Speech at AER Committee 3 plenary session press conference.
St. Pölten, Niederösterreich (A), 11 September 2008
Lower Austria – a member of the AER accentuates regional identity. Regions answer to the needs of their citizens in a most flexible and direct way.
This is of essential importance in a growing Europe, because Europe´s strength is based on the diversity of its regions. I am convinced, that Europe will only have a future when we find the right balance between the European level and the regional level.
Therefore we have to act, whenever regional independence is in danger.
Lower Austria is therefore engaged in various acitivities such as:
v The European Forum Wachau, which has become a platform for European issues.
v Our Conference on Subsidiarity organised within the Austrian EU-Presidency.
v The Committee of Regions.
And above all
v within the Assembly of European Regions with its 270 member-regions from 33 states, the largest interregional organisation of Europe.
The issues are dealt with in 3 Committees:
Committee 1 on Economy and Regional Development
Committee 2 on Social Policy and Public Health
Committee 3 on Culture, Education and Training, Youth and Interregional Cooperation.
This Committee, which I am presiding since four years, is now meeting in St. Pölten.
There are 70 representatives from 34 regions from Norway, Sweden to Romania, from Poland to Sicily.
Already once this Committee came to St. Pölten under the presidency of Liese Prokop, who later also presided the entire organisation for four years. I would like to present to you the Vicepresidents of Committee 3:
Mr. David Kirk, Councillor of County Hampshire presides the Subcommittee Education and Training.
Mr. Sten-Erik Nilsson, Councillor from Gävleborg in Sweden, president of Subcommittee Culture.
Mr. David Nordström, Deputy member of the County Council of Norbotten/Sweden, president of Subcommittee Youth.
Mme. Marie Francoise Muller, Vicepresident of Region Burgundy, president of Subcommittee Interregional and international cooperation
And last but not least my friend Mr. Bela Bokor, director of the Centre for Culture and Tourism of the Hungarian County Baranya
The chief activities and the project of the AER is the promotion of regional competence in the states within and without the European Union.
This organisation has contributed essantially to regional reforms within the states and has influenced decisions on European level.
Let me give you some examples:
v The Services Directive of the European Union 2006.
Without basically opposing the liberalisation of services the AER has achieved the exemption of health and social services. As for cultural services there is also a restricted exemption, as long as these services do not gain profit.
v General Agreement on Tariffes and Services (GATS)
Here the AER has fought against a philosophy, that wanted to treat culture as a ordinary commodity of trade. AER has contributed to the EU-guarantee, that cultural services will not be included into GATS-negotiation.
The tight cooperation and mutual inspiration of the regions especially those organised within the Assembly of the European Regions, functions also from the side of Lower Austria.
Here are some examples:
v Most Youth Friendly Region
Every two years a region receives a prize for its policy and acitivities for the young citizens. This is an initiative of Lower Austria under Liese Prokop.
v Landesausstellungen (biennial international exhibitions)
This Lower Austria initiative already developed in the 1960s has become a model-cultural initiative first on Austrian then on European level.
In 2009 Lower Austria will have a common Landesausstellung with our neighbour regions from Czech Republic. This is also a initiative of Lower Austria which have struck roots in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Romania.
v Redevelopment of villages and cities in Lower Austria (Dorf- und Stadterneuerung)
is an initiative which includes cultural heritage as well as infrastructure of villages and towns. On international level Lower Austria is exporting Know-How.
v Most innovative region of Europe
This initiative of the AER is a competition of European regions to foster the modernisation of regions. In 2007 Niederösterreich received the first prize, which was handed over by President of EU-Commission Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso to Landeshauptmann Dr. Erwin Pröll for a project called „Regional innovation strategy Niederösterreich“.
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