We are working on the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the Union, but still 3 out of 4 people do not know that their hospital, school or highway benefited from EU funding.
Commissioner Corina Crețu
Firenze, the capital of the Italian region Tuscany, hosted on May 10 and 11 the 2018 edition of the “State of the Union” conference with the leading European politicians. This high-level event was complemented by a Citizens’ Dialogue with some 400 people from the region, among them many young people and beneficiaries of funding under the EU Cohesion Policy.
While in the Palazzo Vecchio the leaders debated about the implications of solidarity, Commissioner Crețu and her stage partners – the President of the Committee of the Regions, Lambertz, and the President of the Region, Rossi – discussed with people the practical form of solidarity in the EU, provided by the EU funds and programs.
The Citizens’ Dialogue was bringing together the politicians from the European Commission, Committee of the Regions and the Region Tuscany with people who worked with EU funds and programs and who benefitted from projects carried out with the help of Union support. The President of the European Parliament Tajani welcomed Commissioner Crețu and Presidents Lambertz and Rossi and the people in the landmark Teatro della Compagnia through a video message.
President Rossi opened the discussion by stating, “it is virtually impossible to find a place in Tuscany that has NOT benefitted from EU Cohesion Policy”. Commissioner Crețu took this up and explained the three dimensions of cohesion – economic, social and territorial – but acknowledged that three out of four people did not know that their local hospital, school or highway had received EU funding.
During the following 90 minutes of the Citizens’ Dialogue, short interventions from six project promoters were followed by an open exchange with the audience. The six projects represented a broad range of EU funds interventions: from the support of product innovation to training and from the transformation of production plants to touristic attractions to strengthening the brands of high quality products.
The over 400 people in the theater were interested whether EU support for the (vocational) training of young people – in particular those who have left school early without graduating – would be also available after 2020 and which role young people and schools would play in the next generation of EU funds and programs.
Commissioner Crețu took this up, underlined that the Commission proposes, “to increase funds for social integration and to combine different instruments”, and emphasized that “in the next EU budget, young people will be in the focus.” Committee of the Regions President Lambertz remarked that it is important to think about all further instruments that can be used when a project comes to the end of its initial funding period.
Knowing about funding possibilities and about the positive impact on an area was a point raised by a local council member and a mayor and President Lambertz called in this respect for one-stop shops.
The territorial cooperation, in particular among the islands, across the Mediterranean was addressed by a regional representative of Corsica who inquired whether this form of cohesion through cooperation could be continued also in the future.
An emotional moment concluded the Citizens’ Dialogue when Commissioner asked the winners of the 2018 award of the “Open Cohesion Schools” on stage. Students from these schools have accompanied over a year an EU-funded project as citizens-experts. This year’s winner was a high school from Salerno in Southern Italy, the Liceo Scientifico A. Genoino”.