The campaign #Together4Cohesion is now concluded and we want to go through the long road performed. At the same time, we hope that our actions were meaningful in generating a spark among all actors involved within cohesion policy persuading them to continue showing its benefits. To this end, we want also to share sustainable tools that can support practitioners in this long-lasting exercise, as well as our commitment to continue promoting cohesion policy.
Since April 2019, AER in cooperation with mc Group and in partnership with six flagship regions [Alba (RO), Catalonia (ES), Csongrad-Csanàd (HU), Timis (RO), Trentino (IT), and Varazdin (HR)] have been coordinating and implementing a widespread communication campaign on the benefits of European cohesion policy co-financed by DG-REGIO (European Commission). The campaign “Together for Cohesion: Let’s rEUnite!” was aimed at raising awareness of cohesion policy and structural funds as major tools to implement social and economic investments fostering balanced growth among European regions through the active involvement of the policy’s main beneficiaries, i.e. citizens and stakeholders.
After sixteen months of campaigning, we have reached the end of this journey across regions, projects, and people. It is time now to look back at the road from the hill and to share the achievements of Together for Cohesion. The path was exciting but yet not without its difficulties. As various activities, the campaign had to face major constraints posed by the outbreak of Covid-19. Despite the challenge, the campaign’s team elaborated on alternative solutions enabling to continue and ultimate the mission.
Visibility Events and Activities
We have actively engaged in promoting debate around the theme of cohesion policy through both international and local events in the six flagship regions. The campaign was officially launched at AER General Assembly in Larnaca (5th June 2019) with a dedicated Knowledge Sharing Workshop; it was presented at both AER Committee’s Plenaries in Podcetrtek (25th September 2019) and the 37th session of the Local and Regional Authorities Congress of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (28th-31st October 2019). We concluded our international engagement with a final webinar on “Communicating European Cohesion Policy” (16th July 2020), where we shared hints and practices acquired during the campaign, as well as launched discussion on the current use of structural funds to counter the Covid-19 effects and the perspective of the next MFF.
Alba and Timis (RO)
In parallel, the campaign engaged citizens, stakeholders, and public authorities at the local level within the six flagship regions. Alba County inaugurated the series of Together for Cohesion’s local events through the Apulum Agraria Fair (20th September 2019), where farmers, producers, and policymakers exchanged about the local products of Alba and discussed the benefits of cohesion policy. Students in the Alba County have been informed about the opportunities that cohesion funds brings about for employment, career guidance and development at the second local event of the region, the Career Management Conference (20th-22nd November 2019). The third event was held by the Timis County Council, a conference on “The Benefits of Cohesion Policy for European Union Citizens” (25th February 2020) gathering representatives of public institutions and non-governmental organizations to discuss the pivotal role of cohesion investments for the development of the region. Additionally, the County held a drawing competition for children focused on “The Europe where I would like to live in”/ “A greener Europe”. Lastly, both Romanian Counties produced and disseminated a series of videos showing how cohesion funds have supported local activities in various thematic fields.
Csongrád County (HU)
In Csongrád County, the campaign Together for Cohesion served as a basis to launch important institutional exchanges among mayors on experiences, results, and plans regarding cohesion funds through two Professional Forums for Mayors of the Csongrád County (11th December 2019 and 30th June 2020). Beyond institutional discussions, the County launched reflections among children through the drawing competition and award ceremony in Szeged on climate awareness (23rd June 2020).
Generalitat de Catalunya (ES)
Within the scope of the campaign, the Generalitat de Catalunya triggered debates around crucial themes related to cohesion policy through two webinars. The first webinar, “ICF Eurocredit COVID-19 line” (27th May 2020), explained how this instrument can support companies affected by the crisis. The second webinar gathered representatives from the public administration to reflect on the management of public resources through a gender perspective (22nd June 2020). Lastly, a video showcasing the various benefits that Structural and Investment funds bring about in the region was disseminated via social media in order to reach a wide audience.
