Last week REGIOPARL took part in the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels, a conference organized by the Committee of the Regions attracting over 9000 participants from regional and local authorities, EU institutions, academics and businesses. In workshops, panel debates and university sessions participants discussed the most topical agendas in the field of regional governance and regional development in the EU. Key takeaways for the REGIOPARL team: Regions’ deep concerns about the future of Cohesion Policy and the lack of representation of regional legislative assemblies in the conference’s program.
One of the most pressing issues during this year’s European Week of Regions and Cities was the topic of Cohesion Policy. The funds offered through Cohesion Policy support local beneficiaries such as non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, and businesses that contribute to one of the objectives of cohesion policy, which range from fighting climate change, combating poverty or helping local economies to grow and innovate (European Commission 2019).
But how Cohesion Policy will look like in the future is quite uncertain. Once Brexit becomes reality, the EU budget will lose a big contributor – the United Kingdom. This puts the spending activities of the EU under a lot of pressure, and thus the budget of Cohesion policy. Right now, the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021 – 2027 is under discussion, but many regions fear that they will lose funding from EU cohesion policy. In addition, claims were made by representatives especially from south European regions, that regions need more flexibility in their regional allocations of the funds, and many raised the issue of reducing red tape. While there was consent on the reduction of red tape, providing regions with more flexibility is something the EU Commission is not very keen about, as they fear losing control over the budget. This clash between the Commission and the regions is far from over and only the future will tell how a compromise might look like. But for now, everyone is looking to London and waiting for an agreement on Brexit to make way for continuing the negotiations on the future EU budget.
Regional Parliaments at the European Week of Regions and Cities?
The conference is intended to raise awareness for different topics relevant to local and regional authorities and engage them in the debate. While all these topics are relevant to both executive and legislative actors, we observed a bias towards the executive in terms of discussants and, consequently, perspective. Regions were indeed acknowledged as possible mediators of EU democracy, and many ideas were exchanged on how citizen engagement could be fostered. And yet, regional parliaments weren’t mentioned very often, although their close relationship with local and regional communities provides opportunities to engage citizens with the EU. We look forward to more voices and views from regional parliaments and assemblies next year!
All in all, the European Week of Regions and Cities is a great opportunity to experience the functioning of regional governance in the EU, to learn about regions’ various activities and concerns, and to establish networks with representatives of regions and other regional and EU experts. REGIOPARL will definitely be back at the European Week of Regions and Cities next year – maybe even with its own session and hopefully a number of members from regional parliaments. Stay tuned!
Click here to watch our team reporting from the European Week of Regions and Cities.
 European Commission 2014: An Introduction to Cohesion Policy 2014-2020.
 European Commission 2019: Priorities for 2014 – 2020.