Macro-regional strategies (MRSs) are integrated frameworks adopted to address common challenges faced by member states and third countries located within the same geographical area.
When facing issues of geographical, cultural, environmental or economic challenges, national borders become irrelevant and common cross-border solutions must be identified.
Currently, we do not have a standard definition of a macro region in the EU. However, a macro-region can be considered as a number of regions in a variety of countries coming together, building stronger relationships and working on collaborative solutions to common challenges.
Macro-regions, therefore, might be considered a new form of territorial cooperation, able to include both an interregional and a transnational level of cooperation.
A well-developed, well-functioning MRS offers a unique opportunity for the EU to achieve several objectives.
These include the increasing the involvement of local and regional authorities in the implementation phase of EU programmes, policies and legislation; more efficient and better coordinated use of available funds, particularly relevant following the financial crisis; the capacity to close the gap between EU and non EU countries on specific priorities and legislation and pushing third countries towards a closer cooperation with the EU.
MRS is the first implementation tool underpinning the territorial cohesion concept. The concept is aimed at increasing territorial cooperation in Europe.
Our union has grown geographically in the last few decades, creating more complex challenges and solutions.
This is why we should use the opportunity offered by MRS to develop close cooperation between regions with similar problems and opportunities. Hence, MRSs are particularly useful when trying to find new approaches for common challenges.
There is no unique model of MRS. We need to avoid the one-size-fit-all approach, instead adapting our strategy to the reality on the ground.
The existing MRSs, for example, have always been created around regions with water issues.
The last MRS launched, the Alpine strategy, focussed on mountains and the unique issues specific to these areas. Regions around the Alps are not just mountainous; they also include rural areas, bigger more industrialised urban areas and stretches of water and rivers.
A single model for all MRSs will not be effective and will not work, a flexible approach is clearly vital for success.
MRS may provide a unique chance to achieve better, more strategic planning and a more cost-effective use of European funds.
To achieve this we must aim not only at national, regional and local level, but also at macro-regional level in Europe. We should all be aware of our differences but also be prepared to face common challenges and opportunities together.