Province of Trento (IT)
Visibility actions in Trentino took an innovative shape. The Province launched a series of four TV episodes on cohesion policy providing viewers with a detailed explanation of what cohesion policy is, focusing at both the local level and broader European level. The first three episodes presented a specific Operational Programme, a local project, and an interregional project. The last episode focused on the benefits of cohesion funds for local stakeholders. Finally, space was given to inform citizens and companies about how ERDF and ESF funds have been re-addressed to support the COVID-19 relief through a dedicated article and infographic.
Varaždin County (HR)
The series of local events in Varaždin had a sparking start at the Splendid Ball in Varaždin (31st January 2020), where ambassadors, Parliament, and Civilian Guard members exchanged on the benefits of cohesion policy. On 13th February 2020, the International Conference on “ESI Funds beyond 2020” involved private and public stakeholders from Croatia, Austria, and Slovenia to debate on the future of cohesion policy during the next European budgetary period. The event was followed by another international conference on “Entrepreneurship Education” (5th March 2020) attended by professionals working in the education and entrepreneurship sectors willing to enhance the connection between these two fields, considering it pivotal for the economic growth of the region. To conclude the local mission, the Varaždin County produced and broadcasted on television a short movie showing the impact and achievements of cohesion policy in the region.
Messengers of Cohesion – the Voices of Citizens, Stakeholders, and Third Parties
Together for Cohesion was based on a bottom-up approach attaching core importance to the involvement of cohesion’s policy main beneficiaries as the main voice of the campaign. To this aim, workshops, trainings, and webinars were organized in Alba, Catalonia, Csongrad, Trentino, and Varazdin to offer entrepreneurs, journalists, project managers, local decision-makers, and other actors engaged with cohesion policy the opportunity to boost effective communication skills.
Entrepreneurs and project managers opened – physically or virtually – the doors of their activities to show how cohesion funds have supported the foundation or expansion of their local business. Journalists visited the Axa Porcelaine in Alba Iulia, a small family business that through cohesion funds grew and expanded its sales to the European market becoming the second-largest manufacturer of porcelain in Romania. Luigi Calabrese, R&D Manager at Kirana Laser Startup in Trentino, testified the fundamental role of European funds when the company was launched, pivotal for its consecutive expansion in the international market, and collaboration with research centers of excellence as the CERN in Geneva.
Moving from support to business to health services, the General Hospital Varaždin has presented the ongoing project aimed at establishing unified day hospital and surgery. The Hospital Vall d’Hebron, in Catalonia, showed how cohesion funds have supported a major digital transformation improving the quality and the access of the services provided by the hospital. We have also heard from local authorities in Timis how the modernization of the County Hospital emergency unit financed by the EU increased the receiving capacity of 25% enabling better flow and comfort for patients and families and improved working conditions for the staff.
Through a virtual visit at the Extreme Light Infrastructure Attosecond Light Pulse Source (ELI-ALPS) in Szeged (Hungary), we testified how cohesion policy promotes the development of research infrastructures needed to study the most elementary and fastest processes through long-term investments in three different countries – Hungary, Romania, and the Czech Republic.
Targeted stakeholders from the six-flagship regions were also interviewed to show the contribution of the EU and cohesion policy to core policy fields as tourism (here and here), youth involvement, gender equality, handicraft, and agriculture.
Lastly, Together4Cohesion opened the floor of its campaign to third parties around Europe involved with cohesion policy and willing embark in our campaign through their success stories. Read all the third parties’ stories here!
Let’s continue to communicate Cohesion Policy beyond Together for Cohesion
Although the campaign is finished, triggering debates on European cohesion policy and raising awareness about its benefits among citizens and stakeholders shall become a long-lasting practice. We have designed a toolkit including an e-learning video and a set of recommendations to support practitioners in effectively performing this task. Both instruments are available in English and the official languages of the flagship regions under the Toolkit section of Together4Cohesion.eu.
Being European cohesion policy a core field of action for the Assembly of European Regions, we will continue to launch discussions and inform our members on the matter through the creation of a dedicated hub within our website. The latter will serve to collect and prioritize policy briefs, position papers, and good practices concerning the policy.
Hence, as usual, stay tuned!