Inspiring non-EU countries
A new regional and urban policy cooperation agreement with Argentina is signed on Monday 4 July
A new international cooperation agreement between the EU and Argentina on regional and urban policy has been confirmed following the signature of a Letter of Intent by Commissioner Neven Mimica, acting on behalf of Commissioner Corina Creţu, and Susana Mabel Malcorra, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina on 4 July in Brussels in the presence of Vice-President Mogherini. The signature took place in the context of the official visit to the European Union by a delegation from Argentina led by President Mauricio Macri who was also accompanied by Governors of the Argentinian Provinces of Córdoba and Misiones.
The agreement on regional and urban policy is the thirteenth of its kind in the field and is part of a process on a global scale which began with the first cooperation agreement signed between the EU and China in 2006. The agreement with Argentina, specifically, with the Secretariat for the Provinces within the Ministry of the Interior, Public Works and Housing, is the seventh with Latin America and confirms the growing interest in territorial policies on this rapidly changing continent.
The agreement was signed on a ground-breaking day for EU-Argentina relations. Speaking immediately after the signature, the Vice President hailed the first official visit to the European Union by an Argentinian President in twenty years, describing it as "a very important and positive day". Minister Malcorra said, "The European Union and the European Commission are key partners". The Letter of Intent on regional and urban policy is part of a raft of concrete outcomes intended to deepen relations for both sides.
Regional and urban policy cooperation between the EU and Latina America and the Caribbean has become a key part of diplomatic relations. At the second summit held in Brussels on 11 June 2015 between the Heads of State and Government of the EU and of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), it was agreed to place territorial development policies at centre of the cooperation agenda.
Even before the formalization of the relationship on regional and urban policy in the new Letter of Intent, the Director General for Regional and Urban Policy had responded positively to requests from Argentina to be involved in cooperation actions.
More information on the European Commission's international cooperation in regional and urban policy
EU-Canada World Cities closing conference in Ottawa, Canada
The closing conference of the EU-Canada component of the EU's highly successful World Cities cooperation project was held in Ottawa on Friday 20 June 2016. The project, which originates in a proposal of the European Parliament, provides for the pairing of city authorities and actors in Europe with their counterparts in, respectively, China, India, Canada and Japan, with the aim of encouraging exchanges of experience and best practice, and the development of joint projects. Participating in the Ottawa event were the Canadian cities of Saanich, Edmonton, Ottawa and Halifax and their EU counterparts, respectively, Almada (PT), Vitoria-Gasteiz (ES), Hannover (DE) and Tallinn (EE).
In his keynote address to the conference, Ronnie Hall, chief advisor in the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy said that urbanization was a global challenge. He drew attention to the role of urban development as a central pillar of the EU's cohesion policy programmes for 2014-2020. "We have put in place a battery of actions to advance the urban agenda in Europe, and our cities have responded enthusiastically. More of the EU's resources will be directly managed by the cities than ever before. The cities also have new opportunities to experiment and to link up with European counterparts. We are in the process of creating a fund of experience which will also contribute to our international relations with cities outside the EU", he said.
The conference was informed of the progress made under the different pairings between the EU and Canadian cities, respectively. The broad reference themes for each pairing were the same: resilience and adaptation, ecosystems services and low carbon development. The cities then defined concrete opportunities for cooperation within these themes according to specific needs and experience.
For Ottawa/Hannover, the two cities have chosen to consolidate their cooperation through a Memorandum of Understanding which was signed by the Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, at City Hall on 19 May 2016 (having been signed earlier by the Mayor of Hannover, Stefan Schostok).
For Saanich/Almada, a particularly interesting development was the establishment of the Almada Local Climate Platform (PLAC), launched in April 2016. It will seek to engage the local community in efforts to achieve the goal of an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 in accordance with the Paris Local Leaders Declaration under the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) at the end of 2015. The operations under PLAC foresee the possibility to involve outside specialist advisers and Almada has formally offered such a role to Saanich, an offer which has been accepted. For Vitoria Gasteiz/Edmonton, the cooperation has resulted in a long list of projects and policy fields where each will seek to benefit from the advice of the other. Such is the intensity of the planned cooperation that the two sides expect to sign a letter of agreement in the coming weeks. In this way, the impact of the World Cities will stretch beyond the project itself.
Mr Hall concluded his keynote speech by referring to future prospects for EU-Canada cooperation. He said, "We are at present preparing a World Cities follow-up project to be implemented from this year onwards which will be a larger, more ambitious International Urban Cooperation Programme bringing together city and regional actors, including the private sector. It will include a specific component for EU-North America exchanges, and will build on the very concrete, project-centred approach that we have developed together over recent years".
In the international relations arena, the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy acts in support of, and in cooperation with the External Relations family of Directorates General (European External action Service EEAS and DEVCO) and with DG TRADE. There is a growing interest in different parts of world in the process of European integration, not just from an institutional point of view but also in terms of the policies that promote European cohesiveness. First and foremost among the latter is European regional policy which seeks to ensure that the benefits of the single market in Europe based on the free movement of goods and services, labour and capital, are as widely spread as possible.
Principal among the features of EU regional policy that are of interest to third countries such as China, Russia and Brazil, as well as to international organisations such as MERCOSUR and ASEAN, are the financial dimension and the geographical targeting of resources between Member States and regions; the geographical and strategic objectives; and the different dimensions of the implementation system. So far as countries in the European Neighbourhood are concerned the EU wishes to promote key concepts of EU regional policy such as open markets, respect for the environment, participative democracy and partnership in the conception and implementation of development policy.
This interest comes at a time when the policy has undergone substantial changes. In effect, EU regional policy today is a means of delivering the Union's policy priorities across its territory. It does so by co-financing integrated, national or regional investment programmes, where the Union's contribution to the programmes is greatest in the least prosperous areas.
Today therefore, EU regional policy is an integral part of economic policy, but with the unique feature that it is delivered with the consent and involvement of the grassroots through a multi-level governance system where each level - European, national, regional and local - has a role to play. The involvement of the grassroots, for example, in devising regional and local strategies and selecting projects creates a sense of ownership of European policy and in that way contributes to territorial integration. It is these features that have inspired interest in large countries with major territorial imbalances that are seeking to combine the pursuit of a more even pattern of growth with governance systems that contribute to transparent public policies and that help to further integration through decentralisation.
As well as projecting notions of inter-regional solidarity and good governance, cooperation in the field of regional policy also provides the opportunity to project other values such as respect for the free market through competition, state aid and public procurement rules, for environmental rules and policies and for equal opportunities and minority rights. These create the framework conditions under which EU financial support is granted and provide positive incentives to achieving high standards in public policy.
Regional Policy Dialogues
The Commission, DG REGIO, has concluded formal agreements on regional policy cooperation with China , Russia , Brazil , and Ukraine , Georgia , Moldova , Chile , Peru , Argentina (in progress), Japan , Mexico , Sistema de Integracion de Centro-America (SICA) , Colombia . These countries are confronted with wide regional disparities as well as major challenges in terms of coordinating the different levels of government, and ensuring that decentralization can be achieved without compromising efficiency.