In the framework of this opinion a follow-up meeting was organized in Brussels, on 22 July 2009.
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Gist of the opinion
The Committee feels that it is essential, in the context of the Lisbon and Göteborg Strategies, to reinvigorate local networks, in other words organic groups of public and private operators, structures and infrastructure which, in joint initiatives for local development, combine high levels of prosperity and competitiveness with social and environmental responsibility across the board. Furthermore, the Committee strongly advocates a Community initiative on the development of "socially responsible regions" (SRRs), flanking the objectives of grassroots democracy with plans to make administrations and all public and private operators shoulder their responsibilities, working towards an integrated strategy of making the best use of local resources to increase competitiveness.
The Committee calls for the SRR initiative to be accompanied by a European action plan aimed at:
• promoting the introduction of the territorial dimension in EU policies, particularly in the context of the Lisbon and Göteborg Strategies;
• fostering the incorporation into national, regional and local policies of the priorities set out in the Territorial Agenda and Leipzig Charter;
• encouraging and co-funding territorial participatory foresight exercises, aimed at generating a shared vision of socially responsible territorial development; and
• launching regional networks of excellence and European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation on this subject.
In the follow-up to the SRR Community initiative and related action plan, the Committee thinks that:
• the EU should substantially relieve the administrative and bureaucratic burden on the regions' economic and social operators, by simplifying the content and the procedures used by the EU and applying the "open method of coordination";
• Member States should apply Community provisions uniformly, so as to preserve the unity of the EU internal market;
• local and regional authorities should fully involve economic and social operators and develop compatibility strategies as regards cooperation, innovation and competition; and
• the private sector should foster constructive social dialogue encompassing civil society focused on a shared vision that anticipates industrial change.