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    Commissoner Hahn at Paris Western Balkan Summit: 146 Mio. € for connectivity projects in the Balkans

    The European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn has recently announced the release of €146 million for projects linked to connectivity in the Balkans during the Western Balkan Summit in Paris. “We have decided to provide €96 million for 3 railway infrastructure projects in Serbia, Albania and in Kosovo. We will also provide €50 million for greening measures such as energy efficiency in residential buildings and small-scale hydro projects”, he said at the Balkans summit Business Forum.

    Hahn also stated that connectivity is not just about building new infrastructure but about ensuring the best use of infrastructure. “Investment without reforms makes little sense”, he said, underlining that the countries in the region should respect the commitments taken, especially on reform measures concerning transport and energy.

    “The connectivity agenda has the potential to improve the competitiveness of the region by reducing the costs for businesses when goods are moved through the region. That potential will only be fully met if all the identified reforms are implemented in full whilst countries focus their limited fiscal space on the most important investment priorities”, Hahn concluded.

    picture: SN/EPA

    After the Local Elections in Arad, Romania: Make full Use of EU-Funds

     

    A new president was elected in the IRE Member Region Arad after the local elections in Romania on 5 June 2016. Iustin Cionca of the National Liberal Party PNL will hold the office of county president for the next four years. Representatives of local authorities, the 41 counties and the capital Bucharest were elected. 
    “My priority for the next legislative period is to invest in all areas accessing European funds. So far, the county has not made full use of this potential,” said Cionca in an interview.
    The former Romanian Minister of Labour and Member of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies Claudia Boghicevici (PNL) and former councillorSergiu Bîlcea (PNL) were elected vice-presidents. ”Working at regional level will be a new experience for me, but it was a conscious choice and I look forward to the challenges. I want to build a foundation for infrastructure projects and social services to increase the quality of life in Arad “said Claudia Boghicevic to the news portal Ziare.

    Arad county borders with Hungary in the west and has a population of  430.629 (2011). The county is member of the IRE network since 2008.

    Regions and cities launch investment plan for a citizen-centred EU: A fresh start for Europe

    The EU must address an alarming fall in public investment in order to tackle growing regional disparity, support sustainable growth and restore faith among citizens, said politicians across Europe today during a two-day Summit of Regions and Cities in Bratislava. 

    A week after Slovakia took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time, local and regional leaders have adopted a declaration during the 7th European Summit of Regions and Cities on 8th of July 2016 in the Slovak capital 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 representative of Land Salzburg in the CoR Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger met in Bratislava with a number of regional representatives from across Europe, including the president of the Croatian region Brod-Posavina Danijel Marušić and invited him to the 12th Conference European Regions and cities to Salzburg, which takes place from the 25th – 27th  September 2016. The IRE has organized this conference for the past 12 years, which brings together more than 200 public officials and representatives from business every year to boost investment in the regions. New company locations and new job opportunities are being established in the regions.
    The IRE network of more than 130 members compromises already 17 regions and cities from Croatia, which resulted in a big benefit for the regions during Croatia’s EU accession two years ago. Brod-Posavina is a member of the IRE network since 2014.
     
    Source: CoR press release 08.07.2016

    News from IRE members: Land Hessia celebrates 70 years

    Regional Prime Minister Volker Bouffier and State Secretary Lucia Puttrich: “Hessia is 70 years old and in good shape”.

    High-profile personalities from politics, business, science and culture met this year for the annual Hessen Festival in the Hessian State Representation in Berlin. About 2000 guests from Hessia, Brussels and Berlin and numerous Ambassadors took the opportunity to talk about the past year and the tasks ahead. Hessia is one of the 16 German states.

    Prime Minister Bouffier said: “Hessia is 70 years old and in good shape. Since the foundation of the state it has become one of the strongest economic regions in Europe. Several generations have contributed to a state, which offers more than ever before. Something we can all be proud of. “
    On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the German-Polish Neighbourhood Treaty Hessia also invited its Polish partner region Wielkopolska (Greater Poland), whose Vice Marshal Krzysztof Grabowski was present at the event. State Secretary Puttrich explained that Hessia is in a dialogue with Poland for many years. “Nowadays, our European Union is being put to a severe test. Therefore, it is more important than ever to fight in great unity for our community and our values”.
     
