ECR News - 22nd edition

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ECR News European Committee of the Regions | 22nd edition


Władysław Ortyl to lead growing ECR group

LEADERSHIP New ECR leadership


Leading national delegations


ECR GROUP OPINIONS Circular economy


Cross-border public services

4 ECR President Władysław Ortyl

THE FUTURE OF EUROPE Croatian Presidency


Demographic challenges


Work and family


Green economy


Hydrogen valley


COHESION POLICY Silesian entrepreneurship


Friuli-Venezia Giulia


Funding for Małopolska


New hospital for Kraków




North Macedonia


New ECR rapporteurs: Pavel Branda and Tjisse Stelpstra Pavel Branda, Deputy Mayor of Rádlo in the Czech Republic and vice-president of the Association of European Border Regions, was appointed the CoR’s rapporteur on “cross-border public services” on 3 March. Tjisse Stelpstra, Regional Minister of Drenthe in the Netherlands, who has been instrumental in promoting green and innovative technologies in his province, has been appointed rapporteur on the new “circular economy plan”.


Farm to fork


EVENTS European Week of Regions and Cities


European Economic Forum


ECR Group Secretariat Committee of the Regions

ECR Members Pavel Branda & Tjisse Stelpstra

ECR Members lead national delegations

EDITORIALS Lubelskie in the EU

Following the 138th plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions, Władysław Ortyl became president of the ECR group at the CoR on 11 February. He will lead this growing political group for the next two and a half years. Mr Ortyl is a three term former Polish senator, president of the Podkarpackie region and former secretary of state in the Polish ministry of regional development. The group also elected Rob Jonkman as its first vice-president and Marco Marsilio, Oldřich Vlasák and Juraj Droba as its vice-presidents.

ECR Member Roberto Ciambetti

Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat, 101 1040 Bruxelles/Brussel

Following a plenary session on 12 February, it was decided that Roberto Ciambetti, president of the Veneto Regional Council will lead the Italian delegation to the European Committee of the Regions for a two-and-a-half-year term. It is the very first time that a member of the ECR Group will assume leadership in the Italian delegation. Two other ECR members – Juraj Droba and Pavel Branda – were re-elected as chairman and deputy chairman of the Slovak and Czech delegations.

Tel: +32 2 282 2375 Fax: +32 2 282 2287

LEADERSHIP New ECR leadership offers promising future Władysław Ortyl, president of the Podkarpackie region in Poland, was elected on 11 February 2020 the new president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Committee of the Regions to a term of two and a half years. Mr Ortyl began his political career in 1980 when he joined the Solidarity trade union. Since then, he has become a prominent politician in Poland and became a member of the ruling Law and Justice Party, which has governed Poland since 2015. He has served the Polish state as a senator, as the secretary of state for regional development and, as mentioned earlier, as president of the Podkarpackie region.

ECR President Władysław Ortyl and CoR President Apostolos Tzitzikostas

Commenting on his position, Mr Ortyl, said: “I thank all our members for their confidence in me. Our group is home to some of the most influential political parties in Europe and to many inspirational independent politicians who all share one goal: to shape a reformed European Union which respects all Member States and local com-

ECR Group Members



munities. Under my leadership, we will continue to be the advocate of common sense and proportionate regulation. Our membership is growing and so are our ambitions to reform the EU.” Despite the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU and the subsequent departure of our close colleagues in the Conservative Party, the ECR Group in the CoR continues to grow. We now have 44 members, including fifteen heads of region, ten mayors and deputy mayors, four presidents of regional councils and more than a dozen regional ministers and councillors. The ECR Group at the CoR also elected Rob Jonkman, alderman in Opsterland in the Netherlands and former president of the ECR Group, to the position of first vicepresident and its political coordinator in the area of economic policy and financial affairs. Shifting in his role from president to first vice-president, Mr Jonkman expressed his gratitude for the ECR group’s confidence in his leadership. He also said he looked forward to continuing to work with the ECR at the CoR in a wide variety of roles and in close collaboration with Mr Ortyl. The other vice-presidents will be Marco Marsilio, president of the Abruzzo region

ECR President Władysław Ortyl with First VicePresident Rob Jonkman and Vice-Presidents Marco Marsilio, Oldrich Vlasák and Juraj Droba

in Italy, Oldřich Vlasák, councillor in Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic and former vice-president of the European Parliament, and Juraj Droba, head of the Bratislava selfgoverning region in Slovakia. The ECR group in the CoR also elected five political coordinators in a number of policy fields. Pavel Branda (deputy mayor of Rádlo) now leads on cohesion policy; Jakub Chełstowski (head of the Silesia region) on energy and climate change; Robert Kościuk (mayor of Krasnystaw) on natural resources; Daniela Ballico (mayor of Ciampino) on employment and research; and Matteo Bianchi MP is responsible for external relations.

