The Committee agrees that the EU needs smart growth in the Europe 2020 strategy to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. The Committee agrees that regional policy is a key instrument for implementing the Europe 2020 strategy because success in achieving its goals will largely depend on decisions to be taken at local and regional level.
While welcoming and appreciating the Commission's wish to promote "innovation in all regions and while ensuring complementarity between EU, national and regional support for innovation and R&D", the Committee nevertheless feels that the research should not be funded solely from cohesion policy, but also from all of the other funds. The Committee believes that the pursuit of smart growth should have its own regional structure, backed up by the specific needs of sectors, districts, clusters, or macro-regions, and connected to research institutes and universities that already exist and/or need to be bolstered and to local businesses and communication networks that can facilitate its anchoring and development on the ground, while favouring specialisation and regional governance.
The EESC is disappointed at the considerable inequalities which exist not only between the different regions of the EU, but also within some Member States. These inequalities are also present in the R&D and innovation sectors; this demonstrates why there is a need to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion policy towards 2020.
The EESC further notes that Member States are also facing increasing global competition from new industrialised countries that are also experiencing strong growth in the R&D and innovation sectors and have already overtaken Member States in some sectors, particularly in high-tech sectors.
The EESC therefore welcomes the fact that the Commission is highlighting a number of problems and bringing regional policy into play with its Europe 2020 programme Innovation Union and its communication on smart growth. Although to a large extent it is decentralised measures that encourage renewal, these cannot be achieved without funding: support and policies must be the same everywhere. Regional policy is essential to achieve intelligent growth and indeed to encourage and assist national and regional governments to build strategies for smart specialisation that help regions to identify their best assets.