I don't always have to travel hundreds of kilometers to witness the impressive results of Cohesion Policy. They are all around us; we just have to look closer. Yesterday for instance I visited the commune of Molenbeek in Brussels, an inner-city area that has been on the front pages of newspapers across Europe for all the wrong reasons. What I saw yesterday however was different from what you read in the media.
My day in Molenbeek started with a meeting with the Minister-President of the "Bruxelles Capitale" region, Rudy Vervoort. I warmly congratulated him for the good implementation of cohesion policy funds as well as for the overall progress in the integration of disadvantaged groups in Molenbeek. The initiatives supported by EU funds range entrepreneurship and employment to culture, thus opening new perspectives for the Molenbeek community. In this sense, I encouraged Mr Vervoort to actively contribute to the Urban Agenda for the EU, as its action plans that are currently being elaborated can apply to Molenbeek in terms of urban poverty, inclusion of migrants and refugees, urban mobility...
Next on my schedule was a walking visit of the Belle-vue site. It used to be an old brewery and is now a three-star hotel and training centre. The “Espace hôtelier Belle-Vue” will support social inclusion, jobs, education and training in the area, by providing theoretical and practical training in the tourism and hotel business for low-skilled, young job seekers. The site comprises different projects such as a training centre in hostelry or the Art2Work one, a coaching centre for entrepreneurs coming from underprivileged neigbourhoods. These projects are only a few examples of what we have been supporting over the last years. And the fact that they are here, in the heart of Brussels, shows that Cohesion Policy impacts us all, regardless of our location.
Equally impressive is the initiative of the Medecins du Monde association. The Belgian authorities redirected some of their ERDF financing, approximately 1 million EUR, to support the activities of two care centres operated by the above mentioned NGO, in Molenbeek and Anderlecht. Their initiative consists in helping marginalized communities, including migrants, by providing healthcare and social services to those most in need in the city. I would like to see more initiatives like this one!
My visit ended with a press conference. The Minister-President of the region, Rudy Vervoort, the mayor of the commune, Françoise Schepmans, joined me alongside Aboubakr Bensaihi, an actor from Molenbeek, a local hero and a strong supporter of the commune. He gave a testimonial on how Molenbeek has changed over the years and on how it needs investments in order to improve its image.