As a sign of increasing influence, ECR members were elected to the positions of chair at the Joint Con-

sultative Committee between the EU and Montenegro and to that of vicechair of the Social Policy, Education,

Employment, Research and Culture Commission (SEDEC). Congratulations to all!

ECR Members to lead national delegations at the European Committee of the Regions Roberto Ciambetti, president of the Veneto Regional Council and member of the European Conservatives & Reformists Group, will lead the Italian Delegation to the European Committee of the Regions. Following a plenary session of the CoR on 12 February, it was decided that Mr Ciambetti would lead this politically diverse delegation of municipal and provincial representatives for a new twoand-a-half-year term. ECR members Juraj Droba and Pavel Branda were also elected chairman and deputy chairman of the Slovak and Czech national delegations respectively. Under Mr Ciambetti’s leadership eleven presidents of regional councils, eighteen representatives of municipalities and six representatives of Italian provinces are to be represented at the European Committee of the Regions. Some of the new members which Mr Ciambetti will represent as head of the Italian delegation include Sebastiano Musumeci, president of the Sicilian region, the president of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Massimiliano Fedriga, and the mayor of Rome, Virgina Raggi. Referring to his assumption of leadership of the Italian delegation, Mr Ciambetti said: “It is a great honour to lead the delegation from Italy, one of the largest EU countries. I hope that the climate of cooperation within the delegation will continue in the future. We are here to uphold the interests of our citizens and improve the European Union. One of the most important challenges is the Conference on the Future of Europe, where

ECR Member Roberto Ciambetti

we hope to convey the views of Italian local and regional authorities and help to turn things around for the EU.” There are 329 Committee members from the 27 Member States, the Italian delegation numbering 24. Another 24 alternative members stand in for full members when their principal work in their regional communities prevent them from attending CoR events.

The Slovak delegation, which will again be led by ECR vice-president Juraj Droba, consists of nine full and nine alternate members. Commenting on his re-election as head of the Slovak delegation, Mr Droba said: “I very much appreciate the trust I have been given. I have held this office for the last almost two years and I am glad that I will continue in this role. I think I can bring a lot of good ideas from Slovakia to Brussels and, in turn, take all the good things I learn here back to my home country and put them into practice.” Finally, our Czech member Pavel Branda was re-elected deputy chairman of his national delegation, which consists of twelve full members and the same number of alternates. By virtue of these offices, all three of these ECR members have become members of the CoR Bureau.

Presidents of national delegations meeting the CoR President


ECR GROUP OPINIONS Tjisse Stelpstra appointed rapporteur for the opinion on the new Circular Economy Action Plan ECR Member Tjisse Stelpstra will draw up the CoR opinion on the new Circular Economy Action Plan. The circular economy is one of the three priority areas of the EU’s new environmental policy. regional businesses. I hope to be of help on this issue, with a European approach that will have an impact for all kinds on regions.” The opinion will address the Commission’s Communication on a new Circular Economy Action Plan from the local and regional perspective.

ECR Member Tjisse Stelpstra

On 27 February 2020, the Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy of the European Committee of the Regions appointed ECR Group member Tjisse Stelpstra rapporteur for the opinion on the new Circular Economy Action Plan. Speaking of his reasons for drafting the opinion, Mr Stelpstra said: “I’m very honoured to be rapporteur of the opinion on the new Circular Economy Action Plan. I strongly believe the circular economy is the new economy, with plenty of opportunities for local and

The adoption of a new Circular Economy Action Plan was announced in the Green Deal as one of the initiatives to incentivise the transition of the EU’s industry to a sustainable model. It will be one of the three priority areas of the EU’s environmental policy. The new approach will prioritise reducing and reusing materials before recycling them. According to the Commission’s findings, only 11.2% of materials used in production in EU countries come from recycled resources. Increasing this number would not only help to reduce the production of waste, but could significantly contribute to lowering emissions of greenhouse gases and to the preservation of the earth’s biodiversity. Mr Stelpstra is member of the Executive Council of Drenthe, a province in the north-

east of the Netherlands. His background includes experience in climate, energy and environmental affairs. He has been a member of the CoR since October 2019, and in December 2019 attended the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Madrid (COP 25). The Netherlands is a clear first among EU Member States when it comes to reuse of materials, with an almost 30% recycling rate and the province of Drenthe has a lot of experience to offer in this regard. “We already do a lot on the circular economy in my region. Among other projects, we have a circular lab in which business and schools work together,” explained Mr Stelpstra. However, there is more than just recycling. The province of Drenthe also leads the way in the production of renewable energies. To solve the problems with the storage of excess energy, a flagship project for hydrogen production and its wide-scale industrial and consumer use was launched in 2019. Subsequently, The Northern Netherlands secured EUR 20 million in EU funds to become the first “European Hydrogen Valley”.

