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September-October 2015

The activity report of the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions


An Investment Plan for Europe’s regions and cities “I would like to emphasise the strong potential for powerful synergies between all of these funding mechanisms and the EU’s Horizon 2020 and COSME programmes.” Explaining the possibilities for local and regional authorities ahead of the EPP Group meeting in Madrid, Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission with responsibility for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, stresses that beyond

For many, the summer break was not particularly relaxing as Europe continued to experience one of the most dramatic migration situations in its post-war history. One cannot but be moved by the images of fellow citizens in desperate pursuit of shelter and protection. They see Europe as their sanctuary and we need to find a common European solution to rectify this situation. During the EPP Political Assembly at the beginning of September, I reminded our political family that these challenges are of enormous importance to us all and in particular to our European municipalities and regions, who are responsible for the integration and wellbeing of migrants. As the autumn season arrives to our regions and cities, we are heading into an intensified work programme. I am looking forward to meeting with students on 21-22 September in Brussels to debate digital and entrepreneurial skills and their links to the labour market in an event co-organised with the European Democrat Students. The proposed Energy Union and the Digital Single Market are amongst those to be discussed at the October CoR Plenary Session, based on reports from our EPP/CoR colleagues, and they offer tremendous opportunities to focus on strengthening Europe and its economy. I’m also hopeful for an interesting discussion on the needs and demands on our cities of the future at our seminar during the OPEN DAYS: European Week of Regions and Cities and to a fruitful discussion on EU Investments alongside the EPP Statutory Congress in Madrid on the 21st October. Michael Schneider, President of the EPP Group in the CoR


the Investment Fund, there are financial opportunities available to local and regional authorities through European Structural Investment Funds and more specifically Cohesion Policy (most notably, the ERDF, ESF and CF). “Each of these mechanisms supports the policy objectives and key strands of the Investment Plan for Europe with an overall volume of about EUR 450 billion over the years continued on page 4 2014-2020.”

Cities of the future: from demographic challenges to making the most from technological advances

“We have to start discussions on the impact of demographic challenges on growth and competitiveness today and to see how the structural funds can be better focussed on combating these problems in the period after 2020.” This was the main message from Michael Schneider, President of the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions, during the kick-off meet-

ing of the Advisory Committee on Galicia’s Strategic Plan 2020, which took place in Santiago de Compostela on 22 July. While explaining that Saxony-Anhalt has tried to make the most of the EU structural funds in the period 2014-2020, President Schneider insisted that this is not enough. “To support this Galicia and Saxony-Anhalt, alongside other regions heavily affected by demographic change, are going to strengthen the Network of European Regions with Demographic Change as a Brussels based platform” he announced. But demographic change is only one of the major challenges for Europe’s lo-

cal and regional decision-makers. As almost three quarters of Europeans live and work in cities, they are making increasing demands on Mayors for cities that run efficiently, provide a sustainable environment and allow businesses to thrive. Thanks to the rise of digital technologies, city leaders have a tremendous opportunity to develop in key sectors including transport, energy, health care, water and waste. The EPP Group OPEN DAYS seminar will debate the steps and partnerships that are essential to creating smart, sustainable and inclusive cities of the future on 14 October.

Mind the gap: boosting digital and entrepreneurship skills in Europe

The latest proposals for a Digital Single Market could provide vast economic opportunities, including an add-

■■ Members on the field ■■ Towards a Transatlantic Renewal

ed €415 billion per year and hundreds of thousands of new jobs. As the rapporteur for the European Committee of the Regions, Helma Kuhn-Theis explains: “The digital single market offers policy makers the chance to create flourishing digital ecosystems, which support SMEs and start-ups at the local and regional level, while generating added value and jobs locally”. However, she is also concerned by research, which shows that Europe is facing a dramatic digi-

■■ OPEN DAYS seminar ■■ Digital Skills

tal or e-skills gap. Given the important role played by Europe’s regions and cities in developing and financing education, training and active labour market policies, the EPP Group is joining forces with the European Democrat Students to find measures to address the skills gap in discussion with students at the 9th EPP Study Visit on 2122 September. Read the interview with Michał Boni, chair of the EPP digital expert group on page 3

■■ An Investment Plan for Europe

Members on the Field

■■ Regions as Driving Force for European Growth

“Key to economic stability is ensuring support to entrepreneurs, encouraging industry and business to thrive and helping SMEs to scaleup and export. But this can only be done using the expertise on the ground, that is to say our cities and regions” Michel Lebrun at the Economic Forum in Krynica on 8 September.

Organized for over 20 years, the Economic Forum in Krynica has become the biggest and the most important meeting place for political and economic leaders from Central and Eastern Europe. “This Forum not only accompanies social and economic changes in our region, but also shapes them. We are happy to share with guests our region’s potential: the natural and cultural heritage of Małopolska, human capital and support for the entrepreneurship in the so-called industries of the future.” Marshal Sowa. ■■ Better financing for cross-border initiatives Representatives from Europe’s cities and regions met in Luxembourg on 2  September to call for strengthened cross-border cooperation and improved mobility, especially among less connected regions. Specifically, the

tion of workers. The SEDEC Commission will therefore meet in Lecce, Italy, to discuss the role of local and regional authorities in protecting workers on 1 October 2015, following an invitation from Mauro D’Attis, CoR rapporteur on the CoR Opinion on a EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 20142020.

