The latest edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities took place on 7-10 October, with a four-day conference in Brussels.
The European Week of Regions and Cities is an annual 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 edition of the event saw over 9000 attendees and 1000 speakers participate in a programme of lectures, debates and workshops, which covered each dimension of the EU's Cohesion Policy.
In addition to the main programme of sessions at the Brussels conference, the week also saw a number of side events take place across EU Member States, as well as playing host to the ceremony for the REGIOSTARS awards for 2019.
In an opening session that included a broad discussion on the future of Cohesion Policy, Elżbieta Bieńkowska (European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs), Karl-Heinz Lambertz (President of the European Committee of the Regions) and Klára Dobrev (Vice-President of the European Parliament) joined other municipal and local government leaders to discuss the challenges faced at a local and regional level. Their conversations were echoed in many subsequent sessions during the event and focussed on the proposed obligation for Member States to ensure that at least 65-85% of their future European Regional Development funds are allocated to the two political priorities of 'A Smarter Europe' and 'A Greener Carbon-Free Europe'.
The budget currently allocated to Cohesion Policy in the next EU budget cycle from 2021-2027 has been reduced in percentage terms and there is an additional expectation that future policy will have stronger links with the European Semester and other economic measures offered by the EU. In February 2019, the Commission published a report into how this may work in practice, especially the connection between the Semester and the new European Social Fund+.
Novelties in the approach to the next Cohesion Policy were also the subject of much discussion, including the proposal to utilise a single 'rulebook' to cover seven EU funds implemented in partnership with Member States. The single rulebook covering Cohesion Policy funds and the Asylum and Migration Fund will facilitate the creation of local migrant integration strategies supported by EU resources. Synergies will also Asylum and Migration Fund will facilitate the creation of local migrant integration strategies supported by EU resources. Synergies will also be made be made easier with other EU instruments, like the Common Agricultural Policy, Horizon Europe, the LIFE programme or Erasmus+.
Many of the plenary sessions at the conference were web-streamed and can be viewed online on the event website.