Interreg programmes united at EU Regions Week

The Interreg programmes have entered the post 2020 planning stage. This year’s edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities was full of activities dedicated to their future and the issues related to European Union Regional Policy. 

The Interreg South Baltic Programme was present there at the stand throughout the whole event and on one of the days during the workshop.  
Visitors’ interest in these two activities, as well as in the South Baltic region, proved that our work is worth the effort.

At the stand "Food Innovation Concepts from smaller regions of the South Baltic area” representatives of four Interreg South Baltic projects welcomed visitors:

  • SB Fica - learning about our history through our history of food
  • Fish Markets - creating tourism products from the rich potential of small coastal fishery and fishery heritage
  • InnoAquaTech - creating a tool for you to support your decision to enter the aquaculture sector
  • SB Food Inno - increasing knowledge on alternative protein sources for SMEs 

Also, the projects’ pitching session gathered a crowd of people. Many conversations about cross border cooperation (CBC) in maritime regions could be heard. Smaller regions and cities have achieved great results by working in CBC. Having this knowledge, the Interreg South Baltic Programme together with the Interreg Italy-France (Maritime) Programme organised a workshop “Win-Win in Cross-Border Cooperation in smaller regions and cities”.

The workshop created an opportunity to exchange experiences among representatives from different regions and inspire each other for the design of the next programmes’ period. 
 
To look at the current situation, the session started with an overview of the achievements of the Interreg Programmes presented by Managing Authorities, Michał Korczak and Mara Sori, from the two Interreg Programmes: South Baltic and Italy-France, respectively. Numerous examples brought by the speakers proved the good impact of the cooperation of the maritime regions.
 
In the next step, representatives of the European Parliament (EP) and the European Commission (EC) presented their objectives for post 2020 and visions of future challenges in smaller regions and cities.
 
Joachim Zeller, the former Member of the EP, underlined the value of the CBC by giving insights into his personal experience. As the needs of countries are often centralised, the CBC is crucial for common understanding and working out joint solutions. He listed important challenges and wishes for the future, as well as the new voluntary legal instrument to facilitate the CBC, the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC). Summing up Joachim Zeller concluded that “we need to create a real unity of cooperation despite national obstacles – in this matter CBC is important”. 
 
Myrto Zorbala, the Programme Officer from the EC, presented expectations for the future of the Programmes and the current state of the legislation in this matter. The regulations and implementation acts are still under consultations. The EC proposed redesigning the CBCs around sea basins. However, this is on hold as there is a different notion on the need to continue actions around the sea coast. “Sea is the “glue” between the Member States around a sea basin.” The cross-border impact must be considered in the preparation of the Programmes’ strategies. The focus should be made on joint challenges, problem-solving on the CBC level, reducing the number of objectives and improving the communication to showcase regional achievements. “We must make sure that no border region, no small city is left behind”. 
 
Based on this knowledge, participants identified future challenges in their home regions, in the areas of tourism development, labour market, environmental protection and developing results in future cooperation. 
Tourism was described as a driving force of local economies. To maintain the tourism potential, the transport connections, especially between maritime regions, must be developed. Mass tourism, climate change adaptation, low CO2 transformation, and solving legal issues will challenge environmental protection in the future. 
 
To keep the economic growth, the labour market needs to develop more flexible solutions targeted at young generations, such as working from home or digitally. Training programmes should motivate them to exchanges across borders, getting new qualifications, returning to their home regions and develop them further. 
 
Cooperation is crucial for future results. It helps to uphold connectivity between coastal regions and is the answer to specific needs - cooperation of ports and marinas and digitalisation of services. Maritime cooperation can boost local growth as “joint actions deliver more sustainable results”. 

The European Week of Regions and Cities is an annual four-day event during which cities and regions showcase their capacity to create growth and jobs, implement European Union cohesion policy, and prove the importance of the local and regional level for good European governance. This year’s event took place on 7-10 October in Brussels. It is the biggest event on EU regional and urban policy, open to all stakeholders, attracting thousands of practitioners and experts to Brussels to discuss EU Cohesion Policy. 

The video summarising the presence of the Interreg South Baltic Programme at the event is available here