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 3 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.
SKILLNET is a project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme aimed at improving Vocational Education and Training (VET) systems.
AER joined the SKILLNET project this Spring while most of Europe was in lockdown, specifically because of the opportunities the project is offering for online activities relevant to both Committee 1 and Committee 3. Indeed the project is organising a high number of webinars and offering online platforms for the exchange of knowledge. In order to make sure project activities provide value to members, the topics of SKILLNET webinars are chosen based on the AER Action Plan and further specified together with members which have expressed needs in the process of the definition of workprogrammes at Committee meetings
SKILLNET has launched a series of 18 webinars on EU funding opportunities. Each webinar is open to all interested parties and focuses on different areas of intervention upon which relevant partnerships can be launched.
As a follow-up of each SKILLNET webinar, a Partnerships in Focus bulletin is circulated and stored in the Partnerships in Focus hub on the AER website.
Additionally, the project offers the opportunity for regional stakeholders working on Vocational Education and Training to connect via the Peer Learning Clubs. Stakeholders learn from each other, and get access to relevant information and experts to be applied to develop future partnerships within EU calls.
- AER members interested in sharing their experience in a webinar should contact AER Coordinator for Policy & Knowledge Transfer Johanna Pacevicius
Road to the Future: finished
Road to the Future was a project submitted under the Erasmus+ programme, within the Key Action 3 – Support for Policy Reform, and was designed around the European Parliament Elections in 2019. First, it encouraged debate among young European on the European elections to increase young voters’ turnout. This was implemented through training of youth activists, leaders and the development of tools and resources. After the elections, the project continued the training for trainers and mentors, based on the ideas collected during the first phase. This ensured that young people gain the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to be engaged for the future of Europe at the local level.
The lead partner was JEF Europe – Young European Federalist. AER represented local and regional authorities. The consortium was composed of 21 organizations, mainly national JEF associations.
AER was responsible to connect young people and decision-makers, especially via the involvement of the YRN. “Road to the Future” lasted 16 months, from October 2018 to February 2020.
The final conference took place on 20-21st of January 2020. Young Europeans from all over the continent gathered together with civil society organizations and representatives of the European institutions to reflect on the “I Choose Europe” electoral campaign implemented in the run-up to May 2019.
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
CUBES: Cultural Administration Boosting with the Engagement of Sustainability for Local Communities ongoing
The CUBES project was developed to create a bridge between cultural heritage, administrative bodies, and digitalization. The project will:
- raise awareness
- emphasizing the importance of culture
- increase competitiveness and economic growth.
Target: local communities, public authorities, NGOs and CSOs. The kick-off of the CUBES project took place on the 25th of October 2019 in Lisbon, the project will end in April 2020
The experience of the CUBES project on grassroots approaches for sustainable regional development was supposed to inform the discussions at the conference “Territorial Approaches to Regional Development” in Covasna on 11 March 2020. As the plenaries were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an article was written on Culture, a pillar of sustainable regional development by the Lead partner of the CUBES project.
As the project is progressing, the Secretariat is exploring how to use the knowledge and outputs created in the project to benefit members in Committee 3.
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.
Good Practice Exchange
Survey on measures in education during COVID-19 lockdowns
On the initiative of Radimir Čačić (Varaždin County, Croatia), Chair of the Committee for Education, Culture and Youth, regions were invited to share their experiences and lessons learned via a survey.
The aim of this survey is to provide valuable information about the organisation of classes in the exceptional school year 2019/2020, which will provide important and hopefully valuable information for the exchange of best practice examples, which could help other regions to improve the organisation of schooling and/or apply some new methods, within the competence of each respective region.
The collected information refers mainly to primary and secondary level education. It will provide an overview of the school year 2019/2020 and plans for 2020/2021.
The online survey is still available
Training Seminar 2019 – “Cities and Regions: New Actors of Change in Europe”: finished
In partnership with the European College of Cluny, AER organized a Training Seminar “Cities and Regions: New Actors of Change in Europe”, which took place in Cluny (FR), from 26 – 30 August 2019.
Local and regional authorities were invited to attend a 5 days Training Seminar to participate in conferences, round table discussions, study visits, and case studies to determine how to boost their influence multiply their innovation potential and increase their territorial resilience through interregional cooperation.
Training Seminar 2020 – “How can local democracy help with constructing European identity and citizenship?”: postponed
The 2020 Training Seminar in collaboration with Sciences Po is postponed due to the impact of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on public administrations.
Civil Servants Exchange Programme: ongoing
The AER Training Seminar in Cluny was also the first step for the Civil Servants Exchange program announced in September 2018 and coordinated by the President of Committee 3 Radimir Čačić, Varaždin (HR). The Civil Servants Exchange program will allow civil servants to spend a month in a partner region to learn about new processes and practices. This programme is being developed in close collaboration with the Eurodyssey network and should have started in 2020. In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the programme is on halt until the situation improves in Europe.
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 contrasted realities.
2020 AER Spring Committee Plenaries – Covasna: 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?
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 brain drain vs brain gain was given further attention in the framework of the July 2020 webinar of the Skillnet project on transnational partnerships for technical and vocational training.
