I am in Germany this week, my first official visit to the capital of the country. I am very pleased to be here to engage with Members of Parliament, NGOs, city experts and project beneficiaries to ensure regional policy funds are well invested in projects and programmes to the real benefits of the German citizens. One euro wasted or misspent means one euro lost for communities, for enterprises and for people in general.
Yesterday morning, I met with Miklos Marschall, Deputy Managing Director of Transparency International to launch the Integrity Pacts project. I am proud to support the Integrity Pact, an initiative developed by Transparency International to help governments, businesses, and civil society to improve trust and transparency in public procurement. My services will now pilot those Pacts for several EU co-funded projects financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund.
Our funds are an important source of public investment in many of the EU countries. That is why strengthening local and regional administrations is a critical part of this effort and I have identified it as a personal priority for action. Our partnership with Transparency International is a great opportunity to tackle this issue in a proactive and preventive way."
But this is only one in a series of new measures I plan to take in the next year to help Member States, regions and cities effectively manage EU investments. Next week, we will for example launch the TAIEX REGIO Peer 2 Peer exchange system, a kind of "matchmaking" system to share expertise between officials involved in managing the regional policy funds.
In the afternoon, I participated in the 61st meeting of the German/Austrian Urban Network, together with Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s Federal Minister for Urban Affairs and Environment. This meeting was an opportunity for me to exchange experiences and good practices on urban policies with German and Austrian cities.
In my opinion, Berlin is a pioneer in implementing innovative solutions to turn urban challenges into wealth opportunities for its citizens. For example, the conference took place on the Rütli Campus, a social hotspot built with ERDF investments to promote education and social integration for underprivileged children in one of Berlin’s poorest neighbourhoods. I also had the chance to visit the "Stadtteilmütter project" (neighbourhood mothers), a project with ERDF money providing training to mainly migrant mothers on aspects such as child welfare, education, health or languages.
Those two projects are very good examples of the role Cohesion Policy can play to support social integration and community-based approaches in marginalised neighbourhoods. I must confess that I feel lucky to work in such a position where I can meet committed people and visit projects that inspire me daily in my work as Commissioner for Regional Policy.
I ended my day with a speech at the German Parliament (Bundestag) where I exchanged views with the Members of the Parliament in particular those from the EU Affairs Committee. Being a former European MEP, I value exchanging views and experience with National Parliaments. I would like to congratulate both the Länders and the Bund for the good spirit of cooperation with my services. As a result, all Operational Programmes for Germany were adopted by mid-February, and I wish my German partners every success in implementing those programmes.
Today I am visiting the cities of Frankfurt (Oder) and Slubice (in Poland) on the German-Polish border to talk about cross-border cooperation in the region. I am particularly happy to pay a visit to this particular border, with all its political significance for peace and reconciliation in Europe. It is a place very much at the heart of Europe building bridges amoung countries and people, and overcoming the borders in our mind...