Macro-regional strategies: EESC urges improvement

It proposes additional measures on communication, connectivity and civil society involvement

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) presented a set of policy proposals to tap the full potential of macro-regional strategies in an exploratory opinion, at its plenary session in June. The proposals prioritise enhanced communication and connectivity between cooperation partners and closer involvement of civil society organisations in macro-regional strategies. They consequently address the greatest challenges for the targeting and implementation of these strategies at present.  

The Committee's opinion was requested by the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU and is based on an in-depth analysis of the existing macro-regional strategies. This analysis showed that the these strategies have served as a useful tool for cohesion policy and enhanced integration and cooperation so far, but have failed to meet expectations in terms of contributing to the reduction of social and spatial disparities and boosting environmental sustainability.

Dimitris Dimitriadis, the EESC rapporteur for the opinion, said: Macro-regional strategies can do better. They can boost European integration, serving as the major strategic framework for cohesion and sustainability policy, if we address their challenges with appropriate measures.

EESC proposes measures for enhanced communication, connectivity and involvement

In order to improve the impact of macro-regional strategies on the reduction of social and spatial disparities, the EESC recommends improving, above all, communication and connectivity between cooperation partners and closer involvement of civil society organisations in the implementation and monitoring of the strategies.

Policy-makers must therefore strengthen policy interventions, boost active commitment to macro-regional strategies and cut red tape.

The introduction of functioning networking, interconnection and management for existing databases is another important aspect to improve the impact of the strategies, given the current lack of reliable and detailed data to compare both regions and sectors.

The EESC believes that the roles of stakeholders and implementation rules must be clearly defined and communication on macro-regional strategies improved. We must help the public to use existing data and information and establish communication strategies to enhance the visibility of macro-regional strategies and foster networking and participation, said Dimitris Dimitriadis in this regard.

The opinion also recommends prioritising, in both spatial and sectorial terms, networking and clustering of social partners, local socio-economic actors and civil society organisations. Their involvement in decision-making, planning and evaluating policies, is extremely useful for implementing macro-regional strategies. It can boost cohesion and social and environmental sustainability.

Hearings and national and macro-regional Participation Days can contribute to the consolidation of communication and trust-building between the management level of the macro-regional strategies and these parties.

Educational and R&D activities can contribute to environmental sustainability

The Committee further proposes efficient networks for educational activities. They should focus on the digitalisation of production and initiatives towards effective interregional research and innovation ecosystems. These systems could focus on basic and applied R&D activities and help achieve a better performance on environmental sustainability.

Dimitris Dimitriadis explained: Not all of the challenges to our society and economy can be addressed by individual countries, regions and municipalities alone. Cross-regional, international cooperation can be more effective. Macro-regional strategies could be seen as laboratories for developing joint solutions on these problems with a bottom-up approach.

Important areas of cooperation between regions can be transport, migration, education, labour market and sustainable energy supply.

Lastly, the EESC proposes to link macro-regional strategies and to ensure that new strategies are in line with the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The latter will strengthen the international visibility and recognition of, and support for, macro-regional strategies.

More information

For detailed information on the development and performance of EU macro-regional strategies, in particular on the strategy for the Danube region (EUSDR), please see the analysis, which is included in the EESC opinion.