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Public hearing on the opinion Towards better economic convergence and competitiveness within EU macro-regions

The public hearing on the opinion Towards better economic convergence and competitiveness within EU macro-regions was held on 21 May 2019 on the premises of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest.

After a welcome address by the study group president, Juan Mendoza Castro (Group II), the rapporteur for the opinion on the Future of cohesion policy, Dimitris Dimitriadis (Group I), introduced the issue, highlighting the importance of macro-regional strategies (MRS). The Secretary of State for European Affairs at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Melania-Gabriela Ciot, subsequently gave a keynote speech emphasising the importance of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region for countries such as Romania.

The first session, on the Development of interconnectivity, mobility and competitiveness in the Black Sea Basin in the context of the implementation of EUSDR: the perspective of the business community, opened with comments by the moderator, Petru Sorin Dandea (Group II) on the significant economic benefits that could derive from supporting the development of the Black Sea Basin. Among other important points raised in the session, it was stressed that efforts were needed to ensure the establishment of an appropriate institutional framework and that it was crucial to work towards high-quality public services.

Michael Smyth (Group III), the moderator of the second session on Social partnerships and their cooperation in the Danube Region – How can civil society be involved better and more effectively to achieve the objectives of digitalisation and cross-border cooperation of businesses, spoke of potential risks in MRS arising from delays in implementation and suggested reformulating the strategies. There was agreement on the current gaps between national coordination and local groups’ activities, and it was also stressed that small-scale funding might prove crucial for the success of MRS.

The third session dealt with the Role of transnational clusters on economic convergence and economic growth – Best practices. The moderator, Grigoris Zarotiadis, emphasised the significance of using high-quality, specialist products and hence the importance of clustering and business networking. Among other outcomes of the session, the potential of clusters was stressed in bridging the gap in timing between political announcements and business decision-making. Furthermore, as a contrast to the so-called “3 no’s”, several potentially important “yes’s” for MRS were mentioned: better synergy, integration of existing structures and better implementation of existing regulations.

Last but not least, the concluding session on Key challenges and priorities of macro-regional strategies – Towards more innovative technologies, economic development, green economy and connectivity opened with comments by the moderator, Nicolas Moussiopoulos on the possible impact of the transition to a circular economy on entrepreneurship, as well as on social cohesion and the protection of the environment. Key points raised in the discussion in this session were the importance of a national share in funding through national or local funds and the significance of better communication and capacity-building.

The hearing ended with thanks to the hosts and the Romanian presidency.