community policies that contribute to territorial cohesion (environment, transport, rural etc). The need to address territorial disparities, natural and geographical handicaps, the negative consequences of urban concentration and the polarisation of wealth and population remain central concerns for Europe.
Reinforcing the link between urban and rural development is another priority. For instance, planning officials in the German city of Leipzig and regional authorities, keen to avoid the negative impact of urban sprawl, are reserving the urban fringe for recreation, leisure, tourism, agriculture and big strategic developments rather than further enlarging residential and commercial areas around the city’s core.
The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region will be presented in the Łódź Congress as a good example of “integrated planning” in Europe, based on a more strategic and functional approach to territorial cooperation. Under this new strategy, for the first time in Europe, a wide range of stakeholders are being encouraged to better exploit Community policies by operating as a “macro-region”. This new scale of action will enable authorities to more effectively tackle challenges such as preservation of the environment in and around the Baltic Sea, accessibility to transport and secure energy supplies, more balanced economic development, and cooperation with neighbouring countries, including Russia. Member States have requested the Commission to prepare a similar macro-regional strategy by the end of 2010 for the Danube Basin.
The European Congress of the Regional Science Association is the supranational grouping of regional science associations across Europe. Its members are academics, policy professionals and researchers interested in spatial economics and planning, regional and local development and related issues. The Congress takes place from 25-29 August. In addition to Commissioner Sa m ec ki, keynote speakers include Hanna Jahns, Secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Regional Development, and Professors Andreas Faludi from the Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) and Gilles Duranton from the University of Toronto.
The European Commission will organise a seminar in Brussels on 25 September on territorial cooperation and territorial cohesion to take stock of the follow-up to the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion. A high-level refection group on the future of the Cohesion Policy will also be set up in October to provide an informal platform for discussion between the Commission and policy-makers in Member States.