CoR Bureau meeting called for EU financing - through structural funds, the Connecting Europe facility and the recently launched €315bn Investment Plan – to be directed towards improving relations between regions to boost Europe’s economy. The EPPGroup delegation was led by Eleni Loucaidou, 1st Vice-President of the EPP Group in the CoR. In a side-line meeting, EIB President Werner Hoyer said: “Cooperation between our institutions is of great

benefit for the citizens in Europe. Within the European Union, the Committee of Regions has a very good understanding of local needs and challenges “on the ground”. This helps the EIB to invest where it is most needed.” ■■ Protecting workers in the new European landscape Europe needs new strategies for an industrial renaissance, which ensures the maximum protec-

Facing New Threats – Towards a Transatlantic Renewal and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will be key elements. Introspective tendencies and aversion to structural and economic reform have to be overcome on both sides. Above all, both the US and the EU have to re-engage

The West faces growing challenges – the European Union and the United States can only overcome them together! From 15 to 17 July 2015, the Wilfried Martens Centre and its two US partners, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Hudson Institute, co-hosted the 6th Transatlantic Think Tank Conference. Centre right politicians, think tankers, spin doctors

and experts from both sides of the Atlantic debated current challenges and our common future in Washington. From Putin’s Russia to ‘IS’ to China, answers to security, political and economic challenges were discussed. Closer coordination on global democracy promotion, better cooperation in intelligence, and a stronger common push for a successful conclusion of the Transatlantic Trade


Nistelrooij examines necessary changes and offers a way forward to a “Pact of Amsterdam” in June 2016 under the Dutch presidency. The author advocates a combination of Smart Cities and the

“As Rapporteur on TiSA in the European Parliament, I will soon author a report, which will explicitly set out what we want and what we don’t want in these trade negotiations. TiSA is an opportunity to shape globalisation, to ensure more reciprocity in terms of access to foreign markets and to level the playing field between domestic and foreign companies. As our political, social and cultural model is an asset, not a burden, our public services must fully protected, our right to regulate unequivocally preserved and our fundamental rights duly safeguarded.” Viviane Reding

Book Launch, 14 October during EPP Group OPEN DAYS seminar Urban Areas are engines of economic growth and employment, breeding ground for art, culture and creativity. Cities require better coordination in the EU policies. MEP Lambert van

more strongly with a world that has become more hostile, but in which there are still high expectations of support for the universal values that emerged in the West.

regional Smart Specialisation. Mr. Markku Markkula, Mrs.  Corina Cretu, Mr.  Jan Olbrycht and several stakeholders give their views in this book.

The activity report of the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions

ONGOING OPINIONS Innovation and digital skills for stronger regions

We can only grow by being smart


Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions

As regional and local leaders, we know how urgent the call for relaunching public and private investment for growth is. We need clear objectives, adequate funding and new partnerships between the EU, national governments, re-

gions, cities and the private sector. And above all we need new answers how to make the change to happen, i.e. we need new concepts and methods with a change in the mindset. The list of shared goals for investments includes policy areas such as urban and rural sustainability, industrial and societal innovation, energy efficiency and safety as well as boosting entrepreneurship. Real economy, sustainability and innovation have a strong local dimension. For this reason the European Committee of the Regions is committed to contribute into the shaping, implementing and monitoring of EU policies in these fields. This

requires increasing innovative experiments throughout our societies and businesses. Europe needs a strong bottom-up movement. This can be achieved by encouraging every region to be a pioneer in its own priority field based on smart specialisation and collaboration. To assist in this, we need strong European partnerships. The Committee of the Regions has a crucial role through qualified and solid opinions but also through new and specialised initiatives such as knowledge sharing platforms, inter-institutional partnerships - like the joint action plan launched with the European Investment Bank for the Juncker

Plan – and the participation to simplification workgroups. I’m among the early supporters of the smart specialisation idea. I’ve seen in Finland what works and what doesn’t work and I’m persuaded that smart specialisation has a huge potential in mobilising local resources in a tailored and inclusive strategy for growth and innovation. Behind the label lies focusing on what works and what we’re best at. Europe rose to its current position through the centuries with each empire, state and duchy focusing on their strengths and using it to the fullest. Let’s do the same also in this century.

Digital skills are essential to actively participate in the labour market

The economy is changing. More and more economic processes re-

Q. Do you think that digital skills should be a part of formal education and will this be enough? Teaching the new, digital skills should be a part of formal education - as the teaching of coding is in some countries, eg. in United Kingdom. We should not loose time. As many dimensions of the labour market needs related to the digital revolution are changing very fast,

digital devices in the process of teaching/ learning, focusing on the question - what kind of e-textbooks are needed.