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
AER Summer Academy 2019 – “Youth is future, youth is Europe”: finished
The Summer Academy Organising Committee organised the 2019 AER Summer Academy Vojvodina (RS) on the theme “Youth is future, youth is Europe” in Novi Sad, Vojvodina (RS), the 2019 European Youth Capital. In the wake of the 2019 Elections to the European Parliament, the aim was to exchange innovative ideas and good practices in various fields. It was about the potential of young people to bring about a social transformation and rethink the way Europe can meet the challenges of the future. Hrvoje Kovac, Chair of the AER sub-committee on youth moderated the 1st Plenary Session: Youth is democratic participation and European citizenship.
Workshop on youth participation: finished
Discussions during the 2019 Summer Academy showed youth participation is still a very hot topic. The AER Subcommittee on Youth, chaired by Hrvoje Kovač, organised a workshop on the occasion of the AER Autumn Committee Plenaries in Podčetrtek (SI). The topic of the workshop was Youth participation in regional policy-making. It aimed at identifying steps to implement meaningful and impactful youth participation in regions.
Workshop on the future of education: finished
The Subcommittee on Education, chaired by Simon Johnson, Nordland (NO), planned a workshop on the future of education in an ever-changing professional life on the occasion of the AER Autumn Committee Plenaries in Podčetrtek (SI). Questions addressed would have been: How should education look like in a world where things happen faster than ever? How is it possible to organize knowledge acquisition or provision?
This workshop was canceled because of the exceptional circumstances in Slovenia, were Adria Airlines stopped activities during the AER plenaries.
Mutual learning on culture and health: ongoing
Regions agreed they wanted to engage in mutual learning around culture and health for all and how to, in particular, reach out to young people. As a first step, the Subcommittee on Culture organized a workshop at the autumn plenary meetings on rural touring an initiative to promote a culture for all (see below).
Workshop on culture in rural communities: finished
The Subcommittee on Culture chaired by Fereshteh Jalayer, Värmland (SE) organized a workshop on rural touring. The initiative was driven by the desire to overcome social, geographic, economic and psychological barriers that have historically inhabited the enjoyment of the arts by people in rural communities. The workshop featured a theater manager and a dance strategist.
Raise awareness on the Eurodyssey programme: ongoing
The AER Committees are supporting the communication around the Eurodyssey programme for youth mobility to increase the number of participants in Eurodyssee. This is done for instance by allocating slots at the Committees’ meetings to share achievements of the programme and by presenting the programme at events led by the Committees, such as for instance the Training Seminar in Cluny.
The Eurodyssey Assembly took place as part of the annual Eurodyssey Forum on 24 October 2019 in Cagliari, Sardinia (IT). The event brought together more than fifty representatives both from Eurodyssey regions and outside the programme to discuss the functioning of the programme, to share experiences and best practices and to explore future initiatives for Europe’s only regional youth mobility scheme.
The conference opened with two discussions on youth mobility, looking at both aspects of personal and professional development for young people as well as how youth mobility has a positive impact on regional development. You can read more on the topic of youth mobility in this article.
The Eurodyssey programme was presented in the September 2020 webinar of the SKILLNET project on Youth Partnerships
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.
Exchanges around traditional cultures: ongoing
The 5th edition of FolkoFonija took place from 13 to 15 September 2019 and all AER members were invited to contribute to the development of this event. Initiated and organized by the Centre for Traditional Culture Varaždin, this festival could be the basis for a joint project to be developed in AER on traditional cultures in wider Europe.
The following international folk festival planned on 25-29 June 2020 was postponed to 25-30 June 2021 This event will feature 10 ensembles from 10 countries for 5 days of festivities. This European folk festival aims to contribute to safeguarding intangible cultural heritage by bringing together folk ensembles from all over wider Europe. AER members are invited to contact Maja Zuber, the seconded officer of Committee 3 President M Čačić.
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.
Mutual learning on early school leaving: planned
Share experiences on early school leaving and the issue of young people who are not in education and not in employment. In particular, explore practices around building confidence and encouraging young people.
- This action could be developed within the context of the Subcommittee on Education. Regions interested in working on this topic should share their idea with the Secretariat in order to start developing this initiative.
From brain drain to brain gain: finished
Share knowledge, experiences, and practices to address the issue of brain drain and move from brain drain to brain gain.
As the events in Covasna were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Radimir Čačić, President of Committee 3 wrote an article on a Regional Approach to reduce Brain Drain, and Hrvoje Kovač, Chair of the Subcommittee on Youth prepared a very clear video on the topic.
Moreover, Hrvoje Kovač also shared the experience of Varaždin County on skills development at the June 2020 SKILLNET webinar on implementing innovative TVET policies
Mutual learning on the loss of workforce: finished
Exchange around the issue of governments investing in education and “losing” their qualified workforce. The aim would be to identify elements of resilience or compensation for territories that “lose” qualified workforce.
Initiatives to address and mitigate brain drain and turn it into brain gain, brain regain or brain circulation are addressed in the article by Radimir Čačić, President of Committee 3
Lifelong learning for 50+ people: finished
Special training for 50+ people in for example IT, in order to improve wellbeing and employability.
In order to address the need expressed by regions to hear about examples on upskilling and reskilling especially for people 50+, it was decided that the October 2020 SKILLNET webinar would be on “Lifelong learning: Upskilling and Reskilling of 50+”. AER members shared their experience: Michael Heaney, Chief Executive Officer at Údarás na Gaeltachta (IE) and Ana Gale, Director of Uciliste Studium (Osijek-Baranja, HR)
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 was organised in 16 March. The Intercultural Regions Network is closely involved in activities carried out in the context of the Includ-EU project (see above)
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 existing legal framework and identify relevant actions, target institutions.
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 Vania Freitas
-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.