Pavel Branda appointed CoR rapporteur on cross-border public services ECR Member Pavel Branda, deputy mayor of Rádlo in the Czech Republic and vice-president of the Association of European Border Regions, was appointed the CoR’s rapporteur on “cross-border public services” by the Commission on Territorial Cohesion Policy and the EU Budget (COTER) on 3 March. The purpose of this own-initiative initiative opinion is to empower local governing bodies with respect to the administration of cross-border services. Mr Branda’s idea is to do this by promoting current available political instruments such as Interreg and the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation while also introducing new instruments into the fold like the European Cross-border mechanism.



Local authorities continue to be the most reliable channel by which cross-border services are delivered and thus will be the chief beneficiaries of streamlined and improved conditions. The Maastricht Treaty set the precedent for prioritising cross-border (CPS) cooperation as a method to increase prosperity, cohesion and territorial development. Cross-border

ECR rapporteur Pavel Branda

services fundamentally look to promote the pooling of public services and to incentivise cross-border communication so that access to common services can be both efficient and of high potential utilisation to citizens living within internal border regions. Mr Branda is a seasoned policy advocate especially on cross-border cooperation and inter-regional partnership. In addition to his experience as a deputy mayor and as the

vice-president of the Association of European Border Regions, he also successfully advocated for EU Solidarity Fund funding following severe floods in the Liberec Region in 2010 and 2013. In the past he served as rapporteur on the EU Solidarity Fund and on “people-to-people projects and small scale projects in cross-border cooperation programmes”.

Speaking regarding the importance of interborder cooperation Dr. Branda said: “It’s imperative we support the future of Interreg and other mechanisms that promote crossborder cooperation. The success of these programs will positively impact health, tourism, and knowledge based industries, in addition to local businesses in border regions. More efficient cross-border services have implications for greater European cohesion and prosperity.”

THE FUTURE OF EUROPE Council of the EU presidency passes to Croatia For the first time since joining the EU, Croatia is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. There is considerable overlap in terms of goals between the government of Croatia and the ECR group in the CoR, and this sentiment was expressed in a plenary session on 12 February. the programme of the Croatian presidency. The programme is entitled “A strong Europe in a world full of challenges” and has four key objectives: facilitating an EU which develops, connects, protects and is influential in the world arena.

ECR President Władysław Ortyl

Ivan Malencia, Croatia’s public administration minister, delivered a statement at the CoR’s 138th plenary session, in part detailing

President of the ECR Group in the CoR Władysław Ortyl welcomed the minister and spoke of the benefits cohesion policy has brought Europe. He underlined that this policy has been effective in not only bringing economic growth to countries like Croatia and in central and eastern Europe, which suffered under Communist oppression, but also in increasing the prosperity of countries such as Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and France.

Mr Ortyl said: “Every euro invested in cohesion policy between 2007and 2013 throughout the EU generated almost EUR 2.75 in revenue. Countries such as Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium have received surprisingly large benefits. I urge you and your presidency to ensure that everyone benefits clearly from cohesion policy during the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework.” Mr Ortyl also praised the presidency’s emphasis on digitalisation and called on its representative to explore pragmatic options to climate change as well as respecting the sovereignty of Member States.

ECR vice-president Juraj Droba urges the Conference on the Future of Europe to focus on demographic challenges Speaking at the CoR’s plenary on 12 February, ECR Group vice-president and chairman of the Bratislava self-governing region Juraj Droba addressed challenges relating to population ageing and internal migratory flows. He addressed his words particularly to the European Commission’s vice-president for democracy and demography, Dubravka Šuica, who is responsible for preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe (CFE). The Conference on the Future of Europe is an initiative aimed at remodelling the functioning of the EU. Mr Droba emphasised the

need to prioritise the issues of demographic change and internal migratory flows at the Conference. Speaking as head of a metro-

ECR Vice-President Juraj Droba


politan region, he reiterated the difficulties these regions face: “There is a huge trend of internal migration towards capital cities, which has enormous impact on infrastructures and increases the demand for quality public services.” Cities like Bratislava struggle not only with a growing population, but also with an ageing one. A recent Eurostat forecast showed that the elderly population in the Bratislava

region is set to more than double within fifty years. Mr Droba urged the Commission to empower regions with both smart policies and funding. “I hope that the Conference on the Future of Europe will focus to a large extent on this topic, because our citizens expect debates that will help solve their real-life problems. They do not want more debates on the technicalities of electoral systems

or other issues that are of little concern to them. The demographic crisis is something that Europeans feel very strongly about.” The outcome of the Conference on the Future of Europe will set out a new direction on European integration in a high number of fields, including regions, climate change and the digital transformation. A decision has yet to be taken on those to participate in the CFE.

EU should support working families, stresses Alessandro Piana On 6 December, at the CoR’s 137th plenary session, Alessandro Piana raised concerns about measures taken to support working families in having a healthy work-life balance. Mr Piana is president of the Liguria Regional Council and is an ECR member. and consolidate the fundamental role of the family, which is a pillar of society.” Going on to inform the Commissioner about initiatives taken in Italy and, in particular, the Liguria region, he said these sought to strike the right balance between the time people spent at work and the time workers have with their children. One such example is the bonus “asilo nido” government childcare contribution and the paternity leave scheme.