COTER ■■ Financial instruments in support of territorial development Adam Struzik (PL/EPP) ■■ Strengthening cross-border cooperation: the need for a regulatory framework? Nikola Dobroslavic (HR/EPP)

decisions supporting a change of the educational curricula are key and required in a relatively short time. There is no possibility to support people’s new digital skills development without administrative decisions related to the formal/obligatory education. But, of course we should be open to all forms of improving workforce’s skills - as individual opportunities, using new technologies and the internet, and also MOOC’s models.

■■ Social Economy Luís Gomes (PT/EPP) ■■ Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe Helma Kuhn-Theis (DE/EPP)

ENVE ■■ Energy Union package Pascal Mangin (FR/EPP)

NAT ■■ Genetically modified organisms Mark Weinmeister (DE/EPP)

The Digital School: A best practice Poland’s digital schools have gained practical experience related to: the cooperation between pupils and teachers, problem solving on how to use new

■■ Better Regulation Package Spyros Spyridon (EPP- Greece)


Interview with Michał Boni, Chair of the EPP digital expert group lated to the services or to the industry require new skills. If you are selling something via the internet, you need to understand the rules and build the relations with clients based on digital opportunities. If you are the worker, most probably you will need skills related to coding. In the coming years the labour market will change as a reflection of the economic digital game changer so people should adjust their skills to the new needs.

■■ The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) Luc Van Den Brande (BE/EPP)

The Polish “Coding skills” project led in cooperation between schools, local authorities and the Samsung company are worth sharing for inspiration.

■■ The Future of European Aquaculture Jesús Gamallo Aller (ES/EPP)

Quotes from EPP family members

There is not enough Europe in this Union. And there is not enough Union in this Union.” Jean-Claude Juncker, State of the EU speech, 9 September

Keep up to date with the latest developments of the EPP Congress by downloading the app

Since the migration flows are not only a challenge for individual member states, but for Europe as a whole, our response must be collective.” Manfred Weber, 10 September, Op-Ed in POLITICO

September-October 2015

Leading EPP regions and cities: leading examples

The Investment Plan for Europe: what’s in it for the regions? An interview with Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission with responsibility for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness

1. Do you think the Structural Funds could be used as a co-financing element within the European Fund for Strategic Investments in the future? EFSI and ESIF are both set to play an essential role in the delivery of European policy objectives in the near future. While the rationale, design, legislative framework and timeframe for implementation of the two are quite different, there is considerable scope for maximising synergies and complementarities. ESIF is expected to join EFSI supported projects in cases where this would ensure a higher value added and bankability of EFSI support. In practice, there will be also cases where this complementarity will lead to co-in-

vesting EFSI supported resources with ESIF programme(s) support in one single project. Such combination of funding for the same investment shall not lead to duplication or overlap, and will have to bring clear demonstrable added value to and a more effective use of EU support (such as EFSI and ESIF supporting different parts of the capital structure of a project or covering different risk tranches of portfolios of SME finance). ESIF programme support may cover a portion of a project’s cost and the ESIF programme contribution may come into the project in the form of either a grant (enhancing project viability) or through a financial instrument or a combination thereof. EFSI support may in turn come through a direct loan, guarantee or equity-type instrument to the project. 2. What should local and regional intermediaries do to encourage SME financing? The participation of local and regional intermediaries for SME financing is essential for the success of the Investment Plan. While in most cases EU SMEs can obtain financing from local banks,

Member State equity financing remains limited and venture capital is scarce. One specific way that local and regional intermediaries can help is to enhance cooperation and coordination with Member State commercial banks. In addition to this, another pertinent step would be encouraging Member States to set up or extend the scope of National Promotional Banks (NPBs), i.e. legal entities carrying out public development or financial activities under a state mandate. Commercial banks and NPBs could then participate in regional, sectorial or national investment platforms, which benefit from the EU Guarantee, or they may instead opt to co-finance with the EIB on a project-by-project basis. 3. How do you see the Investment Platforms developing and is there a role for local and regional authorities within them? Investment Platforms could be set up as legal entities under different forms. Three different options of Investment Platforms are envisaged under the European Fund for Strategic Investments:

• regional – pooling across several Member States • sectorial – pooling across several Member States in one sector • national – pooling projects within the territory of a given Member State Local and regional authorities will certainly play a key role in all of these configurations, by helping identify problematic investment gaps, addressing investment barriers on the micro level, as well as advancing smart and innovative specialisation strategies. “Projects of the integrated transport system financed by ESIF in the programming period 2007 – 2013 significantly helped to improve connection within the Bratislava region. Purchase of modern and ecological public transport vehicles also contributed to a higher quality of transport. Moreover, construction of the Cycling Bridge of Freedom over the Morava River enabled to reconnect cross-border regions of Slovakia and Austria and opened a window of opportunity for mutual cooperation in the future.” Pavol Frešo

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Repporter september october 2015  

The activity report of the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions

Repporter september october 2015  

The activity report of the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions