After two Romanian regions, two Polish regions were selected for this pilot initiative: Świętokrzyskie and Podkarpackie. They have something in common. Their GDP rose impressively over the last decade, but they are still under the EU average.
In the European Union we can clearly distinguish two groups of lagging regions:
'Low growth regions', which are characterised by a persistent lack of growth over the last decade or more (mostly in Europe's South)
'Low income regions', GDP of which is rapidly rising, but not fast enough to reach 50% of the EU average. This group is clustered mostly on the eastern periphery of the EU.
The initiative will investigate obstacles to growth and remove bottlenecks to investments. If we achieve the indented results in Poland by the end of 2016, the initiative will be expanded to other Member States next year.
The lagging regions initiative, with tailored support and advice, will help boost the potential of EU investments in the regions.
In Podkarpackie for example, it will focus on simplifying access to EU funds for beneficiaries. In Świętokrzyskie, the initiative will focus on supporting the right kind of professional training for the region's unemployed workers, in accordance with the local labour market's needs. It will help local entrepreneurs easily and quickly set up their own businesses.
I'm looking forward to seeing the first results of this initiative. It will also help the Commission better address the needs of less-developed regions and it will feed into our reflection on the future of Cohesion Policy, which has already started.
While I was in Poland I visited two quality EU-funded projects. The first one was the oncology centre of Świętokrzyskie. €5.7 million from the ERDF helped this hospital become of the most modern oncology centre in the country, with the extension of the building and the purchase of high tech equipment.
The second one was the Aviation Training Centre of Rzeszów. €10 million from the ERDF were invested in this training centre, part of the university of Rzeszów, where students learn how to fly.
Aviation is a smart specialisation here. This project helps boost the competitiveness of the region at a global level. It is a perfect example of how ESI Funds invest in human capital, innovation and in the end, growth and jobs.