In this debate on the European Pillar of Social Rights, Mr Piana suggested the EU seize opportunities offered by technology to help strike a balance between working and family life. The debate was attended Nicolas Schmidt, EU Commissioner of jobs and social rights. The European Pillar of Social Rights is the first set of social rights proclaimed by EU institutions in the last twenty years and strives to create concrete initiatives to support these rights. Mr Piana stressed that the ECR Group supported all initiatives aimed at boosting the employability of young people, tackling homelessness and helping older citizens. All measures should respect the principle of subsidiarity and the differences in social and economic systems of the Member

ECR Member Alessandro Piana

States, and take into account the critical role the family plays in both economic and social cohesion. “The European Union”, he urged, “should promote measures that help to improve people’s work-life balance and, at the same time, launch initiatives to recognise

Mr Piana concluded: “In order to achieve this important objective close cooperation is needed between all Member States, through the exchange of best practices; however, this must always have due regard for the autonomy of each individual national set-up, as a single European welfare model would certainly not be able to interpret and meet the different needs on the ground.”

Regions are moving towards a green economy In January, an international conference entitled Towards a Green Economy was held in Katowice (Poland) at the initiative of the president of Śląskie region, Jakub Chełstowski – an ECR member at the European Committee of the Regions. The inspiration for organising this event was the work of local and regional authority leaders in the European Platform for Coal Regions in Transition (CRIT). This initiative is organised with the European Commission and brings together European mining regions, providing opportunities for exchanging experience and creating favourable conditions for progress in regions that are facing difficult challenges in tackling the effects of restructuring in the mining industry. Through this initiative, regions are taking various steps, including lobbying for solutions in the EU budget to ensure that they



do not fall behind in the “green change”. Last year in Görlitz, 14 European mining regions signed a joint declaration and sent it

ECR Member Jakub Chełstowski

EU Commissioner Elisa Ferreira speaking at the conference in Katowice

to the new European Commission, in the expectation that efforts to support the structural development of regions affected by the transition would continue. Śląskie is also one of the signatories to this declaration. The EU Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira attended the January conference in Katowice at the invitation of Mr Chełstowski, and presented the proposal for a Just Transition Fund published by the European Commission. In her address, she underlined that the Commission did not want anyone to be left alone to deal with the problem of the transition and was aware that we will all had to deal with the impact of this extremely costly process. However, it is essential that we move to a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. Śląskie region is the largest mining region in the European Union. As the host of the January conference, this confirms that, in the context of the European Green Deal, the region aspires to be one of the leaders in the debate on the future of Europe’s mining regions. At the conference, Mr Chełstowski pointed out that the region was already working intensively on transforming its economy, as well as managing areas that had been degraded

through mining. At his initiative, in 2019 the regional group for the mining regions initiative was set up, which brings together representatives from various fields – government, local and regional government, non-governmental, business, science and experts as well as culture. It provides an opportunity to take a look at the transition process from different perspectives, giving it a more social dimension, and many of the decisions about important investments for the region, which are essential for a successful transition, are taken as a result of broad public participation. However, EU support is a very important and even essential condition for these investments. In the current 2014-2020 funding period, more than ¼ funds under the Regional Operational Programme for Śląskie region have been earmarked for financing low-carbon projects, installing renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency; almost EUR 1.5 billion supports innovation and entrepreneurship projects and social and infrastructural regeneration, as well as the labour market. As part of the EU’s support, Śląskie launched a project aimed at developing a regional system for managing post-mining areas, which will make new

digital e-services available in the form of an IT system publishing data and information on those areas. This tool will enable sites to be identified for economic reuse, and will also open up access to digitalised cultural, scientific, planning, surveying and cartographic resources linked to inactive mining facilities in Śląskie region. The project supports the planning of a long-term investment policy in post-mining areas and sustainable spatial management in the region, and will support investment decisions and the raising of funds for the regeneration of these areas. Śląskie is a region with huge development potential based on industry that uses the latest technologies, as well as the medical and digital sectors. These specialisations have been identified in the Regional Innovation Strategy and EU support is already being made available for such purposes. Through his work at the CoR, the president of Śląskie region will focus his attention on the package of measures for the just transition of mining regions, which is essential in order to help Europe’s transition regions and exploit the region’s potential to move towards a green economy.


The Northern Netherlands: Europe’s Hydrogen Valley The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) of the European Commission has selected the Northern Netherlands to be Europe’s first Hydrogen Valley. The region, with the involvement of ECR Group member Tjisse Stelpstra, Regional Minister of the Province of Drenthe responsible for environment and energy, is preparing a grant agreement for EUR 20 million from Brussels, supplemented with regional public-private financing of EUR 70 million, for a fully-fledged hydrogen value chain.

tial area. Hydrogen is also being introduced in public and private transport. Hydrogen filling stations will be built for this purpose in Emmen and Groningen in addition to an existing station in Delfzijl and those already planned in Groningen and Pesse. An inland navigation vessel on hydrogen will be built and green hydrogen will be used in the production of e-kerosene for aircraft. Heavyduty vehicles are particularly suitable for the use of hydrogen and this is where the greatest CO2 reduction and environmental gain can be achieved. The Hydrogen Valley grant is one of the largest grants that the public-private partnership FCH JU, part of the HORIZON 2020 Framework Programme, has made available for a single project.

