With the October 2008 publication of its Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion, the European Commission opened a debate on territorial cohesion in search of a better understanding of the issue and its implications for EU policy.
The Assembly of European Regions (AER), the largest organisation of regions in wider Europe, submitted today an official response to the paper that includes the following key elements:
– Territorial cohesion should be a comprehensive concept influencing all policy areas which are of significance to sustainable development, growth and quality of life in the European regions;
– Even though territorial guidelines are to be established at EU level, the subsidiarity principle assumes that they must be endorsed at the lowest possible level of governance;
– Strong co-ordination of the objective of territorial cohesion with other decisions made at EU and national levels is needed;
– The European Commission should play a major role in supporting and encouraging co-operation in activities which have a common European interest;
– The EC should improve existing forms of co-operation (European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation, INTERREG, INTERACT) and create new co-operation opportunities such as rural urban partnerships and co-operation along external borders;
– In order to monitor characteristics and trends in territorial cohesion, a balance between indicators monitoring the economic, social and environmental development of regions is essential for a sustainable approach.
Thomas Andersson, Jämtland county councillor (Sweden), vice-president of AER Committee 1 (Regional Development and Economy) and co-ordinator of AER’s response to the green paper:
“I warmly welcome this green paper, since territorial cohesion is able to turn the richness and diversity of our territories into a competitive advantage. The unique features of the regions should not be perceived as handicaps, but as long-term assets likely to bring rapid economic and social growth to the whole of Europe.”
“The green paper provides a solid starting point and serves as a good basis for more coherent and future-orientated EU policies. I therefore hope that our member regions’ comments and remarks form an essential part of a future white paper and legislative proposals.”
In June 2007, AER launched a task force on EU cohesion policy to prepare a study on cohesion policy post-2013. Published in January 2008, the study included contributions from 60 regions in 22 countries of the wider Europe. A new and more detailed political position on future cohesion policy was adopted by AER’s political bureau in June 2008, in Wroclaw, Dolnoslaskie (PL).
AER adopted its initial response to the EC Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion at its General Assembly in November 2008, in Tampere (FIN). On the basis of this political reaction AER launched a broader consultation on the specific questions raised in the green paper. The findings of the EC’s consultation and planned action are to be announced by Commissioner Danuta Hübner in April 2009.
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