The General Assembly is the highest authority of AER and convenes representatives of all its full members at least once a year. The General Assembly adopts among other things, the annual reports of the Thematic Committees.
This report is the compilation of actions developed and implemented within Committee 2 between the 2019 General Assembly in Larnaka (CY) and the 2020 online General Assembly.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic the AER Executive Board decided to prolong the validity of the AER Action Plan in order to allow the continuation of knowledge sharing between regions in a structured way.
AER had to define ways to maintain planned activities and offer new opportunities for mutual learning in a radically different and uncertain context, where face-to-face meetings are not possible and all regional stakeholders are focused on fighting the pandemic.
Activities are organised in 3 categories:
- Good practice sharing
- Advocacy/ Lobbying
In terms of knowledge sharing, the idea with projects is to provide a framework, where regions can go deeper in mutual learning and good practices exchange, while being co-financed by the EU. AER always negotiates its implication in projects in a way that will benefit all AER members. In the current situation where face to face events are cancelled, projects offer unparalleled opportunities for online knowledge and experience exchange.
SCIROCCO Exchange project – Personalised knowledge transfer and access to tailored evidence-based assets on integrated care: ongoing
The SCIROCCO Exchange project, under the EU Health Programme, is based on the SCIROCCO project, which resulted in the development of an online self-assessment tool for integrated care. The project runs from January 2019 to August 2021. It supports regions, mainly health and social care authorities for the adoption and the scaling-up of integrated care. The Maturity Model, at the core of the project, offers a tool for regions to better deliver integrated care for their citizens while at the same time empowering citizens. With this tool, regions can assess their current status, revealing areas of strength and also gaps in their capability managing the many activities needed in order to deliver integrated care.
The lead partner is the Scottish Government. The consortium is composed of 14 organizations.
AER is leading the Working Package on knowledge transfer which started in autumn 2019, helping the regions in preparing the local environment for implementation and scaling-up integrated care.
The Institute of Social and Behavioural Medicine of Pavol Jozef Safarik University in Kosice in Slovakia, one of SCIROCCO Exchange consortium partners, organized a local conference “Integrated care for people with chronic diseases” on 15 May 2019. The conference was organized as part of the European Public Health Week “Care4Care”. The objective of the conference was to raise awareness about the importance of integrated health and social care for people suffering from multiple chronic conditions. The conference was particularly useful to review the current progress with the adoption of integrated and long-term care in Slovakia and highlight the existing challenges such as change of culture, stakeholder engagement or political commitment
The project was presented at the Smart City Expo, which was held between 19 to 21st November 2019.
The project was also represented in the European Parliament at a debate, “EU 2019-2024: Health Champions Wanted”, held on 9 October 2019.
The SCIROCCO Exchange provides the opportunity to detail the methodologies and mutual learning approaches, which have developed by AER in over 3 decades of interregional cooperation.
The SCIROCCO Exchange also allows reaching some of the objectives set within the AER Digital Health Network.
Together for Cohesion: let’s rEUnite! finished
“Together for Cohesion: let’s rEUnite!” is a project submitted under a call launched by DG REGIO. This project raised awareness on the importance of programmes, projects, and services funded by the cohesion policy funds. It also encouraged the participation of citizens and stakeholders to become active players in the dialogue on cohesion policy. AER coordinated the project and collected experiences on cohesion policy together with regions.
This project was officially launched during the 2019 General Assembly in Larnaca (CY). Six AER member regions were partners in this project: Varazdin (HR), Csongrád (HU), Trentino (IT), Timis and Alba (RO), and Catalonia (ES). The project also had an information stall dedicated to the Together for Cohesion project at 2019 Autumn Committee Plenaries.
Partner regions have organized several local events to raise awareness on Cohesion policy among EU citizens:
The first event of Together for Cohesion held, the “Apulum Agraria” Fair in Alba (RO) held from 20-22nd September 2019, promoting agriculture, the economy of Alba and local farmers and members of professional associations.
The project was also represented at the 37th session of the Local and Regional Authorities Congress, led by the Council of Europe between the 28-31st October 2019.
