Towards a New Deal for European Cohesion Policy
That was the immodest title of my latest post in the URBACT Blog. It is a rather narrative and short report about the Region’s Forum panel I took part in the beginning of last September in Krynica, in the framework of the XXIII Economic Forum. Below a slightly different version of the article and some more pictures from that the event and beautiful place in the Carpathian mountains. Krynica is a small town in the south of Poland, few Kilometers from the border to Slovakia, not far from Czech Republic, Ukraine and Hungary, in the very heart of eastern Europe. Very well known as a winter sport and Spa destination, it represents a relevant political center due to the Economic Forum taking place there every year since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For these reasons the city is also nicknamed “the eastern Davos” and the presence of several current or former Prime Ministers confirmed that.
Towards a New Deal was the motto of this year’s XXIII Economic Forum in Krynica: more than 2,500 guests – political, economic and social leaders – and 500 journalists from nearly 60 countries of Europe, Asia and America.
The Forum was born in the early 90es to foster a favourable climate for the development of political and economic cooperation between the European Union and neighbouring states. Today that the potential resulting from the accession of new member states to the European Union has begun to fade and new opportunities (BRICS) are rising on the geopolitical horizon of Central and Eastern Europe, the Forum gained even more importance.
In such a global context I was invited to speak on behalf of URBACT about “The Role of Regional Authorities in Shaping Urban Policies” with the following brief.
“The EU cohesion policy in 2014-2020 emphasizes the importance of supporting development of the cities. In Poland, the problem of the cities’ potential in the development of both singular regions and the whole country has been highlighted in the national and regional strategy papers. This concerns in particular the dual role of regional self-governing authorities: in shaping urban policy at the national level as well as in the forming regional policies regarding cities. The key issue in the whole process is in fact the optimal allocation of roles, tasks and responsibilities between national, regional and urban authorities, using the most effective ways of collaboration in defining and achieving common goals.”
The panel discussion was opened by Marceli Niezgoda, Undersecretary of State from the Ministry of Regional Development of Poland and moderated by Janusz Sepiol, member of Senate of the Republic of Poland. Panelists were Vitalie Chiurcciu, Chief of General Department, Executive Committee of Gagauzia in the Republic of Moldova, Reiner Kneifel-Haverkamp, Head of Unit for EU-Funds Coordination and EU Economic and Financial Policies, Ministry of Economics and European Affairs in Brandenburg, and Peter Szegvari, Chief Advisor of the Mayor, Municipality of the City of Budapest.
Marceli Niezgoda illustrated the institutional innovations introduced in Poland to grasp the opportunities offered by the next programming period. Among the innovations it is worth noting the introduction of a separate budget line and operational unit dedicated to urban policies within the Ministry of Regional Development as well as the introduction of “functional urban areas” to coordinate large infrastructure projects and encourage cross-border cooperation.
Following his speech I introduced the main features of the URBACT Programm trying to represent the point of view many European cities about the “Role of regional authorities in shaping urban policies”. My main point was that many cities and policy makers shares the view Jan Olbrycht Chairman of the European Parliament URBAN Intergroup, according to whom to achieve more effectiveness of ERDF there should be “a stronger delegation of power at city level, which will be in line with the subsidiarity principle”. That is reflected to some extent in the ringfencing of the 5% of ERDF for Integrated actions for sustainable urban development. Also in the change of name of DG Regio from “Regional Policies” to “Regional and Urban Policies” underlines a stronger focus on local authorities.
The panelist accepted the challenge and replied in respect to their institutional role. Certainly there was consensus on the fact that changing the name of the Directorate General is not a substantial change and that Integrated Territorial Investment (ITIs) will not be the most suitable tool in every and each local political and institutional circumstance. Perhaps setting a separate urban objective among the priorities of the next programming period might have been more effective.
Reiner Kneifel-Haverkamp illustrated how the Land Brandenburg will face ERDF cuts by 50-60%. Being Potsdam the largest city in the region, the most important issue to be tackled is the relationship between many small cities and their rural environment. Tough competition resulting from budget cuts will be managed with transparent calls according to few clear rules.
Budapest, as illustrated by Peter Szegvari, features the opposite situation: fragmentation of small local authorities belonging to the same metropolitan area, with the need to strengthen horizontal and vertical governance structures. 180 stakeholders are involved in drafting partnership agreement, operational programme and ITIs schemes. A great challenge necessary to upgrade the metropolitan infrastructure, boosting the economy and social cohesion of the whole country.
In its concluding remark Senator Janusz Sepiol underlined the fact that cities are crucial actors of economic development and social cohesion and despite great differences among European regions and cities competitiveness can be improved only through an intensive dialogue. The Economic Forum of Krynica is certainly a shiny example of dialogue between stakeholders and to this extend European Territorial Cooperation programmes have a significant role to play.
On the homepage of the Economic Forum you will find very interesting reports about the key debates and messages including statements by Donald Tusk, Valdis Dombrovskis, Boris Tadic, Richard Wilkinson etc.