EU shares experience of strengthening regions with countries such as Brazil, Russia and China.
Reducing regional economic disparities is a key EU objective – 44% of its budget goes towards boosting regional competitiveness. Projects to enhance the skills of local workforces, encourage entrepreneurship, improve infrastructure and protect the environment are all designed to help the EU’s poorer regions catch up with their neighbours.
One example is the installation of a solar-powered energy system in a public hospital in Hungary, which has led to significant energy savings, created jobs locally and made solar energy popular in the region.
Non-EU countries such as China, Russia and Brazil, which also struggle with large regional disparities and multiple levels of government, have shown interest in cooperating with the EU to compare experiences.
Cooperation will be discussed at a conference bringing together representatives from governments and regions in Europe, Africa, Russia, China and South America. Participants will reflect on how to organise effective systems of governance capable of implementing regional development policies.
The conference is the first concrete attempt to offer non-EU countries insight into the mechanisms and selection criteria used for funding regional projects. EU regional policy is delivered through a governance system that includes European, national, regional and local levels.
Involving local and regional representatives in devising strategies and selecting projects brings grass root organisations closer to central EU-decision making. This is particularly interesting for large countries such as China and Russia, who say they would like to reduce regional disparities while at the same time making public policies more transparent and giving more say to regions through decentralisation.