ECR Member Tjisse Stelpstra

The HEAVENN consortium, consisting of 31 public and private partners from six European countries, took part in the call for applications in April 2019. The HEAVENN project is unique because it covers and connects the entire hydrogen chain within a geographical region. The Northern Netherlands is a highly suitable region for shaping an integrated hydrogen economy. The region has significant potential for renewable energy, the knowledge to convert this energy into hydrogen, the gas infrastructure to transport that hydrogen and the industry to use the hydrogen afterwards. Furthermore, the authorities, industry, entrepreneurs and knowledge institutes in the region have a



widely-shared view about the development of the Northern Netherlands as a Hydrogen Valley. Projects that will be supported by the grant involve large-scale production of green hydrogen, for example as feedstock for industry, the storage, transportation and distribution of hydrogen and application of hydrogen in mobility and heating buildings. Existing natural gas pipelines will be adapted for transportation of hydrogen and new ones will be built to the Chemical Park Delfzijl and Emmtec Industry in Emmen. An underground hydrogen storage facility is planned at HyStock in Veendam. Hydrogen will be used as a feedstock in the built environment, including Hoogeveen, a residen-

This grant and the regional co-financing enables the winning region to go beyond individual hydrogen projects and develop a truly integrated and connected value chain of green hydrogen. This allows the region to take leadership in the field of hydrogen and be a source of inspiration for the development of other hydrogen regions in Europe and beyond. The project, known as HEAVENN – an acronym for H2 Energy Applications (in) Valley Environments (for) Northern Netherlands – succeeded in beating several projects from competing regions in Europe.

COHESION POLICY Silesia is investing in entrepreneurship The economic transformation mining regions are facing means it is necessary to move away from heavy industry and towards competitiveness and regional specialisation. As one such region, Silesia is doing a great deal to change economic priorities, moving towards supporting new technologies, innovations and emerging industries. are very important for Silesia. A number of actions aimed mainly at the SME sector are a chance for Silesian companies to appear at foreign trade fairs and exhibitions and to participate in economic missions and international congresses. It also provides increased opportunities to organise information meetings for the SME sector and information campaigns aimed at raising awareness of market trends.

ECR Member Wojciech Kałuża

Silesia is in second place in Poland in terms of gross domestic product, is an important exporter and a leader in terms of attractiveness of investment. However, its GDP growth is weaker than one might expect. The regional authorities are working to create the best possible investment climate and favourable conditions for the development of regional entrepreneurship, with a view to speeding up the region’s economic development. To this end, the Global Silesia project will be launched at the initiative of the region and will be financed by EU funds. The vice-president of the region and member of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions Wojciech Kałuża, who is responsible for economic development and implementing the regional programme for funding cohesion policy objectives, presented the project. At a dedicated conference, he highlighted the benefits expected from the economic promotion of the region as part of Global Silesia.

Vice-president Kałuża pointed out that many SMEs are emerging in the region which have innovative products and as regional authorities our job is to promote their achievements and enable them to compete in global markets. In the Regional Operational Programme (ROP) of Silesia 2014-2020, over half a billion euro have been allocated to enhance scientific research, technological development, innovativeness and competitiveness. This support is a significant financial injection for the development of the economy. As vicepresident Kałuża pointed out, commerciali-

sation of research and implementation of innovative solutions are the key to success. The role of local government is to lay the foundations for comprehensive cooperation between the worlds of business and research by creating initiatives and platforms that facilitate two-way relationships. EU funds in the region have also been aimed at building up regional smart specialisations. In particular, they cover investments in key research infrastructure in order to create and commercialise innovative solutions. ROP support is also intended to increase the use of information and communication technology in micro, small and mediumsized enterprises, which enables projects to be implemented in the region that contribute to the development of e-business, both within companies and in making contact with other entities. EU funds are also used to increase workers’ qualifications, improving the quality of education and giving young people a more equal playing field in terms of educational opportunities.

