The key role of Regions in helping to tackle the critical issues currently facing Europe, was one of the main topics of discussion at the CPMR Political Bureau in Kotka, Finland.
Organised at the invitation of Harri Helminen, Chairman of the Board of the Regional Council of Kymenlaakso, the meeting was attended by Finnish MEP, Henna Virkkunen, who took part in discussions on the importance of maritime transport and accessibility for Regions.
Opening the meeting, Vasco Cordeiro, President of the CPMR and the Government of the Autonomous Regions of the Azores (PT), said: “Regions are committed to building a better Europe and we have a responsibility to call on European Institutions and governments to take action.”
The debate on Cohesion policy, which remains at the heart of CPMR’s work, focused on the need to develop radical arguments to modernise the policy, to ensure that it covers all European regions after 2020. Members endorsed the approach outlined by the CPMR Secretariat.
Julian German, Cabinet Member for Cornwall Council, said: “We back a cohesion policy that supports rural and peripheral regions, alongside the rest of the EU. We are also glad that simplification in terms of audits and control system is in focus too, cohesion policy must be simplified.”
Georgios Hatzimarkos, President of the Islands Commission and Regional Governor of South Aegean, said that the remoteness of Island Regions means extra costs in all areas of life. He stated: “For regions that involve a number of islands, multiple areas of infrastructure are often required. Islands need cohesion policy to compensate for their inherent characteristics.”
Regarding Accessibility and Maritime Transport, the Political Bureau discussed the next steps in the campaign to improve the way EU Transport policies treat remote, insular and ultraperipheral regions. The CPMR accessibility campaign is asking MEPs to give consideration to how the Connecting Europe Facility, is being allocated, particularly in relation to the TEN-T guidelines.
Rogier Van der Sande, Vice President of the CPMR and Regional Minister of Zuid-Hollande, said: “More than 93 per cent of TEN–T budget is concentrated on the nine priority corridors: This means many of the peripheral Island Regions receive very little allocation. We need a policy at European level to reduce regional disparities for accessibility. This is crucial for growth and jobs all around Europe.”
Responding to the CPMR position, MEP Henna Virkkunen, who sits on the EU Parliament’s Transport Committee, said: “Maritime connectivity and accessibility are important for Europe in many ways. It is important that peripheral regions are connected to Europe and the rest of the world.”
Turning to maritime affairs, the role of Regions in future discussions on blue growth and maritime investments was the topic of discussion. The mapping of blue growth in S3 was a key point of discussion, along with CPMR’s involvement in an increasing number of concrete projects on maritime investments.
There was also debate regarding the maritime priorities of the Maltese presidency, including discussion about the future of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, how the maritime issues can be embedded in other EU funds.
During the discussions on Migration, Annika Annerby Jansson, Vice-President of the Skåne Region in Sweden, explained that the humanitarian crisis continues to put enormous pressure on the EU and its Regions. She stressed that the CPMR Task force continues to serve as a platform of exchange, raising awareness of the issue among the EU Institutions, and sharing knowledge amongst Members.
You can view the full agenda and working papers of the Political Bureau here