The project contributed to the organisation of a Career management fair in Alba (RO), which raised awareness on the use and benefits of the EU cohesion policy and funds – with a special focus on how to find employment opportunities and how to receive the appropriate career guidance.
The Forum for Mayors, on the 11th of December, in Szeged, Hungary, by the General Assembly of Csongrand County was an opportunity to learn more about why cohesion policy and funds are crucial for the social and economic development of the cities and towns led by the Mayors taking part in the Csongrad Forum
Regions have also prepared several trainings focused on developing communication skills and understanding of European cohesion policies. The first training, on Together4Cohesion: how to use social media to better communicate the EU cohesion policy took place on the 23rd of January, in Trentino, Italy.
In Varaždin (HR), the annual Gala Ball of Varaždin County on 24 January 2020 was an opportunity to promote the project. On 13 February 2020, Varaždin also hosted an event in the context of the Together4Cohesion Project called “ESI Funds beyond 2020”. On 5 March a third event will be organised, with a contribution by South Ostrobothnia on entrepreneurship education. It is connected with Cohesion Policy since schools will also present how they develop new curricula with the help of EU funds. The recommendations will be sent to AER and be at disposal for all interested members
More events organised in the context of the project can be found on the Together4Cohesion website
AMiD project for the inclusion of migrants with disabilities: finished
This project was led by the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities and aimed to improve the access to services for migrants with disabilities. AER was a partner and Valencia, Timis and Värmland were all members of the Advisory Board. The AMiD project provided opportunities for experience sharing and capacity building in this area for all AER members.
During the 2019 Summer Academy in Novi Sad, Vojvodina (RS), a workshop on AMiD was organized. Participants were invited to reflect on the challenges that migrants with disabilities face on a daily basis.
The final conference of the AMiD project was held on 5th November 2019 in Brussels. After a wave of presentations and questions, participants split into three groups to discuss and agree on recommendations. They concluded:
- Improving capacity for CSOs – Civil Society Organisations working in the sector.
- To set and spread the multi-stakeholder approach to inclusion.
- Engagement to raise the topic of migrants with disabilities in the next Disability Strategy 2020-2030
Includ-EU: Regional and local expertise, exchange and engagement for enhanced social cohesion in Europe ongoing
AER and the International Organisation for Migration, together with several regional and local authorities have joined forces in the Includ-EU project. This project will improve transnational knowledge and experience sharing, cooperation and partnerships to build a more inclusive and cohesive Europe.
AER will organise 5 workshops to facilitate knowledge and experience sharing as well as to support the implementation of pilot activities around the 5 key priorities of the EU action plan: post-arrival support, education, labour market integration, access to services, citizen participation & inclusion.
In the context of the pandemic, AER anticipated the organisation of the webinars, which were normally planned for later. A first webinar was organised in collaboration with the Intercultural Regions Network, The Council of Europe and the International Organisation for Migration, to share experiences on access to services, especially health services.
The second webinar will take place on 10 November and will be focused on Labour Market Inclusion, with good practices from Greece and the Netherlands and a presentation by the European Commission on upcoming changes in funding for activities on integration.
E-health in rural areas: finished
Members discussed the possibility to develop a pan-AER regional e-health rural project based on innovation and digitalisation. This idea was not followed up by the development of a project.
As the topic is still relevant for many AER members, members were invited to participate in a webinar on integrated care in remote and rural areas, an activity organised in the context of the SCIROCCO Exchange project (see above)
Good Practice Exchange
Autumn Committee Plenaries – Podčetrtek (SI): finished
The annual Autumn Committee Plenaries of the Assembly of European Regions took place on September 24-26 2019, in Podčetrtek, Slovenia.
The topic of the thematic event of the plenaries was Cohesion & Contrasted Regional Realities, and the aim was to identify strategies and actions to boost regional development and innovation in the face of contrasting realities.