The project involved over 230 entrepreneurs who will have the opportunity to participate in nearly 60 business events in Poland and around the world. This openness to the world and promotion of the region


Friuli-Venezia Giulia region kicks off cohesion policy 2021-2027 planning discussions with regional stakeholders The Regional Executive of the Friuli-Venezia region in Italy – governed by ECR member president Massimiliano Fedriga – has outlined the strategic priorities for the next seven years in a guidance document to be presented to the public, local and regional authorities and economic and social partners. The proposed pillars include: knowledge and skills in a learning region, a dynamic and sustainable regional economy fit for global challenges, and sustainable and inclusive growth that gets the most out of the region’s resources. national cooperation programmes and the priorities of the EUSAIR and EUSALP macroregional strategies. The integration of cohesion funds – a key thrust of the Regional Executive’s planning document – thus becomes a real commitment to an ever increasing integration of cross-border regions. The region is already a pioneer in this thanks to the only crossborder Integrated Territorial Investment scheme implemented in the INTERREG

V-A Italy-Slovenia programme and the “Community-led Local Development” operation carried out by the INTERREG V-A Italy-Austria programme. It now intends to redouble its efforts in promoting an innovative territorial approach in the 2021-2027 period, in order to translate the European integration strategies between mainstream funds and European Territorial Cooperation funds into specific operations to benefit local communities.

ECR Member Massimiliano Fedriga

In line with the draft regulations submitted by the European Commission, the priority has been to draw up a planning document providing for maximum synergy not only between the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, but also with funds dedicated to European Territorial Cooperation. Because of its geographical position, bordering Austria and Slovenia, as well as its long-standing tradition of relations with the countries of central and eastern Europe and those of the Balkans, the Autonomous Region of FriuliVenezia Giulia has sought to tightly mesh its planning with the cross-border and trans-

European Commission decision provides more opportunities for the Małopolska region On 27 February 2020, the vice-president of the Małopolskie region in Poland, Łukasz Smółka, received a decision from a representative of the European Commission (EC) on amendments to the Regional Operational Programme for Małopolskie region 20142020 (ROP MV). A mid-term review of the 2014-2020 ROP MV revealed that it was necessary to amend the provisions of the programme. The ROP MV managing authority proposed amendments to the programme, mainly focusing on achieving its objectives more fully. The proposed amendments were approved by the monitoring committee for the Regional



Operational Programme 2014-2020 and the minister responsible for development viewed them positively given their compliance with the provisions of the Partnership Agreement. A formal request for amendment was sent to the European Commission in November 2019. ECR Member Witold Kozłowski

“I am pleased with the European Commission’s decision to accept our request. It will enable us to make better use of the 380 million zloty to invest in our region. The positive decision from the European Commission will make it possible to implement the proposed amendments, which will allow the programme to be implemented smoothly,” Mr Witold Kozłowski, president of Małopolska region and ECR member, reported. According to vice-president Łukasz Smółka, also an ECR member, “this is excellent news for people living in our region and for tour-

ists. We are dedicating such a huge amount to such things as purchasing more rolling stock and developing cultural and scientific institutions. This will significantly improve the quality of life for people who live here and for tourists visiting the Małopolskie region.” The proposed amendments particularly concerned the following: ❙ increasing funding for measures that would allow for further investment in improving energy efficiency of public buildings, purchasing additional rolling

stock for transport within agglomerations as well as investing in park & ride sites in the Kraków metropolitan area, developing new cultural institutions, revitalising rural areas, investing in health by making it possible to provide more services through day care and increasing the budget for the flagship regional investment for creating the Cogiteon Małopolskie Science Centre, ❙ changing the indicator values, ❙ specific changes for individual priority axes.

University of Kraków Hospital’s new site to open soon In November 2020, the University of Kraków Hospital will receive its first patients at its new site in Kraków-Prokocim after securing PLN 255 million. The new facility will accommodate 925 patients and has been outfitted with medical equipment to provide the highest level of care possible. The project has been financed with a record amount of funding from the Regional Operational Programme. Speaking of the ambitious scale of the project, president of the Małopolska region and ECR Group member at the European Committee of Regions Witold Kozłowski had this to say: “This is the biggest project we have undertaken using EU funding. Such a largescale investment will ensure that medical care will be even better in the region and patients will be treated using excellent medical equipment when they need it.” Łukasz Smółka, vice-president of Małopolska, and European Commission representative Maria Galewska were among those in attendance at the opening ceremony. Speaking about the funding, ECR member at the European Committee of the Regions Łukasz Smółka was enthusiastic: “This is a huge and vital project for everyone who lives in and it was achieved in large part through EU funding. We allocated a record amount – PLN 255 million – from the 20142020 Regional Operational Programme for Małopolska for fittings and to finance stateof-the-art medical equipment.” The new facility will consist of ten modern and energy-efficient buildings connected by an underground network to facilitate quick and efficient transit between them. There will be 24 clinical departments to serve 925 patients. There will also be an accident and emergency department with 24 beds and specialist rehabilitation, endos-

ECR Member Łukasz Smółka (center)

copy, hemodynamic, brachytherapy and diagnostic teams all serving patient needs. Patients’ rooms will be comfortable double rooms equipped with climate control and toilets. Thanks to the EU funding, some of the rooms will be equipped with ICU beds, heart monitors and infusion pumps. The expanded hospital will also include a chapel, cafeteria, a car park, a helicopter landing pad and spacious waiting rooms and offices.

preventive and active care. MRI’s, CAT scanners, ultrasound machines etc. are some of the new equipment that will contribute to the improved health of the region. In addition to more traditional machines, the expanded hospital will have a surgical robot, an X-ray apparatus and a neurosurgical robot among a plethora of the most modern and effective medical equipment. A blood bank and pharmacy will also be attached to the hospital.

