Open Days 2015 to build on cohesion policy

This year's Open Days will allow cities and regions to share knowledge on how best to prepare for the future, says Corina Creţu.

By Corina Cretu

12 Oct 2015

In just a few days, European regions and cities will gather in Brussels for this year's Open Days, the European Week of Regions and Cities. The annual four-day event gives cities and regions the opportunity to share ideas about their capacities to create growth and jobs, by efficiently implementing cohesion policy.

Over the years, the original Open Days concept has grown into a key annual event on cohesion policy. Every October, 6000 participants - local, regional, national and European decision-makers and experts - gather for more 100 workshops and debates, exhibitions and networking opportunities. 

This year's discussions will build on the reformed cohesion policy, which will unlock up to €351.8bn over the next few years to strategically invest in the real economy. 


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By targeting these resources towards key priorities, the reformed cohesion policy is one of the EU's main investment tools, for boosting research inclusion. It will also help realise the objectives of job creation and growth outlined in Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's investment plan.

The slogan for the Open Days 2015 is, 'Europe's regions and cities: partners for investment and growth' and they will focus on three themes. 

First, 'modernising Europe' - the regions in the energy union and the digital single market. 

Second, 'regions open for business' – the development of SMEs, innovation and job creation. Third, 'places and spaces' – urban and rural development and urban-rural integration.

'Modernising Europe' addresses two of the Commission's ten top priorities - the energy union and the digital single market. 

It is an opportunity to discuss how regions and cities, through the new programmes and projects, can help the EU become a world leader in renewables and energy efficiency and create a vibrant knowledge-based society.

Cohesion policy will be an important contributor to the EU digital agenda. It will also be key in developing infrastructure to support the digital single market. 

Between 2014 and 2020, €20bn will be invested in digital projects, such as broadband deployment, online public services and better ICT for small businesses. 

In parallel, more than €38bn will be devoted to fostering the low-carbon economy, which is twice the amount invested in this area during the previous funding period. 

These funds will enable regions and cities to promote energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy, smart grids and sustainable urban transport.

The second theme, 'regions open for business', is of the utmost importance to me. The vast majority of European businesses are SMEs established in our regions and account for two-thirds of private sector jobs. 

The Open Days 2015 will provide a unique opportunity for regions and cities to exchange their long-standing experience in the conception and implementation of aid schemes for SMEs. 

Debates should focus on the role of smart specialisation strategies, development of innovation capacities and support for setting up micro-enterprises.

'Places and spaces' will emphasise how EU interventions in urban areas play a key role in developing cities' ability to innovate, create new economic activities and address social cohesion issues, which often arise in deprived urban areas.

Discussions will offer insights on how EU regional and urban programmes can foster more balanced territorial development, on how to promote rural competitiveness and reduce the rural-urban drift of population, including the specific challenges of border cities and border rural hinterlands. A specific 'Open Urban Day' will be organised on 14 October in the Brussels canal area.

In addition to these three priorities, stakeholders will be invited to discuss challenges and solutions of programme management, better implementation and simplification, as well as to the cross border, inter-regional or transnational dimension of cohesion policy.

We expect to bring together political representatives, decision makers, experts and practitioners of cohesion policy, as well as stakeholders from the private sector, civil society organisations, academia, EU institutions and the media. 

Their knowledge, experience and expertise will be vital in improving the way we deliver cohesion policy, promote growth and jobs and prepare the future for our regions and cities.

This is the strength of the Open Days and I very much look forward to being part of it.

 

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