The EU i must address an alarming fall in public investment in order to tackle growing regional disparity, support sustainable growth and restore faith among citizens, politicians across Europe said today during a two-day Summit of Regions and Cities in Bratislava.
Meeting in the Slovak capital a week after Slovakia took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time, local and regional leaders adopted a declaration that calls on the EU to improve regulation and attract greater private-public investment to create more jobs and tackle the investment gap.
"If we are to restore faith in the EU, we must demonstrate how joint EU operations benefit citizens' daily lives. Citizens demand results, which is why investment - in people, places and ideas - must start locally. Around 60% of public investments within the EU are made by local and regional authorities. Policymakers need to redirect all their efforts to increasing public and private investment in all the European regions. It is no longer business as usual. We must spread a new and innovative entrepreneurial mind-set across Europe," said Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
The recommendations adopted by the CoR - the EU's assembly of local and regional governments -come during its mid-term review of both the EU's 2014-20 budget and its Cohesion Policy beyond 2020, a policy intended to even out regional differences. A report recently published by the OECD found that many of Europe's regions and cities have seen public investment drop substantially since 2008.
Pavol Frešo , the Governor of Bratislava Self-Governing Region, said: "EU funding accounts for around 80% of investment by public authorities in Slovakia, so EU money is crucial to Slovakia's development. But we need to do more with that money especially following the uncertainty following the UK's EU referendum result. Maximising investment requires work not only by the EU but also by national, regional and local authorities in every country. EU funds must also be extended to cover education, social affairs, health and transport so I am glad to see this reflected in the 'Bratislava Declaration'."
Ivo Nesrovnal , the Mayor of Bratislava, Slovakia's capital, said: "This summit is an exceptional opportunity to raise Bratislava's profile and a chance to decide how best to implement the EU’s urban agenda. The EU needs a more integrated approach to urban issues, which should respond better to the needs of cities to resolve challenges such as unemployment, climate change and social inclusion. In a situation in which more than two-thirds of EU policies and legislation affect cities, we support the idea of a more targeted approach and an inclusive discussion that brings together the various tiers of public administration. This way we could have strategic planning across administrative borders. If we want to achieve the key goals set out in the Europe 2020 strategy, EU policies must react to, and take on board, the needs of cities - Bratislava included. That means the finance, competence and status of Bratislava need to be empowered."
The Bratislava Declaration adopted on 8 July praises a special investment fund created by the European Commission in 2015, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), saying that it is "showing great potential". It calls for the fund to be combined with the EU's Cohesion Policy to ensure other regions also benefit from the fund, which uses public investment to leverage private investment.
Maroš Šefāoviā , the European Commission's Vice-President in charge of the Energy Union, said: "The shift towards a more sustainable, more circular and more competitive European economy is irreversible, and so is the role of cities and regions in making this shift happen. More than ever, the European Commission is standing side by side with local authorities that are committed to this ambitious agenda. Let us build this future-proof Europe, city by city, region by region."
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