The importance of EU funding to this hospital cannot be understated. It has also been equipped with over 1500 machines for


CURRENT AFFAIRS Northern Italy battles coronavirus outbreak On 21 February the Lombardy and Veneto regions became the front line in the continuing spread of the global Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, with the two regions continuing to register new cases. As of March 19th, 3000 deaths have been recorded in Italy but the situation continues to evolve rapidly day to day. ECR members are among those at the forefront, coordinating emergency action to contain the spread of the virus. Veneto region president Luca Zaia said on 21 February: “It’s a war on the disease. I’m sleeping three hours a night, I feel responsible for the health of the people of the Veneto and I will do everything within my power to keep more of them from contracting the virus.” Similarly, in Lombardy, president Attilio Fontana is working tirelessly to ensure the virus does not spread outside the quarantined “red areas”. Several regions and municipalities throughout Northern Italy have been declared “red areas” where a strict quarantine is enforced. As of March 9th there are some 16 million people in Northern Italy living under quarantine. President Fontana commented: “Our doctors, our healthcare professionals and all those involved in this public health emergency are working non-stop.”

ECR Member Luca Zaia (center)

As of February 25th all regions in Northern Italy have closed all schools and universities. Many major events have also been cancelled following the closure of public meet-

ing places, cinemas, theatres, museums and so on. The same measures were taken in the Veneto, with Venice’s famous carnival brought to a premature close.

A renewal of dialogue with North Macedonia Rypin mayor Paweł Grzybowski represented the ECR Group at the 17th meeting of the European Committee of the Regions’ Joint Consultative Committee with North Macedonia in Skopje on 11 December.

ECR Member Paweł Grzybowski



The meeting focused on the role of local and regional authorities in their process of EU accession and how this role can be used to increase economic development on the regional level. The event was an opportunity for CoR members to meet government officials from North Macedonia and to provide reasoned policy advice, based on previous trial and error, which could perhaps be used in North Macedonia as it prepares for EU accession. Much of this policy advice has been shared by members from central

and eastern European countries, where citizens broke free from Communist tyranny only three decades ago. In conjunction with the official meeting, Mr Grzybowski held a number of bilateral meetings with North Macedonian officials, discussing his country’s preparations for EU membership in the past and relevant policy advice which could be applied to North Macedonia.

EDITORIALS 15 years of Lubelskie region in the European Union - By Jarosław Stawiarski, President of Lubelskie region in Poland and member of the ECR Group at the European Committee of the Regions Due to its geographical location, Lublin has been a place that has brought together different nations, civilisations and diverse cultures. Last year we celebrated the 450th anniversary of the signing of the Union of Lublin, which established one of the biggest countries in Europe at the time – the Commonwealth of Two Nations. The signing of that document represents one of the key events not only for our region, but for Europe as a whole. The structural, economic and social solutions adopted at the time still provide an excellent model for cooperation between nations. It is based on freedom of choice, cooperation in areas of mutual interest and respect for the partner. The tradition we grew up with is still alive in us today and forms an important and valid reference point for the people living in our region. We want our EU membership to be part of this model for the development of the Lubelskie region.

Poland has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004. Throughout these years, much has changed in our region. The most well known and expensive project carried out under the Regional Operational Programme for the Lubelskie region (ROP WL) is the construction of Lublin Airport. Road-building projects are also worth mentioning, with a total value exceeding PLN 978 million. And we should not forget the Centre for the Meeting of Cultures (CSK) in Lublin. It cost more than PLN 170 million to build (including EUR 126 million in EU support). CSK and the neighbouring Lublin Conference Centre in Lublin are intrinsic symbols of the transformations that have taken place in our region thanks to our membership of the European Union. Other major projects carried out under the ROP WL include: investments in the health service, measures to adapt waste management facilities in the region, funding for digital surveying resources in the Lubelskie

ECR Member Jarosław Stawiarski

region, boosting the capital of Lublin Development Foundation’s loan fund and the building of the city stadium in Lublin. Many of the investments are funded under national programmes, i.e. those paid for by central bodies (such as ministries). These include the Lublin bypass, the No 747 provincial road with a new bridge over the Vistula in Kamień, the Frampol bypass, and the construction of a broadband network for the Lubelskie region. There is no doubt that the Eastern Poland Operational Programme (in addition to the above-mentioned ROP WL) has also been crucial for our region, and five regions are seeking to have it extended (Lubelskie, Świętokrzyskie, Podkarpackie, Podlaskie and Warmińsko-Mazurskie). Our membership of the European Union undoubtedly serves the development of our region. We are a region that needs to make the most of EU support. That is why we appreciate every euro and we try to invest it in the best way possible. Recently, the spending of European funds under the Regional Operational Programme for the Lubelskie region has been significantly stepped up. This is a good sign for the future, and ahead of us we have the next programming period, where will seek to secure the best possible funding for the Lubelskie region.

