The Assembly of European Regions, a key partner for the European Business Summit 2014
Brussels (BE), 15 May 2014
Since 2013, the focus of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) has shifted with the ambition of creating stronger links between the business sector and regions throughout Europe. It was therefore a natural progression that AER became an official partner of the European Business Summit (EBS), the event “where business and politics shape the future”.
Within the framework of this year’s EBS topic, “Rebuilding a Competitive Europe – The Business Agenda 2014-2019”, AER organised a session on “How European Regions contribute to competitiveness?”, attended by more than 130 participants, among which Commissioner for Regional policy, Johannes Hahn. At a period when globalisation of the world markets has changed the rules of the game, Europe must focus on opportunities, and turn to its regions and SMEs (99% of European enterprises are SMEs) to reap the benefits from this evolution. Regions are close enough to their citizens to grasp both the practical reality and needs of their entrepreneurs and strategic enough to inscribe local and regional development in European strategies. So, what better level than the regional to promote economic development in Europe?
Regions can play a key role in avoiding that companies leave from one European region to another, or even out of Europe. For this, a better use of the European funds is needed, mainly through a simplification of procedures. It is indeed sometimes too difficult for SMEs to complete the procedures, as they do not have the necessary human resources and legislation knowledge. Regions must also adapt themselves to the new situation, and support their SMEs in the same way. Some concrete examples coming from Açores (PT), Timis (RO), Bruxelles-Capitale (BE), Noord-Brabant (NL), Dnipropetrovsk (UA) and Liverpool (UK) showed that, despite the geographical and cultural differences, all regions have underlying potential to be exploited. It was unanimously agreed that this diversity is an asset for Europe! Regions and their SMEs must find their way to keep or attract investors and young talents, and AER is the place to share experiences and ideas to reach this goal.
The level of decentralisation is a key factor when unlocking potential for competitiveness: the more decentralised regions are, the more they are able to exploit their resources and help their SMEs to be attractive. It is not only about money, but increased competences give the freedom to better use and connect all existing resources.
Dialogue, support and recognition from regions to entrepreneurs is also essential. During the session participants exchanged views with SME representatives. Mr Tim Kievits, an entrepreneur from Noord-Brabant (NL), strongly stated that “Politicians at all levels should understand that it’s not all about money and financial help, we should focus more on people. The boost of confidence we get from being recognised for our contributions and successes helps greatly in further developing our SMEs’ future in and outside of Europe”.
Dr Hande Özsan Bozatli, AER President, warmly thanked Commissioner Hahn who all over his mandate was attentive to the regions’ needs and proposals: “You have been a great supporter of our work at AER and I thank you for the trust and confidence that have always characterised our many exchanges.”
Building on the EBS Regional session, on 2nd day of the Summit, Hande Özsan Bozatli gave the three main AER messages to the audience:
– Regions need to be actively involved in the formulation and implementation of European policy and programmes addressing globalisation, be it the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives, especially “An Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Era” and “Innovation Union” or ultimately in the free trade agreements’ negotiations.
– Regions have done and are doing their homework already to participate in the global competitive environment.
– Free trade and open markets have their benefits, but we need to be careful not to trade off our own European cultural heritage and diversity and in particular cultural products.
The AER Delegation of 60 elected and business representatives from 20 regions, as well as the 20 journalists, welcomed the inclusion of a regional dimension into the European Business Agenda, and reinforced the message that without the regions, the EU2020 goals cannot be reached.
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