Inspiring non-EU countries
In the international relations arena, the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy acts in support of, and in cooperation with the European External Actions Service (EEAS) and the external relations family of Directorates General (DEVCO and 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 economic and social development and territorial cohesion. 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 CARICOM, SACU, MERCOSUR and ASEAN, are issues such as the geographical targeting of resources between Member States and regions; the organization of multi-level governance systems; sustainable urban development policy; cross-border development; regional innovation systems and their implementation. So far as cooperation with countries in the European Neighbourhood are concerned, the EU seeks 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 , Japan , Mexico , Sistema de Integracion de Centro-America (SICA) , Colombia , India . 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.