Göteborg, Västra Götaland (S), 18 September 2009
As European ministers from the Baltic Sea countries convene in Stockholm, Sweden, to adopt a declaration to undertake the measures contained in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, the Assembly of European Regions’ (AER) political bureau met in nearby Göteborg to discuss the implications for the regions of emerging macro-regions.“
“The macro-region concept is certainly an opportunity to focus on challenges that are important to us,” said Hans Aronsson, president of the Västra Götaland (S) regional council, which hosted the meeting. “We have been involved in the creation of the Baltic Sea Strategy and we also think that a North Sea strategy could be helpful. But the concept also raises important questions about governance.”
These important questions, and their related uncertainties, were at the heart of the debate among regional politicians during AER’s bureau session.
Professor Esko Antola from the Centrum Balticum in Turku, Finland attempted to define macro-regions as areas “covering a number of administrative regions but with sufficient issues in common to justify a single strategic approach.” He also warned AER’s bureau that any new type of governance requires strict regulation to avoid alienating citizens.
Despite these potential obstacles, Olivier Baudelet, Administrator at the European Commission’s DG REGIO, explained during the debate that: “For the regions, there is a lot to gain in cooperating better at the level of a macro-region between countries who share common challenges and opportunities.”
What, then, can the regions gain from macro-regions? As the European Commission searches for an optimal approach to macro-regions, AER is already putting words into actions.
AER president Michèle Sabban said: “Macro-regions are not only a powerful tool to reinforce citizen participation and understanding of EU issues; they can also serve a purpose outside EU borders. And that is why, early next year, AER is bringing together the 33 regions surrounding the Black Sea to address common issues in water management and tourism development.”
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