Lublin, Poland


Groningen Province evaluates the Farm to Fork strategy - by Henk Staghouwer, Regional Minister in Groningen in the Netherlands and ECR Group Member at the European Committee of the Regions importance of affordable food for everyone in the European Union.

ECR Member Henk Staghouwer

In addition, we would like to stress the importance of including all relevant aspects of the agricultural sector in the strategy. In order to do justice to the goals and ambitions set out in the Common Agricultural Policy with regard to the environment and farmers’ income, it is important to also pay attention to other uses of agricultural products (such as energy and chemistry). Good cooperation between the relevant directo-

rates-general in the European Commission (DG SANTE, DG AGRI, DG ENV) is therefore of the utmost importance. Lastly, it seems to have been suggested that smaller farms are better for the climate, the environment and biodiversity. We need to work on making sure that such farms have the (financial) means to take the necessary measures on climate, the environment and biodiversity. The availability of resources is often of greater importance than the size of the farm.

The European Committee of the Regions is currently discussing an opinion on the “Farm to Fork Strategy”. The new strategy proposed by the European Commission is part of the Green Deal and aims to enable the EU to achieve its sustainability goals more effectively. As the Province of Groningen we welcome the working document on the Farm to Fork Strategy that was discussed at the meeting of the CoR’s Commission for Natural Resources on 5 March, and would like to thank the rapporteur for his work. First of all, we are happy to see the emphasis on the promotion of short supply chains and the role of local and regional governments as key players; we also agree on the

Groningen, The Netherlands

EVENTS ECR to discuss tackling air pollution at the European Week of Regions and Cities The 18th European Week of Regions and Cities will take place from October 12-15 in Brussels. The EWRC remains the biggest annual Brussels-based event dedicated to EU regional policy. It is a strategic place for regional politicians, citizens and entrepreneurs to share ideas and network. This year the ECR Group will participate in the EWRC through organising a workshop on tackling air pollution in European cities and regions. In the spirit of making Europe greener and safer place to live, the ECR in the European Committee of Regions will host a workshop on combating air-borne pollution. Obviously, environmental protection has be-



come an increasingly salient issue in the recent years. Throughout Europe, there have been citizen organized recycling initiatives, climate strikes, and heated policy debates. The ECR Group would like to use this work-

shop to address air pollution in a constructive way, as not only an environmental concern, but also as a public health concern. According to the World Health Organization, over 90% of Europeans who live in

tically do to combat air pollution and improve both the environment and the health of their citizens. This can be anything from a “solid fuel” ban to encouraging public transport and streamlining traffic to avoid congestion. The ECR Group believes that through innovation, particularly by local actors and citizens, greener energy options will become more cost-effective and efficient. urban areas are regularly exposed to harmful levels of pollution which exceed WHO guidelines. While levels of certain pollution throughout Europe have fluctuated in different regions over time, levels of certain pollutants have stagnated. Levels of “fine particulate matter” (PM 2,5) for instance,

which can lodge itself deep in a person’s respiratory system and be the cause of a many health problems, have not decreased in a substantial manner. This workshop will look to understand what different regions are doing and can realis-

Our speakers and panelists will come from a diverse catalog of regions which are at different stages of the green transition. The ECR Group is also committed to having environmental and policy-making experts present. Registrations will open soon.

Łódź seeks fresh ideas to stimulate growth at the European Economic Forum The European Forum is a yearly event in Łódź, Poland wherein experts can come and deliberate the most profitable economic policies which would benefit European growth and cohesion on the whole. Thanks to ambitious economic and social reforms, Poland is nowadays in an exceptionally good economic situation. People living in the Łódzkie region are among the chief beneficiaries of the economic growth. The way to attain regional growth is first and foremost with communication at the level of local and regional governments, and good cooperation with government and the EU administration. These strategic communications serve the purpose of the single market and renewed economic policy. The actions of local and regional authorities cover cooperation between business, science and administration, as well as technology transfer and investment. This was one of the initiatives in the European Economic Forum, with more than 2,000 participants taking part in 2019. This event is attended by entrepreneurs and managers, from global firms to small and medium sized enterprises, as well as politicians and academics. In 2020, when the next edition of the forum will take place in Łódź, there will be a par-

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and ECR Member Grzegorz Schreiber at the 2019 European Economic Forum

ticular emphasis on the theme of business internationalisation. There will be a focus on issues linked to innovation and competitiveness of firms, increased levels of foreign trade, new technologies, management and business development.

Grzegorz Schreiber, president of the Łódzkie region and member of the ECR Group in the CoR invites you to come to Łódź and participate in the 2020 Forum, which will take place on 30 November – 1 December this year.


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