In November 2019, a group of stakeholders from the macro-regional strategies reached out to the Committee on Regional Development (REGI) of the European Parliament. The aim was to explore areas of cooperation between the European Parliament and the four macro-regional strategies. In doing so, a closer collaboration in the future should increase the uptake of the innovative potential of the strategies for European Cohesion Policy. At the same time, the European Parliament is a strong driver for transnational cooperation and civic involvement to achieve European and macro-regional objectives.
As a result, the stakeholder group drafted a non-paper on macro-regional strategies to the REGI Committee of the European Parliament. The paper includes a reflection on the current challenges and lists recommendations for a more citizen-centric development in Macro-Regional Strategies.
Macro-regional laboratories for a new Europe
In 2009, the European Council approved the launch of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). Since then, the European Council endorsed three more macro-regional strategies: the Danube Strategy (EUSDR), the Adriatic-Ionian Strategy (EUSAIR), and the Alpine Strategy (EUSALP). These four macro-regional strategies reach out to 19 EU member states and 9 non-EU member states, including around 270 million inhabitants in total.
By design, the strategies are connecting policy sectors and disciplines, countries regions and municipalities. As they mature, the circle of stakeholders participating in macro-regional formats substantially expand and include academia, economic entities and civil society. In combination with a regular, transparent, and open information flow, interactions within and between the strategies, among stakeholders and institutions, a higher participation, awareness and ownership of our common issues, the strategies are contributing to build up macro-regional collaboratives. These cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaboratives have the potential to facilitate innovative approaches. Thereby, the macro-regional strategies can also be seen as laboratories for a new Europe.
Against this background, the European Parliament can be a crucial partner to amplify international collaboration and bring the European Union closer to the citizens than ever before. Furthermore, the European Parliament has a historically strong role in developing of macro-regional strategies. After all, the European Parliament called for the launch of the Baltic Sea Strategy as an experimental framework to push forward transnational cooperation. After more than 10 years after launch of the first macro-regional strategies, it is time for a reflection on current challenges and possible solutions.
After a meeting in Strasbourg in November 2019, a group of stakeholders from all four macro-regional strategies started to draft a non-paper upon request of the Chairman of the REGI Committee, Younous Omarjee.
Linking macro-regional strategies to European Policy-making
The experimental framework of macro-regional strategies allows for a needs-based approach in policy-making that puts the policy before the institutional setting. This approach has the potential to produce valuable results and findings for European policies. However, stakeholders in the macro-regional strategies face various challenges that are hampering the use of their full potential. Against this background, the non-paper not only describes the functioning of macro-regional strategies, but also some of the major challenges that they have in common: lack of political support, weak result orientation, shortcomings in the governance, and insufficient access to suitable funding.
Following this reflection, the stakeholder group formulated 10 recommendations for the European Parliament to increase communication, improve access to funding for stakeholders, and support the governance of macro-regional strategies in order to step up the citizens-centric approach to macro-regional cooperation and produce valuable results for the European Union post-2020. The non-paper was brought to the REGI Committee in March 2020.
The non-paper on macro-regional strategies is also available in our Document section under “Policy Papers”.