2020 Spring Committee Plenaries – Covasna (RO): cancelled
The main focus of the AER 2020 Spring Committee Plenaries in Covasna County (RO) between 10-12 March was to be territorial approaches. Urban-rural divides within regions were going to be in the spotlight.
While the Autumn 2019 plenaries “Territorial cohesion and Contrasted Realities” looked at how regions address territorial differences, this spring’s plenary should have been about taking stock of the situation in Europe. How to bridge the gap between theories on place-based policies and the actual implementation of effective and participative policies?
Members should have discussed the state of play of smart specialization strategies in Europe, health innovation and wellbeing, as well as brain drain vs brain gain.
In the context of the cancellation of face to face activities, AER tried to ensure that the content, which would normally have been shared at the plenaries, was still shared via the AER website. A series of articles was therefore published, featuring the speakers on the programme of the Covasna events, both from AER regions and from external experts with examples challenges and good practices: https://aer.eu/tag/event-2020-spring-plenaries/
While reading articles about a region don’t replace actually visiting it, special visibility was given to Covasna and the good practices to be presented on the spot on the AER website.
The topic of wellbeing and smart specialisation was addressed in two articles on the natural assets in Covasna (RO) and the smart specialisation strategy of Värmland (SE).
The topic of smart specialisation for inclusion and wellbeing will be further developed in the context of the webinar of the Digital Health network on 18 November 2020
Mutual learning event on economy 4.0: finished
On 4 December 2019, AER, the Brussels Capital Region and the Government of Catalonia organized a mutual learning event on economy 4.0. Economy 4.0 describes a new era of productive, industrial and economic development characterized by the implementation of big-scale automatization, artificial intelligence (AI) robotic instruments, computational big data analytics software, and high tech infrastructure. It aims to gather experiences from all three AER Committees and regions who are welcomed to share inputs and regional examples.
The report on the event can be found here.
Workshop of the AER e-health network (now known as “Digital Health Network”): finished
The AER e-health network has achieved the objectives it had set at its creation. It is time now to revamp the network, explore synergies with other initiatives and fellow networks around Europe. On the occasion of the Autumn Committee Plenaries the AER e-health network under the leadership of Donna Henderson, Scotland (GB), planned to hold a workshop to reinvent its way of working and set new goals.
While a discussion did take place on this occasion, only few members were able to attend, because of the exceptional circumstances in Slovenia, were Adria Airlines stopped activities during the AER plenaries. The group decided to change the name to “Digital Health network” and to cooperate more with other networks as well as with the European Commission. The SCIROCCO Exchange project is instrumental in this respect, as it positions AER on a very important topic.
Increasing collaboration on Digital Health between European Regions: ongoing
The Digital Health Network provides a platform for AER regions to share their experiences, knowledge, and resources that support the effective deployment of digital health solutions within their regional healthcare systems. The digital transformation of health and care requires further action in these areas:
- citizen’s secure access to and sharing of health data across borders;
- better data to advance research, disease prevention and personalised health and care;
- digital tools for citizen empowerment and person-centred care.
The Digital Health Network will:
- Provide knowledge exchange opportunities for AER regions working to implement digital health.
- Promote relevant policies to advance the implementation of digital health for all citizens.
- Share good practices in the use of digital health in response to key health and care challenges for regions.
- Recognise the diversity of regions and identify key lessons from their different approaches to digital health.
- Develop our shared understanding of how digital health can support increased citizen participation in and self-management of their own health and wellbeing.
Identify key events, in which members of the Digital Health Network will participate, to promote and raise awareness of the Network’s activities.
The activities planned for the Network in 2020 – 2021 are outlined in the roadmap below:
It is possible to join the Digital Health Network by filling this (
Webinar on Digital Health, Wellbeing and Smart Specialisation: ongoing
The webinar is organised by the Digital Health Network and will present the experiences of two AER regions on 18 November on :
- supporting the development of digital solutions that support healthy living.
- fostering collaboration between the public sector, universities; civil organisations, entrepreneurs, and businesses.
- how we intend to achieve business growth and efficiency in public health services.
- how digital health innovation fits with our regions’ smart specialisation strategies.