    Source: Land Hessen, Press Release 05.07.2016

    International Know-How for Regional Migration Policy

    Intensifying the cooperation between ICMPD and IRE:

    IRE chairman Prof. Dr. Franz Schausberger met with former Austrian vice chancellor Dr. Michael Spindelegger in Vienna, who holds the office of Director General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) since January 2016. They discussed the current migration situation in Europe and both agreed that regions play an important part in migration and immigration policy and need to be granted a stronger say on this topic.

    Michael Spindelegger will take part in the 12th Conference of European Regions and Cities, which takes place from the 25th-27th of September 2016 in Salzburg, and is one of the keynote speakers on the subject of „sustainable integration“. The ICMPD and IRE will intensify their cooperation in future.

    The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) was established by Austria and Switzerland in 1993 and has since grown to 15 member states. ICMPD was founded to carry out research, projects and activities on migration-related issues and to provide policy recommendations to the governmental agencies of states, as well as to external governmental and intergovernmental agencies. ICMPD also has observer status at the United Nations. Although ICMPD has global operations, it is primarily focused on the European area and is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. ICMPD is currently composed of 15 Member States, around 200 staff members, a mission in Brussels, as well as representatives in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East.
    ICMPD cooperates with governments, other international organisations, research institutes and members of civil society in developing policies in migration-related areas, as well organising trainings, etc. to transfer know-how on dealing with migration issues.

    For more information see: www.icmpd.org

    New Member from Georgia: Borjomi joins the IRE-network

    The Georgian city of Borjomi has joint the IRE-network, which now consist of more than 130 members.

    Borjomi (Georgian: ბორჯომი) is a resort town in south-central Georgia with a population of 13,826. It is one of the districts of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and is situated in the northwestern part of the region in the picturesque Borjomi Gorge on the eastern edge of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park. The town is famous for its mineral water industry (which is the number one export of Georgia), the Romanov summer palace in Likani, and the World Wide Fund for Nature-site Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.  The bottling of mineral water is a major source of income for the area. Because of the supposed curative powers of the area’s mineral springs, it is a frequent destination for people with health problems. Borjomi is also home to the most extensive ecologically-themed amusement park in the Caucasus.

    Borjomi was mentioned as Tori for the first time in the 7th century.  A historical trade route led through the canyon in Barjomi and was a military gateway to Georgia during times of war. Borjomi is now the second IRE member from Georgia and is represented by its mayor Dimitri Kipiani. The Autonomous Republic of Adjara has previously joined the network.  

    We are looking forward to the cooperation with Borjomi.

    More understanding and solidarity for national and regional measures to prevent illegal immigration

    The representatives of Salzburg in the European Committee of the Regions Franz Schausberger called for more understanding and solidarity towards those countries and regions that are affected most by the refugee, migration and asylum problem.  

    The meeting of the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX) on 23 June 2016 debated on issues like reforming the Common European Asylum System, the legal immigration, integration of third country nationals, security and combating terrorism and the European Neighbourhood Policy.

    Austria is a country that has received a high number of refugees and the Province of Salzburg is affected in particular because of its border with Germany. As long as the protection of the EU’s external borders is not guaranteed member should have the possibility to take national and regional measures to prevent illegal immigration. Even countries that are known for their liberal immigration policy, like Sweden, were recently forced to take very restrictive measures, explained Schausberger. Therefore, criticism from countries that are not affected by the issue is inappropriate.

     

    Franz Schausberger (right) and the CIVEX chairman Olgierd Geblewicz (left), Governor of the Polish Province of West Pomerania.