Breakfast seminar on innovation in healthcare design: finished
Värmland (SE), Scotland (GB) and AER organized a Breakfast Seminar on health innovation on 10 September 2019 in Brussels. The event looked at Health Innovation and User-centric Design and Digital Innovation in health and care. Kenneth Johannesson, Committee 2 Vice President for Health Innovation and Donna Henderson, Chair of AER eHealth Network, opened the event and provided background to it.
Sharing experiences on integrated care at Smart City Expo World Congress: finished
AER facilitated a 1h discussion in the Agora of Smart City Expo World Congress on the topic of mutual learning & international cooperation for the deployment of integrated care systems in Europe.
Through this session, attendees explored the regional perspective of integrated care systems and the related challenges and benefits, high-level speakers showcased the latest solutions from West Slovenia, Catalonia and Scotland. At the same time, it was presented the Scirocco Exchange Project, a pillar project for AER, which embodies our values as it aims to transfer good practices in integrated care across European regions.
AER Delegation at Smart City Expo World Congress: finished
AER took part in SCEWC19. The 3-day conference confirmed its role as the world’s greatest meeting point for cities and companies sharing the same goals as regards the future of cities. Different stakeholders gathered together in Barcelona and explored new innovative ways to make cities inclusive, efficient and sustainable.
All member regions and partners interested in attending the next iteration of SCEWC 2020 as speakers can submit an application here
Elderly care homes in rural areas: planned
Exchange experiences and identify solutions around the issue of isolated elderly people in rural areas
- Regions interested in working on this topic should share their idea with the Secretariat in order to start developing this initiative.
Building a Network of Intercultural Regions: ongoing
The Bureau Task Force on migration organized a Breakfast debate on the occasion of the General Assembly in Larnaca to examine the possibility of creating an intercultural regions programme, similar to the existing Council of Europe Intercultural Cities Programme. The network will support regions for the design and implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies. The Intercultural Regions Network was launched on 5th November 2019.
The process to develop this network requires intense dialogue with institutions.
AER and the Council of Europe are now planning activities for the coming months, a first meeting is foreseen on 16 March. This meeting will be followed by a public presentation of the Network, and a training on tactics and strategies for effective intercultural messaging by Nigel Smith, media and communication expert at the Council of Europe. Regions interested to participate in the public meeting and the training should contact Gisela Guari Cañada
Engagement in the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP-AHA)
AER is a member of the B3 Group for integrated care in the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Its contribution to the work is done via the SCIROCCO Exchange project and the AER Digital health network.
Joint initiatives for advocacy
Member regions can decide to initiate joint actions and find partners among AER members. Regions can get support from the Secretariat to connect with other regions, get an overview of the existing legal framework and identify relevant actions, target institutions. The AER Secretariat will also organize Breakfast Briefings to help regions organize their advocacy activities.
AER Bureau Task Forces
The 2018 Spring Bureau established the creation of Task Forces on dedicated topics. These Task Forces will gather examples, identify and formulate policy messages which will be brought together in position papers which will then be used for advocacy. Members who would like to contribute to one of the below Task Forces should contact AER Coordinator for Advocacy & Institutional Relations Gisela Guari Cañada
-Task Force on Food Security
-Task Force on Cohesion Policy
-Task Force on Digitalisation
-Task Force on Migration
-Task Force on Sustainable Development Goals
The Committees’ work programmes and the AER action Plan
The development of the Action Plan is a collective process to enable all participants to specify needs and decide to initiate activities that add value to their region. The principle is the following: as long as an action fits with the AER values, is in line with the AER priorities and has support from other regions, it can be included in the Committee’s work programmes. The work programmes are developed in spring each year and the 2019/2020 work programme is available here.
The AER action plan is the consolidation of the three Committees’ work programmes with all other activities led by the Bureau and the Executive Board. It is adopted at the General Assembly.
Members can propose new joint initiatives at any time during the year, these are then approved by the Executive Board and included in the Committee’s work programmes and the AER action plan. The action plan for 2019/2020 is available here.