    News from IRE Members: Lower Austria awarded “European Entrepreneurial Region 2017″

    The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) annually nominates regions with the most convincing and promising entrepreneurial visions. On 15 June 2016 the province of Lower Austria and the regions of Western Greece and Extremadura (Spain) were awarded “European Entrepreneurial Region”. Governor of Lower Austria Erwin Pröll accepted the award for the strategy on “Lower Austrian economy 2020″ at the award ceremony in Brussels.

     
    “The award for “European Entrepreneurial Region 2017″, the “Award of Excellence” in 2002 and the award for most innovative region in Europe in 2007 are milestones in the regional policy of Lower Austria” said the Governor during the ceremony. “It is a clear recognition of our efforts in economic policy.”  Lower Austria has invested heavily in location quality, for example in transport infrastructure, the development of education and research infrastructure, which also contributed to higher quality of life in Lower Austria.
     
    Markku Markkula, the President of the European Committee of the Regions, said that SMEs are the driving force for sustainable growth and jobs in Europe as 8 out of 10 work places are with SME´s. The award winning regions remind us that local and regional authorities play a key role in strengthening entrepreneurship.
     
    Three regions are annually awarded for their excellent economic power and outstanding and innovative business strategies.


    from left: Governor Erwin Pröll, President of the CoR Markku Markkula and
    State counsellor Petra Bohuslav
    (© NÖ Landespressedienst/Pfeiffer)

    IRE Chairman Schausberger met with the first Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union Ján Figeľ

    The Institute of the Regions of Europe offers its support to the new and first Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union Ján Figel, said IRE Chairman Franz Schausberger at a meeting in Brussel on 14 June 2016.

    Ján Figeľ (2004-2009 European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, and from 2010 – 2012 Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport) was appointed first Special Representative for the promotion appointed by religious and ideological freedom outside the European Union by the President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker in May this year. Figeľ will be in office for one year.

    According to Ján Figeľ, the promotion of mutual respect and understanding in a fast changing social environment are key elements for a more human world in the twenty-first century. Therefore, he decided to hold his inaugural speech to local and regional politicians, who are politically responsible for the subnational level and in direct contact with people. “The promotion of religious freedom or the freedom of beliefs, as well as the fight against radicalisation and violent extremism, are not primarily housed in the abstract world of ideas, but rooted in the daily realities of our towns and cities. Religion and belief is a fundamental right in the European Union. Even today, religious and ethnic minorities are being persecuted. This makes the protection and promotion of freedom inside and outside the EU even more important. This issue deserves more attention”, said Figel´.

    This initiative was called by the European Parliament in a resolution on 4 February 2016.

    Local elections in Italy 2016: Political earthquake at local level

    In the Italian local elections on 5 June and in the run-offs on 19 June 2016, the voters clearly rejected the politics of the PD party of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. In Rome the candidate of the protest movement “Five Star” Virginia Raggi, won the elections with almost two thirds of the votes. Turin has also elected a five-star candidate, which was regarded as a historic breakthrough by the new party.

    The 37-year-old Raggi wants more transparency and legality in daily politics. The five-star candidate Chiara Appendino in Turin, who won 54 percent of the votes, said that this is not only a protest vote but a vote for change and dignity.

    A narrow victory was achieved by the PD Party in the economic capital Milan, where former director of the World Expo Giuseppe Sala won the elections. Rienzi’s party has managed to defend its position in the left-stronghold Bologna. In Naples, the left Mayor Luigi de Magistris was re-elected, however, he is a critic of Renzis policy.

    The five-star party has not made it into the run-offs in Milan, Naples and Bologna. Yet the polls in Italy were considered an important test for Renzi. The five-Star-party was founded by star comedian Beppe Grillo as a protest movement seven years ago. Parliamentary elections will be held in Italy in June 2018 and Grillos hopes to benefit from the results of this year´s municipal elections.

    More than 13 million people in 1350 towns and cities were called to the polls. The turnout was at 50 percent according to the ministry of the interior.

     

    Source: dpa, N-TV, taz

    Photo: http://www.cataniavera.it/2013/03/beppe-grillo-leader-del-movimento-5-stelle-il-parlamento-e-sovrano/